For the past 2 months, we’ve hosted the Internet of Food Series with Seeds&Chips to explore the question: “How might we use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone?”. We’ve had 21 submissions from food tech innovators.
Today, we are thrilled to close the series with an interview with Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, a food startup that’s on a mission to make affordable, sustainable and delicious food available to the masses. The maker of plant-based products has seen unprecedented growth and made a ton of noise over the past year and a half. In less than one year, the startup’s Just Mayo product was being sold in 20k stores. Food giant Unilever brought a lawsuit against Hampton Creek, which was later dropped but reportedly tripled the food startup’s sales. Hampton Creek also raised a $90M Series C led by Khosla Ventures and Horizons Ventures and announced a partnership with Compass Group, the largest foodservice provider in the world.
Check out our interview below to hear more about how technology enables Hampton Creek to create better, more affordable products, the impact its Compass Group partnership hopes to have and why an IPO may be in its future.
Josh Tetrick: Today’s food is fu#$*# up. We have a system that has made it ridiculously easy for people to buy cheap, convenient food that is bad for our bodies and the planet. At Hampton Creek, we look at the system and ask ourselves, “What would this look like if we were to start over?” That’s our philosophy of change. Starting from scratch and making food that is not only healthier, more sustainable, and more affordable, but delicious too. Because if the good thing doesn’t also taste good, it will never win.
JT: This is the problem – most healthy/sustainable food IS expensive and inaccessible and add to that, doesn’t taste good. Because we have an advanced technology platform and R&D structure, it allows us to find plants from all around the world to improve food products (healthier, more sustainable, delicious), removing aspects of food that might typically make them more expensive, and keep our price points low.
JT: The Unilever lawsuit was the best thing that ever happened to us. We received over $22M in unpaid press and exposure, and our sales went through the roof. You have no idea how many people we’ve met since then that have only heard of us because of the “Mayo Wars.”
JT: We did close a $90M Series C round in December, which was led by Khosla Ventures, and the wealthiest man in Asia, Li Ka-shing’s, Horizons Ventures. And we also brought some exciting new names into Hampton Creek, like Marc Benioff, who has also become a great supporter and mentor, Bryan Meehan, Bryan Johnson, and others. We actually now have 12 billionaires that invest in our company which is just incredible. We’re building out our team, doing even more extensive R&D, working on new products, a new headquarters, and some other exciting ventures.
JT: Our partnership with Compass is such an incredible vehicle to make an impact. And they’re a passionate, caring group of people — we’re so lucky to be working with them. It has opened many doors. For example, we now have a national distribution infrastructure that is absolutely unheard of for a company our size/age. And it was spurred by Compass (well over 80 distribution centers that touch every corner of the US).
Also, their energy around us means we are the exclusive mayo to Compass and are replacing their status quo cookie, too. This is something that simply never happens. And on the distribution front, our new executive in charge of sales, Sean Lynch (formerly at Red Bull), said he has never seen distribution like this in his career — it’s completely unheard of.
JT: We didn’t start Hampton Creek to sell for a billion dollars to some food conglomerate. We started it to make it easier for everyone — everywhere — to do the right thing. And I truly feel that part of our journey and fulfilling this mission will involve going public. We’re moving incredibly fast, always have, always will and this is how we are going to have an impact. This is how we will win.
Internet of Food is editorial series exploring how we might use technology, new business models and design to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone?” Join the conversation between February 17 and April 2. Share your ideas in the comments, on Twitter using#internetoffood, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Check out our other articles on Hampton Creek: