Like Uber for vegan food
October 3, 2017 4:14 AM   Subscribe

How did Josh Tetrick’s vegan-mayo company become a Silicon Valley darling—and what is he really selling? Mayonnaise, Disrupted.
Peter Thiel instructs start-up entrepreneurs to take inspiration from cults, advice that came to mind when [Hampton Creek founder and CEO] Tetrick told me, after the job interview, that he screens for employees who “really believe” in his company’s “higher purpose,” because “I trust them more.” But buying into the mission has become a more complicated proposition, as Hampton Creek has recently been besieged by federal investigations, product withdrawals, and an exodus of top leadership. Silicon Valley favors entrepreneurs who position themselves as prophetic founders rather than mere executives, pursuing life-changing missions over mundane business plans. That risks rewarding story over substance, as the swift implosion of once-celebrated disrupters such as Theranos and Zenefits has shown. Fans of Hampton Creek say that Tetrick is “one of our world’s special people” who “will guide us into the abundant beyond.” Critics allege that he is leading a “cult of delusion.” Either way, he seems to be selling far more than just mayo.
How Hampton Creek Sold Silicon Valley on a Fake-Mayo Miracle
Flush with new cash, Tetrick bulked up R&D and hired seven data scientists, led by Dan Zigmond, who’d been Google’s data chief for YouTube and Maps. While Zigmond gave media interviews and helped woo investors, his team of six Ph.D.s—a mix of biochemists and experts in artificial intelligence—grew frustrated with the paucity of plant data to analyze. The research was “super, super basic,” consisting mostly of mixing and matching plant extracts to see what worked, says a former member of the team. “There was no attempt to infer causality,” he says. “That’s not really science.”

Still, in August 2014, Tetrick told investors in an e-mail that “the application of machine learning to plant biological data is increasingly becoming the focus of our tech platform.” A year later, after Hampton Creek completed another fundraising round, its biggest yet, four of the seven data scientists were gone, including Zigmond, now director of analytics at Facebook and co-author of the new book Buddha’s Diet. He praises Hampton Creek’s ambition and perseverance but says he left to work for a company more focused on data science. “I didn’t want to feel like a sideshow,” he says.
Hampton Creek’s Entire Board Leaves Except for CEO
Departures include Bon Appétit Management Co. co-founder and CEO Fedele Bauccio, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Google DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman and Khosla Ventures partner Samir Kaul, said the people. Bart Swanson, who represented Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures, also left. Lynne Benioff, the wife of Salesforce.com Inc.’s chief executive officer, stepped down from the board last year.
Previously and previously-ish.
posted by peeedro (147 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Peter Thiel instructs start-up entrepreneurs to take inspiration from cults, advice that came to mind when Tetrick told me, after the job interview, that he screens for employees who “really believe” in his company’s “higher purpose,” because “I trust them more.”

I'm going to read the rest of the links, but hopefully it all ends with pitchforks and torches.
posted by Dr Dracator at 4:32 AM on October 3 [29 favorites]


1. Someday, after society painstakingly rebuilds itself and things are no longer horrible, "entrepreneurs" will no longer feel obliged to say things like "awesomesauce" and salt their professional presentations with "fucking amazing" and "fucking awful" to seem with-it and contemporary. When I hear someone who is more or less my own age who can't get through a professional conversation without performative curse-words, it just makes me think that they're a childish person.

2. Just Mayo isn't very good. It's not terrible. It's not worse than other vegan mayos. But I was really disappointed when I actually bought some, because it had been hyped as "just like real" and "not like, eg, nayonnaise" and it's just like nayonnaise except IMO greasier. I'm not against it or anything, it's a perfectly acceptable product, but like most vegan imitations of intrinsically non-vegan things, you either need to like it for itself or you shouldn't bother. Like, I enjoy tofurkey in all its forms, but it doesn't do the same things as turkey or sausage, and if you're looking for scraps to build a rich stock or fat to flavor a soup, you're going to be disappointed. Vegan food is at its best when it works with, not against, the ways in which vegetable foods differ from meaty ones.

