Target has been pulling Just Mayo and other products from San Francisco-based food startup Hampton Creek because of food-safety concerns.
The removal is a big blow for the former darling among health-conscious Bay Area startups. It has a reported valuation of $1.1 billion and is famous for its faux mayonnaise made of oil, vinegar and pea proteins.
In addition to food safety concerns, Target also had a spate of other concerns regarding Hampton Creek that resulted in the product removal, according to Bloomberg. A Target spokesperson said Hampton Creek’s mislabeling of certain products contributed to the removal. For example, Hampton Creek incorrectly labeled some of its products as non-Genetically Modified Organism food.
Target said it received allegations of pathogens in Hampton Creek’s facilities and that some products tested positive for salmonella and listeria. But no one reported getting sick by eating a Hampton Creek product.
Target said it voluntarily pulled the products rather than waiting for an order from government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.
“The allegations that our products are mislabeled and unsafe are false,” Hampton Creek said in a statement. “We have robust food safety standards, and as such, we remain confident about the safety of all products we sell and distribute. We look forward to working with Target and the FDA to bring this to a quick resolution.”
Since Thursday morning, Target blocked its cash registers from approving all Hampton Creek products, which includes mayonnaise, dressings and cookie dough. The products were promptly pulled from Target stores. Target said it incurred the removal costs.
For the past two years, Hampton Creek has weathered a barrage of unflattering press coverage, including about questionable marketing practices and alleged deception of its investors. Its venture backers include Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures and Marc Benioff.
In 2015, Business Insider quoted unnamed employees who said Hampton Creek used shoddy at best science in its labeling and an unsafe work environment to meet its growing demands. One employee called the science behind Hampton Creek “a cult of delusion.”
In August 2016, Bloomberg followed up with an investigation of its own, reporting Hampton Creek engaged in an aggressive and secretive campaign to buy back products from store shelves to make them look more popular than they actually were. The report triggered an SEC investigation to check if Hampton Creek was really puffing up its revenue numbers.
Just days before the Bloomberg report, Hampton Creek had voluntarily recalled six types of baking mixes from Walmart after they tested positive for salmonella.
Photo: Jars of Just Mayo, Hampton Creek’s vegan mayonnaise. (Courtesy Hampton Creek)
Tags: Hampton Creek, Target