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?