Eat JUST, Inc., known widely as JUST, (formerly Hampton Creek) is an American food manufacturing company headquartered in San Francisco that produces plant-based foods that are sold internationally. The company was founded in December 2011 by Josh Balk and CEO Josh Tetrick, under the name Hampton Creek Foods, Inc. With around 130 employees, as of 2016, JUST produces a mayonnaise alternative, dressings, cookies, cookie dough, breakfast proteins, and cultured meat.
|Beyond Eggs, Inc.|
Hampton Creek Foods, Inc.
|Privately held company|
|Founded||December 11, 2011|
|Products||Just Mayo, Just Dressing, Just Cookies, Just Cookie Dough, Just Scramble|
|Revenue||Estimated US$30 million (2014)|
JUST was founded as Hampton Creek in the summer of 2011 by Josh Balk and Josh Tetrick. Balk, then senior director of food policy for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) farm animal division, had previously worked with Compassion Over Killing (COK). Tetrick was an American entrepreneur who had worked on social campaigns as a Fulbright Scholar. Both founders had been friends since their teenage years, and together developed the concept of a plant-based food company intended to address systemic issues in the global food system. Explained Balk, "a [cheaper] plant-based egg product that had the same taste and texture as normal eggs... would meet a need consumers and food customers have that hasn’t been filled yet."
The organization received $500,000 in seed funding in December 2011 from Khosla Ventures, its first round of investments. In June 2012, the company relocated from Southern California to a facility in Northern California, specifically the SOMA district of San Francisco. Also in June after the relocation, the company received a $1.5 million Series A round of funding from Khosla Ventures. The funds were used to expand the company's headquarters and add additional employees. One of the first new hires was chef Chris Jones, former Chef de Cuisine of Moto restaurant in Chicago, and a former Top Chef contestant. In February 2013, the company launched its first product, Beyond Eggs, an egg-free egg replacement using plant-based ingredients such as peas. Their second product, Just Mayo was released around seven months later.
On February 17, 2014, the company announced it had raised $23 million in Series B round led by multi-billionaire Li Ka-shing and Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang. Tetrick announced that the company would use the funds to continue its growth in North America, establish a presence in Asia, build strategic partnerships, and grow its team. Throughout the summer of 2014, the company expanded its operations into a new 90,000 square-foot facility in San Francisco. The company hired Dan Zigmond in June 2014 to build a database for the company's research on the functional properties of plants used for food. Zigmond, who had worked for eight years on YouTube and Google maps, told TechCrunch that he planned to "build the world’s largest plant database." The company signed chef Ben Roche in July 2014.
In February 2013, the company launched its first product, Beyond Eggs. The eggs-free egg replacement is made with plant-based ingredients such as peas, sunflower lecithin, canola, and natural gums, and was marketed as being free of animal products, gluten, and cholesterol. The egg substitute was primarily marketed for the making of cookies. Prior to the fall of 2014, the public distribution of Beyond Eggs was stopped, in order for the company to work primarily with private companies such as the catering conglomerate Compass Group.
JUST's flagship product is a spread called Just Mayo. It utilizes plant substances, with the original formula using the company's egg replacement powder, which is primarily made out of a varietal of Canadian Yellow Pea. In early February 2016, Hampton Creek announced it was working on Just Mayo Light, but it was later discontinued. In early 2018, Just Mayo was reformulated with a recipe that offers 40 percent fewer calories while claiming to retain the same flavor. Subsequent varieties of Just Mayo include Chipotle, Sriracha, Garlic, Truffle and "Awesomesauce" flavors.
The Just Cookies product line was launched in 2014, and was marketed as a more sustainable and healthy cookie because of its ingredients. Flavors as of 2016 included chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal raisin, double chocolate espresso and peanut butter. Because the cookies are made without butter or eggs, they are cholesterol-free. Both Oprah Winfrey and Andrew Zimmern publicly commented they were fans of the brand, and by late 2014, the large catering company Compass Group had replaced its conventional chocolate chip cookies with Just Cookies. Unlike other JUST products, the macadamia cookies contained milk. Just Cookies were later discontinued, but Just Cookie Dough continues to be available as of 2018.
Power Gari is a nutrient-rich porridge that Eat JUST, Inc. produces in West Africa, aimed to help reduce malnutrition. The product consists of cassava, red palm oil, salt, soy protein, sugar, and added vitamins. As of 2018, JUST manufactured and sold Power Gari in Liberia, with plans to increase product distribution in the future.