3. I really dislike "start-up culture". You don't need to be dishonest in business to have a huckster personality.
posted by Frowner at 4:42 AM on October 3 [84 favorites]


Came here to say what Frowner said, less articulately.

Mayo isn't very good
Yeah. I wonder if that was part of the pitch?

I really dislike "start-up culture".
At this point it seems to be mostly trustifarians with no grasp of reality or tangible skills selling their VC buddies snake oil, usually under some pretense of social benefit.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:54 AM on October 3 [16 favorites]


I want to believe.
posted by unliteral at 5:21 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I got sad reading that article. Like his heart, his bullshit is in the right place - he does seem to genuinely care about animal welfare - but it's still bullshit.
posted by clawsoon at 5:21 AM on October 3 [6 favorites]


These stories, and especially that picture in the last link, put me in mind of Nightcrawler.
posted by lagomorphius at 5:33 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I've posted this before: I'm continually amazed by the ability of Silicon Valley to take a good idea and season it so heavily with bro culture and delusion that it becomes a nightmare of bigotry and fraud.

Tl;dr Christ, what an asshole.
posted by medusa at 5:38 AM on October 3 [60 favorites]


Veganaise or gtfo
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:39 AM on October 3 [16 favorites]


I saw a presentation by Josh Balk (cofounder of Hampton Creek, briefly mentioned in the first article) several months back. A big part of his presentation was on changing the way we talk about vegetarian/vegan diets (we’re supposed to say “plant-based” now), but he also spoke about the problems they’d run into with the DOJ and SEC, and the product recalls. He called them witch-hunts, and the persecution complex was palpable. He staged it as “they’re doing the best the can to hold us down, and that means they’re afraid!” I can definitely see the cult influences in the company.
posted by KGMoney at 6:05 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


I can't believe I'm feeling morally driven to defend mayonnaise, but here we are. I really, really like Just Mayo, and its spinoff dressings. Part of the reason I like them is availability, the fact that I can actually find them without having to drive to a faraway health food store and spend massive amounts of money on what is essentially sandwich lubricant. Vegan stuff is expensive, and if you live in a small town, can be depressingly hard to find. So I'm happy they exist.

As for the founder's personality and cult mentality...who cares? Or maybe, to phrase it another way, everybody who makes products like this is crazy in some way or another. I love Bragg's apple cider vinegar, and it's okay that they insinuate I might live forever and be taken bodily up to heaven for using it, because a certain amount of crazy is really expected in this food-world. Half the reason people love Bronner's soap is all the tiny crazy words festooning the package. Is startup culture that much crazier, just because of its obsession with disruption and profit?

Maybe the point should be that corporate culture is always packed with hidden ideologies, and what makes Hampton Creek different isn't its cult-like nature, but the fact that its nature is so easy to spot? What do the CEOs of Unilever, Nestle, etc., believe? What bone-deep craziness lurks there, that we should be foregrounding, if the personality of a corporation and its leadership are this important to us?
posted by mittens at 6:10 AM on October 3 [24 favorites]


Someday, after society painstakingly rebuilds itself and things are no longer horrible, "entrepreneurs" will no longer feel obliged to say things like "awesomesauce" and salt their professional presentations with "fucking amazing" and "fucking awful" to seem with-it and contemporary.

In this magic timeline, someone would float the idea of naming an HR outsourcing company "Zenefits", and everyone in the conference room would have a good laugh at how cleverly that joke parodied clueless cultural appropriation and malignant pretentiousness.
posted by thelonius at 6:14 AM on October 3 [12 favorites]


As for the founder's personality and cult mentality...who cares?

