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Hampton Creek CEO won’t let attacks spoil his eggless mayo startup

Josh Tetrick, co-founder Hampton Creek, a food startup known for its eggless alternative to mayonnaise, is under fire.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration issued the company a warning letter that accused it of falsely labeling its product as mayonnaise (the legal definition requires eggs as an ingredient). On top of that, a Business Insider article raised questions about its ethics by alleging that it didn’t develop its vegan spread in-house, that Tetrick’s dog roams around the food preparation facilities, and that he unfairly promoted an employee he was dating.

“If you’ve been at the office in the last three and a half weeks, it’s been a bit hectic to deal with,” Tetrick joked on stage Tuesday at a conference in San Francisco hosted by cloud software company Salesforce.

Tetrick used the opportunity in front of a packed house to defend Hampton Creek, a hot three-year old startup that wants to revolutionize the food industry. Undoubtedly, his presence at the event had a lot to do with the fact that Marc Benioff, Saleforce’s CEO, is a Hampton Creek investor.

“We’ve been around for a little bit over three years and we’ve been lucky to be written about very kindly by lots of people,” Tetrick said in reference to the positive press the company has enjoyed until recent negative reports by Business Insider and TechCrunch.

Following Business Insider’s story last month, Tetrick wrote a blog post attempting to dispel some of what he described as inaccuracies in the reporting. He didn’t discuss any specifics from the report on stage, but rather bragged about making vegan mayo that is affordable enough to be sold by discount chain Dollar Tree, and emails of support he’s received from fans, among other things.

“I think its important to answer things honestly and move on,” he said.

Tetrick also didn’t shy away from calling out the Agriculture Department and an egg industry lobby it supports, the American Egg Board. According to a recently published emails from the AEB, the organization and the USDA saw Hampton Creek’s eggless mayonnaise, Just Mayo, as a threat to the egg industry and worked to challenge it. The email discussions included asking an entrepreneur and consultant, Anthony Zolezzi, to convince grocery chain Whole Foods to take Just Mayo off its shelves.

“The USDA, their mandate is to support farmers, it’s to ensure we have better food,” Tetrick said. But the AEB “was caught doing a number of things that are pretty troubling.”

Continuing about the FDA, he said “as long as we continue to be open about things, we’ll do the right thing.”

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