Inside Silicon Valley’s Mayo Marketing Madness

In 2013, the San Francisco–primarily based startup Hampton Creek, right this moment often called Eat Just, launched its first product—an eggless, plant-based mayo. The press launch claimed it was “the world’s first food product to utilize a plant protein that consistently outperforms an animal protein.” This, despite the fact that soybeans had been mined for his or her purposeful capabilities in meals—for each animal feed and human diet—way back to 1940. Regardless, journalists went wild.

It was like individuals had by no means seen a condiment earlier than. The Guardian wrote that founder Josh Tetrick wished to “disrupt the world food industry by replacing eggs with plants.” CBS News famous that the startup “tried 300 different kinds of plants” before hitting on the formula for this eggless mayonnaise.

Tetrick first pitched the company to investors with what he admitted was a brief deck promising to build the world’s largest plant database in order to bring plant-based foods to market. To get there, Tetrick ultimately wooed over Big Data employees from Google and Stanford. TechCrunch announced that the company had analyzed the properties of more than 4,000 plants in order to find 13 with the “ideal traits needed for better consistency, taste, and lower cost.” This plant database, which was initially touted as having potential for licensing offers, has but to return to fruition, and people Big Data guys have since left to begin different corporations.

It was a chief instance of a brand new period of do-good meals missionaries. They promise to reverse local weather change and finish our reliance on consuming animals for protein—after which race to boost funds, rent workers, and, to hit these targets quicker, promote the promise to the buyer.

The factor is, on this case, eggless mayo already existed. Vegenaise—a mashup of the phrases vegan and mayonnaise—was first developed within the mid-1970s by Follow Your Heart in California’s San Fernando Valley.

Before turning into the vegan product powerhouse it’s right this moment—it sells salad dressings, cheese, and yogurt (amongst different issues) produced from coconut, potato starch, canola, and extra—Follow Your Heart was a pure meals market with a comfortable vegetarian café inside. The café offered freshly made fruit juices, vegetable soups, and an avocado, tomato, and sprout sandwich that featured a thick swipe of tangy, wealthy mayo. But as a substitute of eggy Hellman’s, the cafe was utilizing a pretend mayo known as Lecinaise, made by a man named Jack Patton. It was produced from soy lecithin—mainly a fatty emulsifier—and Bob Goldberg, cofounder and CEO of Follow Your Heart, used it on every thing. He known as it his “secret ingredient.” The creamy white unfold was so essential to the café’s success that Goldberg estimates that at one level the café had bought about 40,000 kilos of the stuff.

But Goldberg started listening to a rumor that there have been eggs on this supposedly eggless mayo. He reached out to Patton, the proprietor of Lecinaise, who assured him that it was egg-, preservative-, and sugar-free. Patton even despatched Goldberg a letter verifying the accuracy of his label.

Goldberg was reassured. The California Department of Food and Agriculture was not. In the darkish of evening, the company raided Patton’s Lecinaise services and located employees soaking the labels off common mayonnaise to make use of and promote underneath the Lecinaise model title. (Patton was tried and convicted of fraud, incomes a 30-day jail time period and a wonderful of $18,500.)

Goldberg was floored. Not solely did his secret ingredient have eggs, nevertheless it was additionally stuffed with sugar and preservatives. His fashionable complete wheat sandwiches would turn into dry husks. So Goldberg appeared to different producers for assist. “They all insisted that there was no way to make mayo without eggs,” he says.

Goldberg reluctantly tried Hain Imitation Mayonnaise, nevertheless it was a subpar product that lacked emulsification—the important thing to taste. “We tried varied methods of constructing it extra flavorful, including sweeteners or vinegars or lemon juice, however the outcomes have been all the time very disappointing,” he says.

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