Well, it's not just the one guy; it's a growing trend in the culture of business. Who cares? People who just want to work hard at a job and then go home, without having to pretend that they have re-organized their personality and spiritual beliefs around their employer, for one.
posted by thelonius at 6:17 AM on October 3 [106 favorites]


In terms of Just Mayo being easy to find: the reason that the Cub (or wherever) doesn't stock the other vegan mayos is because their distributor has declined to distribute them or the manager has declined to stock them, not because Just Mayo is intrinsically more Cub-able. Just Mayo has this start-up snake-oil which makes it appealing to managers and distributors, but it's not magic.

Also, in terms of co-op versus Cub: I get most of my stuff at the Cub, because I can't afford a steady diet of organics, but what I've found is that things like vegan mayo, "sustainable" canned foods, Earth Balance and even local apples are cheaper at the co-op. It's the damnedest thing - I only really started to notice because I got some of my favorite local apples at the Cub and right afterward biked over to the co-op, and the apples were one American dollar less per pound. Then I started noticing the other stuff. There is a perception that you always do better price and selection-wise at the mainstream groceries, but it's worth double-checking. [ETA: It's the fresh organic produce, cheese and bread which break the bank.]

Not that I fault anyone for not going out of their way, driving annoying distances, etc - that stuff has a cost too.
posted by Frowner at 6:20 AM on October 3 [7 favorites]


Is startup culture that much crazier, just because of its obsession with disruption and profit?

It's more dangerous because of its obsession with disruption and rule breaking. Being obsessed with profits isn't crazy or unusual in our current economic climate. Thinking that the rules and regs are just obstacles to overcome for more profits is crazy, is hurting people, and people should be going to jail over it.

No company is entitled to making money, which seems to be the starting point for most startup cults.

This is not to say that rulebreaking doesn't occur in traditional businesses. They typically keep it very hush hush and don't dress it up with pseudo-religious overtones. The creation of unwanted savings accounts at Wells Fargo (I think?) is a good recent example.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:21 AM on October 3 [11 favorites]


As for the founder's personality and cult mentality...who cares? Or maybe, to phrase it another way, everybody who makes products like this is crazy in some way or another.

There's a difference between personal beliefs and evangelism. This one parenthetical comment gave me the creeps: (New hires participate in a workshop where they practice reciting their own personal journey toward embracing the company’s mission.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:22 AM on October 3 [23 favorites]


Positioning a specific vegan food as a substitute for a specific non-vegan, traditional and well known food is a set up for failure, every time.

An example: A person doen't try carrot cake for the first time and think: "Does this taste, smell, look and feel like another type of cake experience I had in the past?" No, the person tries the carrot cake and simply likes it for what it is, an experience of the food itself.

Vegan carrot cake will always be judged first against "real" carrot cake--- and only then judged on its own qualities, and then how it stacks up against other brands of vegan carrot cake. This will only be more intensified when it's comparing vegan "meat" or even lab grown meat to, um, real meat.

The answer will lie in not trying to imitate stuff. I don't see a widespread vegan movement unless there's an unforeseen catastrophe, and we're all eating lentil dishes like folks in southern India.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:33 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


There are many startup-lands, just like there are many Hollywoods, although all are interconnected. Some of them do things that are actually technically nontrivial, and those people have to manage to avoid the hucksters like this guy. It seems like those data science guys learned that lesson the hard way.
posted by hleehowon at 6:34 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Silicon Valley favors entrepreneurs who position themselves as prophetic founders rather than mere executives, pursuing life-changing missions over mundane business plans.

An entire industry full of people who phoned in their mandatory first-year humanities credit and haven't looked back (or inward) since.
posted by mhoye at 6:42 AM on October 3 [19 favorites]


Eww.
posted by Artw at 6:45 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Vegan carrot cake will always be judged first against "real" carrot cake--- and only then judged on its own qualities, and then how it stacks up against other brands of vegan carrot cake.

