When Josh Tetrick in 2011 cofounded Hampton Creek, later renamed JUST, the idea of applying tech to food to solve public health and sustainability problems was just very far from many investors’ and would-be entrepreneurs’ minds.
For Tetrick, however, there was an opportunity to create a profitable business that could address so many of the problems he was concerned about: food sustainability, climate change, public health, animal welfare, and more.
Hampton Creek, pledging to compete with the egg, got off to a beginning most startups could only dream of. Major VCs pumped cash into the company. National sales followed. Fawning media attention ensued. The good times, however, weren’t always so good. Soon they faced litigation from Unilever. The American Egg Board ran a clandestine campaign to try to undercut them. Negative media attention began hitting the company. There were federal investigations, which though they resulted in no finding of wrongdoing at all, still fueled more negative press attention. They lost customers and board members, even drawing headlines predicting the company’s expiration date was up.
Today, those who’d been betting against Tetrick and JUST appear to be the ones with plant-based egg on their faces. The company is flying high with stronger sales than ever before, even inking a deal with restaurant giant Tim Horton’s to be the first major fast food chain to offer a plant-based egg breakfast option. Food Dive even named Tetrick its Executive of the Year in 2018, noting that the overcoming the hard times makes his work “all the more impressive.”
In this interview, Josh talks about how he tries to remain calm and resilient in the face of both success and adversity. He talks about why he doesn’t believe the headlines about his own company, both when they’re good and when they’re bad, since neither may be right. And he talks about what types of companies he wants new food entrepreneurs to start.
As you’ll hear, Josh’s thinking has evolved quite a lot in the eight years since JUST was founded, with him shifting from thinking he was competing against egg companies to realizing that they could be his best partners in bringing plant-based egg products to consumers worldwide.
We also delve into Josh’s thoughts on cultured meat and his famous prediction which never panned out about 2018 being the year that such slaughter-free animal meat would first get sold in the world.
Will Josh run more full-page ads in the 2020 election like he did in the 2016 election? Find out in this 23rd episode of Business for Good!
Books and people Josh mentions in this interview as having had a big influence on him:
- The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits by CK Prahalad
- Made to Stick and Switch, both by Chip & Dan Heath
Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
- The Social Animal by David Brooks
- Josh Balk, co-founder of JUST and VP at the Humane Society
- Keith Belling, founder of Popchips
- Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder of DeepMind