Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick already sells his mayonnaise on the shelves of Safeway, Dollar Tree, Kroger, and Costco. His product is in ParknShops in Hong Kong. And after only about six months on the market, it's the No. 1 selling mayo in Whole Foods.
But this fall Hampton Creek and its Just Mayo product will get the ultimate potential boost: Distribution in Wal-Mart stores.
It might seem like just another deal to add to the list, but it’s crucial for a company that thinks it has figured out a new—arguably better—way of producing a seemingly boring condiment. Hampton Creek makes plant-based alternatives to eggs. Its first product, Just Mayo, uses protein from yellow peas rather than egg yolk as an emulsifying agent.
Tetrick invented his mayo because he believes intensive agriculture is damaging to animals and to the environment. But he has studiously avoided using such arguments to market his product. He wants to appeal to more than just the natural food store set. His deal with Wal-Mart, which calls itself the nation’s largest grocer, is validation that he'll be reaching the masses.
“One of the many reasons why we’re so enthusiastic about this partnership is the philosophy of why we started this thing in the first place,” Tetrick says.
Just Mayo is scheduled to be in Wal-Mart’s distribution centers on Sept. 24. Wal-Mart will have final say on shelf price, but Hampton Creek says it always recommends that retail partners sell it for less than the category leader. Thirty ounces of Just Mayo costs between $3.99 and $5.49 with all of its retailers.
The lower price tag is important to Tetrick, who wants his offering to be accessible to as many people as possible. He thinks people do the wrong thing for their bodies and the planet because it’s the easy and cheap thing to do, not because they don't care.
“We’re trying to do is flip that on its head and make the right thing the better thing for the body and sustainability and the planet the ridiculously easy thing by making it affordable, by making it taste really good, by making it convenient,” he says.
The three-year-old company is also gaining scale with a just-finalized agreement with a large food service company that will get Hampton Creek cookies into cafeterias. “When people have our cookies, we don’t want them obsessed with, ‘Oh my God, this cookie is better for the world’,” Tetrick says. “We just want them to enjoy a nice chocolate chip cookie, but we like that that has an impact in making things a little bit better.”
Tetrick’s initial goal was to replace eggs with plant-based alternatives in products where eggs are an ingredient. He has noted in the past that more than a trillion eggs are laid every year, and in the U.S. a third of them end up in things like mayo and muffins.
Hampton Creek now plans to launch an alternative to scrambled eggs in the first quarter of next year. Tetrick acknowledges that the roll out of what the company is calling Just Scrambled could be more challenging for consumers from a psychological perspective since it’s a replacement for an actual egg, not just the egg as an ingredient. The company is considering launching Just Scrambled in Asia, where the environment is ripe for an egg replacement because of concerns around Avian flu.
Tetrick also claims Hampton Creek has found a plant variety that is “just a hyper-efficient source of protein.” He says there’s no timeline to commercialize the product, but he and his team are thinking about the possibilities. One notion would be to distribute it through the World Food Programme or in emerging markets where people live on less than $2 a day.
“The chicken egg is just the start,” Tetrick says.