In my experience, baking is one of the areas where it's relatively easy to get WAIT YOU MEAN THIS IS VEGAN???? results -- yeah, there are certain things that are slightly trickier to achieve without butter or eggs, and if you're a vegan who doesn't use yeast, things are somewhat more complicated.

But it isn't nearly as tricky as gluten-free baking. I've never seen a successful gluten-free croissant in the wild.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:13 AM on October 3 [17 favorites]


Peter Thiel instructs start-up entrepreneurs to take inspiration from cults ...

A) this seems key, if only because the appeal of the cult mentality seems to be on the rise in the 21st century. The cult is extra-legal, it's authority unquestionable by any one except the cult leader. So far I'm getting a real Wars Of Religion/Messiah vibe from this century.

B) Mayonnaise is disgusting. It's only a little less awful than Honey-mustard, itself the source of all evil.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:15 AM on October 3 [7 favorites]


Mayonnaise is disgusting.

Yeah, that’s a flaggin’.
posted by notyou at 7:18 AM on October 3 [32 favorites]


Vegenaise or bust.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:23 AM on October 3 [4 favorites]


Around Tetrick—a muscular ex-linebacker in jeans and a T-shirt—was even more Tetrick: a poster of him watching Bill Gates eat a muffin, a framed photograph of him with a golden retriever, an employee’s T-shirt emblazoned with “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”—one of Tetrick’s many slogans.

Very Zoolander-esque.
posted by AndrewInDC at 7:24 AM on October 3 [14 favorites]


I came here to echo what octobersurprise said.

1. We've come a long way from 'not being evil', which itself was a response to the sleazy business culture of the 90's.

2. Mayo: ugh, except with fries and the only a bit. Why would anyone want to "improve" on such a disgusting condiment to make it vegan is beyond me. Also, it always riles me when "healthy" is read to mean: no eggs, no milk, no sugar. (and no meat no question).

But whatever floats the VC dollar, I guess.
posted by Laotic at 7:25 AM on October 3


Peter Thiel is a vampire. No good comes from vampires starting cults.
posted by Artw at 7:26 AM on October 3 [17 favorites]


notyou Yeah, flagged for "Fantastic." Mayonnaise is a vile substance that belongs on nothing.

--

The cult-like notion around startups, having worked for a startup, serves two purposes. First, it's a way for VCs to identify founders that will work to get them a quick return on the investment by working 144 hour weeks. Second, it's a way for founders to hire people who are willing to work 144 hour weeks for shit pay and equity.

None of this shit is sustainable. Hopefully, between Juicero's implosion and the slow collapse of Uber, the VC/startup bubble will finally pop.
posted by SansPoint at 7:27 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]


@Laotic: Vegenaise has been around since 1988. Some people like mayo and are also vegan, so there is a market for such a product that has nothing to do with cults or VCs. The idea is not new in any respect. The mayo angle of this story is a red herring - it is really just another story of the contemporary startup horrorshow.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:29 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


a poster of him watching Bill Gates eat a muffin

A muffin? I expected Bill Gates eating 50 eggs, something like that.
posted by thelonius at 7:29 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


notyou Yeah, flagged for "Fantastic." Mayonnaise is a vile substance that belongs on nothing.

I swear to God, I will flag this. entire. thread. if I have to.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:36 AM on October 3 [32 favorites]


Hampton Creek also sells vegan cookies and salad dressings, which are marketed, like the mayo, under the brand Just—a reference to righteousness, not simplicity—in venues ranging from Whole Foods to Walmart.

Nuclear grade obnoxiousness.
posted by Artw at 7:38 AM on October 3 [7 favorites]


I didn't realize they'd managed to get 7/11 to replace their mayo packs with this stuff.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:39 AM on October 3


a poster of him watching Bill Gates eat a muffin

A muffin? I expected Bill Gates eating 50 eggs, something like that.


Cool Hand Bill?
posted by lagomorphius at 7:44 AM on October 3


Mayonnaise is disgusting.

