Egg Industry Battled Against Vegan Mayo Start-Up

Geoffrey Mohan reported on the front page of today’s Los Angeles Times that, “With its egg-free recipe, Just Mayo had become a darling of vegans, a hot investment for Silicon Valley venture capitalists and an avatar for alternatives to industrial agriculture.

“But to the nation’s $7-billion egg industry, Just Mayo posed an existential crisis so serious that a federally supervised trade group launched a secret two-year campaign to thwart the San Francisco start-up that makes it.

“The campaign against Beyond Eggs, the original name of company behind Just Mayo, included flirting with an offer from a consultant who bragged he could rid the product from Whole Foods’ shelves ‘with one phone call,’ and jokes among American Egg Board members and affiliates about ‘pooling our money to put a hit’ on the company’s founder, emails show.”

From the Front Page of today’s Los Angeles Times

Today’s article noted that, ” The investigation, sparked by documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and his Washington attorney, reveals the lengths the American Egg Board appeared willing to go to crush Just Mayo, its manufacturer, now called Hampton Creek, and the firm’s founder, Josh Tetrick.

Federal investigators did not find the campaign amusing, slamming the American Egg Board for overstepping its congressional mandate and chiding its overseers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a lengthy investigation that was quietly released on the agency’s Freedom of Information library page late Thursday.

“The American Egg Board, an industry-funded promotion group overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s marketing branch, spent at least $59,500 to counter the product’s publicity advances.”

Mr. Mohan added that, “Investigators found that the board’s monitoring of a specific company and product and its attempt to undermine them were inappropriate and exceeded the 1976 bylaws that govern the 18-member board, which is appointed by the secretary of Agriculture and uses the $20 million in annual fees it collects from large-scale producers to support research and promote the egg industry.”

The L.A. Times article also noted that, “Beyond Eggs won customers and attention by taking aim at the industrialized food chain, its chemically enhanced production practices and its treatment of animals.

But that public image soon tarnished. More critical looks at company practices revealed that Hampton Creek hired contractors to buy back its products from grocery shelves, which could create false sales figures. Tetrick said the moves were part of quality control testing. The revelation, published by Bloomberg, nonetheless sparked an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department.

“Hampton also jousted with the Food and Drug Administration, which monitors claims and labeling of food products, and was concerned whether ‘Just Mayo’ described a true mayonnaise, which has egg in its recipe.”

This entry was posted in Agriculture Law, Start-up Company Law. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.