Startup Hampton Creek’s mission is to find plant proteins that can replace eggs in spreads, sauces, baked goods, and breakfast favorites. With the help of a few million in venture funding, and an investment from Bill Gates, the company’s scientists have spent the last year scouring the world’s flora with start-up scrappiness. So far, they’ve been surprisingly successful. With the help of a few million in venture funding, and an investment from Bill Gates, Hampton Creek's scientists have spent the last year scouring the world's flora with start-up scrappiness.
One of Hampton Creek’s key innovations has simply been to look at the food industry from a slightly different perspective. The company’s scientists have approached the egg not as an indivisible unit but rather as a highly optimized tool capable of all sorts of different culinary tricks. “The reason why a chicken egg is great is because it has 22 different functionalities,” Tetrick explains. But different foods use different functionalities. In mayonnaise, the egg’s powers of emulsification and coagulation are key. In baked goods, the egg has other roles: aeration, browning, binding, and texture.
Instead of finding a single plant protein that can replicate all 22 of the egg’s functions, Hampton Creek’s scientists look for plants that can satisfy the criteria for just one of these edible applications. While Yellow Pea, for instance, proved to be the perfect fit for mayo, the company’s egg-less cookie dough is made possible by a particular grain of Sorghum
CEO Josh Tetrick sees a huge opportunity to sell his fake eggs for use in packaged baked goods where their taste (bland, in our experience) is less of a drawback, and their cost (48 percent cheaper than conventional eggs) is more of an asset. “The demand is so intense and the partnership we have with Li Ka-Shing’s group is so wildly phenomenal for us, we think it’s important for us to start by the end of this year,” says Tetrick, who will triple his staff as he spins up for the Asia expansion.