If you call it aioli*, though, you'd be surprised how many "mayonnaise are disgusting" people will just eat it right up.

*It is ridiculously easy to make delicious homemade aioli, fyi. Not vegan, though.
posted by thivaia at 7:53 AM on October 3 [24 favorites]


Is that like how prunes are for old people to poop and don't sell, but dried plums are a best seller?
posted by fragmede at 7:58 AM on October 3 [13 favorites]


Positioning a specific vegan food as a substitute for a specific non-vegan, traditional and well known food is a set up for failure, every time.

Disagree. In a general sense, I don't think that non-meat-eaters think about the "original" foods as much as meat-eaters want to think they do. The "substitute" foods are just in our lives, like meat and animal products are in the lives of people who eat them. When I eat a veggie burger, I'm thinking about how much I'm enjoying that veggie burger, not how much worse it supposedly is than a "real" burger. I mean, if you feel like counting me heartily enjoying a veggie burger as failure, you go right ahead, but I'm not going to call it that.

In a more specific case, the straight-up most delicious Napolean I've had in my life was vegan, and was one of many excellent desserts made by a lovely vegan baker in DC.

The answer will lie in not trying to imitate stuff.

I also doubt this. If / when the economics of animal products become unsustainable for a western audience, they'll eat whatever is available. This is, as it turns out, one of the main reasons there are vegan/veg-heavy cultures to begin with. Meat is not cheap. This may lead to the same end, where imitation foods aren't popular, but it'll be because they're expensive, not because they're unappealing.
posted by god hates math at 8:04 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]


Is that like how prunes are for old people to poop and don't sell, but dried plums are a best seller?

It's the tarting it up garlic, et al. that makes the difference for a lot of people.

Also, you should be aware that prune juice is a warrior's drink.
posted by The Gaffer at 8:04 AM on October 3 [17 favorites]


I expected Bill Gates eating 50 eggs

IDK, Mr Gates is not very physically imposing. He's certainly not eating to be roughly the size of a barge.
posted by bonehead at 8:07 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]


got hates math: It's fine if certain people like vegan food, I'm talking about increasing the appeal of vegan food to a much, much larger consumer base. I don't know what percent of people eat vegan, or even ovo-vegan or whatever... it's a tiny fraction of the population.

(and I think you agree with me in the last part... I mentioned eating lentil dishes like folks in India)
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:08 AM on October 3


Paul Newman wasn't the size of a barge.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:10 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Like Uber, but with consumer frau--

Oh. Just like Uber, then.
posted by praemunire at 8:17 AM on October 3 [12 favorites]


None of this shit is sustainable. Hopefully, between Juicero's implosion and the slow collapse of Uber, the VC/startup bubble will finally pop.

VC's are very, very dumb in specific ways and very very smart in other specific ways. You will notice that the large VC's haven't touched either since the stupid days of 2014, it was Saudis and HNW idiots transacted by Goldman for Uber. Hampton hasn't gotten funding since 2014. It's like Theranos, where none of the biotech-specific VC's touched it and they still get the blame for it.

The mocking of Juicero on the VC grapevine started like 3 weeks after they closed their first round, they just shut up about it in public because it's not done to actually badmouth people directly.

And their skin is in the game, thankfully, so DFJ is sitting in its own shit-water for Theranos and so are all the Hampton investors and, frankly, the Saudi wealth fund (many of the early investors in Uber did shenanigans to get out, which I don't blame them for)
posted by hleehowon at 8:18 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