Just Egg (previously known as Just Scramble) is a plant-based egg alternative made with mung beans. The light-yellow bottled liquid debuted at a San Francisco restaurant in December 2017. In July 2018, Just Egg became available at all Veggie Grill locations. As of January 2019, Just Egg is available at Lucky Stores, Wegmans, Hy-Vee, New Seasons Market, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, BiRite Foodservice Distributors, and Nugget Markets locations. JUST has also partnered with Eurovo to manufacture and distribute the product in Europe.
In June 2017, the company revealed that it had been secretly working on cultured meat for a year and aimed to make its first commercial sale of a "clean meat" product by the end of 2018. In August 2017, the company said it had begun early talks with at least 10 global meat and feed companies across South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia to bring industrialized production efficiency to lab-grown meat.
JUST is one of several startups working on cultured meat, or meat produced by in vitro cultivation of animal cells rather than from slaughter. The process includes extracting cells from an animal and proliferating them in a nutrient broth into a product for consumption. The process of culturing meat products has been compared to brewing beer or making soy sauce, both of which are cultured food products. Advocates of cultured meat claim that it is better for the environment, safer for consumers and more humane to animals than conventional meat production. One of the biggest technical challenges is finding humane, cost-effective and scalable growth media to feed the cells in order to scale production to great enough volumes for commercialization. JUST has said it hopes to make its first commercial sale before the end of 2018.
In May 2019 JUST claimed that regulations prevent the cell-cultured meat products to be available for purchase. A reporter for Quartz said that "The technology is ready – the science has been there for a while. It's really all about governments around the world figuring out how to regulate these products."
In the media
A Freedom of Information request in late 2015 revealed that the government-controlled American Egg Board (AEB) had engaged in a paid advocacy campaign targeting Hampton Creek through online media, with the board's CEO dubbing Hampton Creek a "major threat" to the egg industry. As the United States Department of Agriculture prohibits advertising by its marketing boards "deemed disparaging to another commodity," the revelation met with a fair degree of controversy in the press, resulting in AEB changing PR agencies and the resignation of the AEB president.
Allegations about buyout program
In August 2016, Fast Company and Bloomberg News reported that in the lead-up to a venture capital funding round in 2014, Hampton Creek engaged contractors to visit leading retailers and buy its eggless Just Mayo product. Bloomberg cited emails sent by Caroline Love, a vice-president at Hampton Creek, which instructed the contractors to visit retail outlets to buy the product. Hampton Creek also reportedly asked contractors to call retail outlets to make inquiries about Just Mayo in an effort to make it appear that there was interest in the product. Hampton Creek claims that the buyout program was for quality control purposes.
Target pull out
In 2016, Hampton Creek voluntarily recalled one batch of its Just Mayo product due to Salmonella contamination concerns. In June 2017, Bloomberg reported that Target and Target.com had stopped selling Hampton Creek products, representing the loss of one-third of the company's retail business. Two months later, Target severed ties with Hampton Creek, citing complaint letters received from unnamed parties. Following the conclusion of a federal investigation by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2017, Alternet investigated further, determining that the complaints against the company were unfounded and a "malicious hoax." Nonetheless, as of March 2018, food products labeled either Hampton Creek or JUST remained unavailable from any Target outlets.
The design of the first product, Just Mayo, was outsourced to Mattson, a San Francisco food technology company. In 2016, Hampton Creek stated that it was investing in an automated process to analyze plants and their potential uses in food production in a robotic lab, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, in a project called Blackbird.
|Major investors||Amount raised||Notes|
|December 2011||Seed funding||Khosla Ventures||$500,000||Khosla Ventures was the company's original investor.|
|June 2012||Series A||Khosla Ventures, et al.||$1.5 million||Hampton Creek received this round the same month as a relocation to San Francisco.|
|February 17, 2014||Series B||Led by Li Ka-shing, with other investors including Jerry Yang, Google's Jessica Powell, Ali and Hadi Partovi, Scott Banister, Ash Patel, Khosla Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Kat Taylor, and Tom Steyer’s Eagle Cliff.||$23 million||This round brought the company's total funding at the time to $30 million.|
|December 2014||Series C||Led by repeat investors Horizons and Khosla Ventures.||$90 million||This round brought the total accumulated funding to $120 million.|
|August 2016||Series D||$100 million|
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It was, in part, through the inspiration of high school buddy and co-founder Josh Balk (an occasional contributor to TriplePundit)– then working for the Humane Society helping corporations increase their use of cruelty-free eggs.
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Josh Klein used to work on vaccine development for HIV, but these days he focuses on a different biochemical conundrum: making cakes moist and fluffy.
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