Hampton Creek Plant-Based Eggs
If there’s one thing Silicon Valley is doing better than anywhere else right now, it’s optimism.
The success of companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Instagram, Nest, Tesla and others has prompted the people of the Valley to start trying things outside of the typical Valley setting.
Hampton Creek, based in San Francisco, is one such company. It tries to replace eggs with a cheaper, but equally tasty and just as good for you, plant-based substitute. He is backed by Bill Gates, Peter Thiel (who co-founded PayPal, was an early investor in Facebook) and Khosla Ventures.
When I heard the idea for the first time I scoffed because eggs are plentiful and cheap. You can buy eggs from free-range hens that are fed vegetarians, so that’s not a huge ethical consideration. It seemed like another Silicon Valley company trying to find a solution where there is no problem.
After making a sarcastic comment on Twitter, Hampton Creek reached out to discuss. As a former vegan I was intrigued, so I met the company’s CEO (and current vegan) Josh Tetrick in our office.
Tetrick quickly changed his mind.
I asked him about readily available cage-free eggs. He said, “1,800 billion eggs are laid, 99% of which come from these places, “pointing to a photo of caged chickens,” In America, 1/3 of them end up in mayonnaise, muffins and things. like that, we absolutely want to create a model that puts an end to this system because we are cheaper and better. “
In other words, only a fraction of the eggs consumed worldwide come from chickens raised free-range and treated fairly.
The optimism of a Silicon Valley startup may sound like arrogance, but with Tetrick it looked like confidence.
His company has a research and development team filled with biochemists. “These people know nothing about the food. They know the structure of proteins, ”explains Tetrick. They looked at 1,500 plants at the molecular level. They then break down the proteins in these plants to mimic what eggs can do.
The advantage of this approach is that Hampton Creek can be iterative. So it can make herbal mayonnaise 1.0, then mayonnaise 2.0, and so on, just like Apple does with iPhone software.
On the other hand, notes Tetrick, animal products like eggs are what they are: “They are good, but they are not improving, there is no iterative process. “
Currently, Hampton Creek sells plain mayonnaise. Both chipotle and sriracha flavors are coming in 2014. All three are good. I tried them on pretzels. He also sells an edible cookie dough, which is also tasty. Of course, you can eat raw cookie dough with eggs, but it’s risky because of salmonella.
Its mayonnaise is used for chicken and tuna salads prepared in some Whole Foods. “It has nothing to do with being vegan or vegan, it just has to do with being a good mayonnaise, ”explains Tetrick.
He is also focusing on making his product at low cost. “We have no interest in being seen as a premium product, we always want to reduce competition.
As to why Silicon Valley investors are interested in Hampton Creek, says Tetrick, “they see the ineffectiveness of [the egg industry], it’s like I’m investing in iPhone technology where I can monitor my heart rate, and these f-king eggs come from rusty cages with chickens shitting on each other? “
He adds, “For some reason, innovation decided to get food along the road. And yet there is this incredible innovation – at least in part – in energy, in software, in mobiles, at every level, and we still get our chicken eggs crammed into rusty cages? Savvy investors like Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and Vinod Khosla look at this and think it’s really weird. They think it’s archaic 19th century technology for a world that demands more. “
Hampton’s next major product in development is going to be a game-changer. He’s working on making an egg substitute that scrambles like normal eggs. He’s working on the scrambled egg taste right now. “We’re going to get there,” says Tetrick.
Once that happens, it’s a major change for Hampton Creek.
“For some reason our society has gotten stuck on this notion of animal protein, the paradigm by which we do things, ”he says. “Plant protein selection isn’t a vegan thing, it can be, let’s save money and tear down the industry thing.”
Her big vision is to make sure her non-vegan dad doesn’t feel weird about choosing a plant-based egg: “I want my dad to walk into Piggly Wiggly and see a dozen eggs for $ 1.50 and ours for $ 0.49 and say, ‘Give me that. “”