(it's not possible for Hampton collapsing and Juicero collapsing to implode the startup crap: too small, both of them. Uber collapsing in 2015 would've taken down a longtime SV VC or two, but now they've limited their exposure a damn sight)
posted by hleehowon at 8:20 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


hleehowon: I'll still blame the VCs, because it's the culture of Venture Capital that causes hugely bloated valuations in a quest for the next Facebook. The only way a VC fund can pull in the returns they promise these days is to have an IPO, or get an acquisition offer from Google/Facebook/Amazon/etc. There's no effort put out by VCs to create sustainable business, and many VCs would rather throw money at some douchebags in hoodies promising to "disrupt" an industry by paying contractors to do it on the cheap , instead of women creating new, actually innovative products.
posted by SansPoint at 8:25 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]


a poster of him watching Bill Gates eat a muffin

Upon reading the article, the first thing that came to mind was "This is a very specific fetish."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:42 AM on October 3 [23 favorites]


If you call it aioli*, though, you'd be surprised how many "mayonnaise are disgusting" people will just eat it right up.

It's weird. I love raw tomatoes. I like cooked tomatoes. I like cooked tomatoes in recipes. But I dislike tomato soup and tomato juice makes me gag.

But enough about me. Apparently this is the Bill-Gates-eating-a-muffin poster.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:44 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]


“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

Pedant time! I get to be that guy!

Well, if I know I cannot fail, then it's not an attempt (def - "an act of trying to achieve something, typically one that is not successful or not certain to succeed"). The more accurate statement would be "what would you achieve if you knew you could not fail" which is a strange kind of zen koan to me; at one level it is noting the idea that we are often our own biggest obstacles to success, but at the same time it makes me think about the fact that the drive for achievement is perhaps related to the possibility of failure; i.e., would it feel like an achievement if I knew there was no risk of failure, and therefore would I bother to do it? There might not be any feeling of reward without that risk.

But none of this has anything to do with mayo, which is a perfectly adequate condiment. I mean, if you really wanted to achieve something disruptive, and think you can't fail, maybe set your sights a little higher than doing something with mayo, is what I'm also saying.
posted by nubs at 8:48 AM on October 3 [21 favorites]


Just Mayo is, In my opinion, a delicious mayonnaise and far tastier than other vegan mayos. I say so as someone who actually makes my own (egg and oil based) mayo from time to time. To each their own. I also love that I don't have to worry about the torment of chickens. I guess I should concern myself with the torment of his employees and acolytes at some point but for now I'm going to remain happy to buy a cruelty free delicious mayo.
posted by Lisitasan at 8:49 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Better picture of Bill Gates. Apparently, Tony Blair also was part of the muffin nosh:
Tetrick’s product has already fooled some key testers. Eight months before my tour, at a high-profile Khosla Ventures investment conference, Beyond Eggs staged a blind tasting of its blueberry muffin and a real-egg version. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair reported that he couldn’t tell the difference. Neither could Bill Gates—who was so impressed he became an investor in the company.
posted by peeedro at 8:53 AM on October 3


It's fine if certain people like vegan food, I'm talking about increasing the appeal of vegan food to a much, much larger consumer base.

FWIW, this doesn't really map with my experience with doing vegan advocacy. Generally I find people are really happy to learn there are vegan alternatives to stuff they already eat, even if they're not identical—when the nondairy Ben and Jerry's was new, I talked to a lot of people who immediately and visibly perked up when they learned that it existed.

I think people often overemphasize the importance of whether commercial vegan alternatives can precisely nail the textures and flavors of animal foods. While it certainly matters that the food is good, I think a bigger factor that people overlook is the sort of convenience/experience factor. For example, there were good commercial vegan ice creams before Ben and Jerry's came out with its line, but I think the existence of vegan Ben and Jerry's had a special appeal because it meant that, hey, if you try being vegan, you can still rely on a familiar ice cream brand. Little things like that add up psychologically when you're considering major changes to your diet.

