For breaking with the past to see a new future for food
“This is not about a quick fix. It's about stepping back and saying, if you could redesign the food system from scratch, what would it look like?”
- Josh Tetrick, CEO and Founder
Hampton Creek, a San Francisco based food company who currently only sell two, seemingly incongruous, food products – mayo and cookies – are increasingly looking like revolutionaries on the cusp of changing how we approach food production.
Founded by Tetrick in 2011, the company uses a technological approach to make ‘better’ food, in particular identifying and developing plant substitutes to replace unhealthy and unsustainable ingredients. Hampton Creek’s mission is to create products that taste better, cost less, and are better for the environment – this is 'death of the trade off' as business model.
“The only way the good food choice wins is when the good choice is better.”
So why ‘Just Mayo’ and ‘Just Cookies’ so far? Hampton Creek’s first innovation to market is an egg substitute derived from a particular type of pea. Negating the need for eggs as an ingredient reduces CO2 emissions, water consumption, land use – and the need to battery-farm chickens to keep costs low – creating products that are not only tasty, but are better for you and the environment. There's a great little piece of activation on their website that makes the invisible benefits visible; you can work out how much water and carbon you have saved just by making the switch to their brand, so you can crack open that cookie jar guilt-free and start saving the planet…
One way we know a challenger is having an impact is when Goliath gets the lawyers in; Hampton Creek first popped up on our radar last year when Unilever filed a suit over whether their vegan egg-free ‘Just Mayo' product could be legally described as mayonnaise. The challenge, which was dropped in December, gave Hampton Creek some much needed publicity and turned their supporters into advocates, signing petitions in their thousands and campaigning for the brand on social media.
But, as Tetrick says, its not really about competing with other brands, the challenge is about rethinking the way our food is produced from scratch – what would it look like if we started over? And it looks like that question is gaining traction – the current bout of avian flu that’s blighting the egg industry across the USA, sending egg prices rocketing, has resulted in major food corps knocking on Hampton Creek’s door asking for their help with alternatives.
So, a challenger on a mission to change the nature of food production, with a wealth of influential backers, $120m in funding, a partnership with Compass Group (the largest foodservice company in the world), a founder who “isn’t satisfied” with the status quo, AND cookies that 'save the world'?
Where do we sign up?
Helen is eatbigfish's chief cynic, secret idealist and reluctant entrepreneur. She can mostly be found drinking wine and eating crisps in East London pubs.