Hampton Creek founder Josh Tetrick reportedly directed his employees to purchase Just Mayo, an eggless mayonnaise, at grocery stores while it pursued funding from investors, according to a Bloomberg report. Five former workers provided Bloomberg with receipts, expense reports, cash advances and emails telling employees, “We need you in Safeway buying Just Mayo and our new flavored mayos. . . . And we’re going to pay you for this exciting new project! Below is a list of stores that have been assigned to you.”
Tetrick told Bloomberg that the purchases were part of a quality- control program to assess Just Mayo from a customer’s perspective, but the survey database of that program did not account for hundreds of purchases, the report indicates. Additional emails also suggest the “Buyouts” project’s purpose was related to sales inflation, including one message that said, “The most important next step with Safeway is huge sales out of the gate. This will ensure we stay on the shelf to put an end to Hellmann’s factory-farmed egg mayo, and spread the word to customers that Just Mayo is their new preferred brand.” The former employees reportedly told Bloomberg that they were directed to do whatever they wanted with the products after purchasing them—from donating them to charity to throwing them away.
Another correspondence reportedly shows that employees were instructed to call grocery store managers and ask about Just Mayo to stoke demand and encourage the stores to order more product. Emails from a member of the corporate partnership team of Hampton Creek apparently told employees to pretend to be customers and lie if necessary; sample scripts include pretenses of catering or planning “back-to-school” events. See Bloomberg, August 4, 2016.
Hampton Creek gained national media attention when emails from the American Egg Board purportedly revealed an initiative to remove Just Mayo from shelves. The Good Food Institute will reportedly file a lawsuit on August 8, 2016, alleging the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to fulfill three of its Freedom of Information Act requests related to the scandal. Details about the allegations against the American Egg Board appear in Issue 578 of this Update. See Politico, August 5, 2016.