Selfless or Selfish?

An article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Startup Scrambles to Replace Eggs” details the plans and progress of Hampton Creek Foods to recreate the egg through food engineering. The startup firm is taking food to a whole new level of science in order to recreate egg-based foods using different plants and absolutely no eggs. The founder of the firm, Josh Tetrick, recognizes the amazing nutritional value of eggs as well as their place as a food staple, however Tetrick notes, “They are fantastically inefficient”. There are about 1.8 billion eggs laid a year, and a substantial amount of land, water and fossil fuels are required to raise the chickens that lay these eggs.

Hampton Creek Foods recognizes this inefficiency and is currently working towards surpassing the egg. Not only do they think that they can engineer an egg substitute that tastes better, is free of cholesterol, has a longer shelf life, and is more ecologically sustainable, Hampton Creek Foods also wants to offer this egg substitute for substantially lower prices than the real thing. Mr. Tetrick states, “We want to drive the price through the floor so radically that it would be silly to consider anything else”. This is an aggressive goal, however the company is showing hope that it can be accomplished.

Hampton Creek Foods has already released an egg-free cookie dough as well as egg-free mayonnaise. The substitutes are being very well received in taste tests, and the author of the article actually preferred the egg-less cookie dough to regular dough. The mayonnaise, which was engineered using a specific kind of yellow pea, is slightly different than real mayonnaise, but has “a cleaner, less aggressive flavor profile” than regular mayonnaise. Although these products are aimed to be cheaper than egg products, at retail price they are not yet cheaper than the real thing. However, Tetrick promises that he can produce the product on a scale that makes it 10% cheaper than real mayonnaise.

Investors are starting to take notice of this company, and Hampton Creek Foods has already received support from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. The firm has raised a total of $6 million, and Tetrick is planning to use this money to render eggs obsolete. Is this vision monopolistic of is it geared towards saving the environment? Certainly, the charitable effects are in the vision of Tetrick, however, once he renders eggs obsolete with his products and proprietary technology, will he be able to behave like a monopolist to enjoy substantial profits?

4 thoughts on “Selfless or Selfish?

  1. Bio engineering leaves a bad taste in some consumer’s mouths. I think this might be considered a substitute for some consumers but not all. I personally love eggs. I like cracking them open and making omelettes on the weekends. Soy milk had similar hopes, yet there is no short supply of bovine milk in stores today. This might cater to some tastes but I’m not sure if this would catch on for most consumers

  2. I think the legislation regarding the labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs) will have a big impact on companies such as Hampton Creek Foods. Such companies strive to provide a product that is healthier and cheaper than the original product, but don’t always want to inform consumers that their product is only a substitute. There has been new legislation that is in the works regarding whether GMOs need to be labelled differently than normal products. The label of GMO might affect the consumers view of the product in aspects such as safety and quality. If the legislation does not pass, consumers might think they are purchasing one product when it is actually a genetically modified substitute.

  3. I agree, I think that the idea of GMOs is still really frightening to a lot of consumers. The future of this market seems to rest on government and consumer response to GMOs, as well as whether or not producers and demonstratively prove that these products are safe. However, I do think that if these concerns can be overcome, there is the possibility that consumers might prefer healthier egg substitute in pre-made goods such as cookie dough.

  4. Offering this engineered product at a significantly lower price than actual eggs may affect how consumers perceive the product. An engineered “copy cat” product that is created at a fraction of the real item, in my opinion, would carry negative connotations and deter me from purchasing them. Prices comparable to real eggs would provide high profit margins and make it appear less synthetic.

Leave a Reply