Similar thing with Just Mayo—there are better vegan mayos, and you can make a great version at home, but it's nice to be able to just pick up a cheap jar of mayo from the regular mayo section at Wal-Mart on your way to a picnic or whatever. Smart vegan companies know this factor is a big deal, which is why you see stuff like the Beyond Burger stocked in the meat case.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:54 AM on October 3 [9 favorites]


I still think the FDA shouldn't have backed down from their complaint against 'Just Mayo.' I mean, it's not mayo -- so shouldn't it be a violation of fair labeling laws for it to be called 'just mayo' when it's not mayo at all?
Federal standards require that any product called mayonnaise contain eggs, which neither Just Mayo nor Just Mayo Sriracha, a derivative product, do. Initially, the F.D.A., which oversees food labeling, had warned Hampton Creek in August that the name Just Mayo and the product’s logo, an egg “cracked” by a young pea plant, might mislead consumers into thinking that the product contained actual eggs.
I was certainly confused the last time I was buying mayo and thought at first that this product was in fact mayonnaise. After checking the ingredients, I felt tricked and irritated by the false advertising.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:57 AM on October 3 [11 favorites]


Also, you should be aware that prune juice is a warrior's drink.

Key to maintaining a regular army.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:01 AM on October 3 [14 favorites]


They should've called it "Just Mayno."
posted by octobersurprise at 9:01 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


They called it (just) mayo and not mayonnaise though. If they really wanted to get in people's faces about the cruelty of farmed chicken (and eggs) and militant about it veganism, they could have called it HEY FUCKFACES MAYO IS THE CHICKEN HOLCAUST BUY ME INSTEAD.
posted by fragmede at 9:09 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Tetrick’s product has already fooled some key testers

Look, I have fooled key testers with my eggless, vegan baked goods - substituting flax egg for real egg. Blueberry muffins are particularly easy to do without eggs.

Within certain parameters, baked goods are easy to veganize - anything that doesn't require tasting strongly of butter, anything with spices, anything with a lot of grains, anything with strong flavors. Vegan baked goods go off the rails, IMO, when they try to incorporate tofu or other very dense but "healthy" ingredients, use egg substitutes that don't match well to what egg does in the non-vegan version, or otherwise attempt to wholesome it up when the original does not. If your egg substitute is supposed to provide loft as well as moisture, blended tofu isn't going to work well; if your egg substitute is supposed to bind, that powdered mix isn't going to work well.

If anything, I'm amazed at how many terrible, flavorless vegan baked things exist. My perception is that there are two factors - the baker and customers have really low standards in all baked goods, so rubbery, dry, flavorless muffins seem par for the course to them; and the novelty value of stupid ingredients. As a result, you get people who are totally entranced by, for instance, a godawful goji chai chickpea-meringue tart just based on its ingredients. Why spend all your time trying to make tofu rosewater pavlova when you could instead make a straightforward, consistent peach pie, is what I'd like to know?
posted by Frowner at 9:15 AM on October 3 [21 favorites]


When I eat a veggie burger, I'm thinking about how much I'm enjoying that veggie burger, not how much worse it supposedly is than a "real" burger.

Quoted for truth. I'm a rabid omnivore, but I love things like tofu, tempeh, seitan and all kind of other "mock" meats or proteins. When I get my usual double tofu 5 star pad thai, I'm not sitting there thinking "hrm, I could have ordered the chicken but i'm sacrificing for my health or animal welfare" but "holy shit I love this fried tofu".

Heck, my favorite thing to order at In-n-Out is a grilled cheese with extra everything. It's basically just a cheeseburger without the burger and lots of extra veggies. I learned that I really just craved In-n-Out's veggies, sauce and extra American style cheese on a bun - and a shake and fried to wash it down with - and that I didn't really miss the burger part at all.

And I grew up on that Hollywood brand vegan mayo that's been in health food stores for decades. The first time I had "real" mayo I was kind of grossed out. I like the real thing just fine, now, and I can even make it from scratch, but I never minded the "fake" vegan/oil based mayos, either. They're just slightly different things.

Granted, I'm not opposed to using a tangy plain yogurt with a squirt of citrus whipped into it as a mayo replacement. Or just going straight for the tzatziki.
posted by loquacious at 9:18 AM on October 3 [9 favorites]


As Tetrick sees it, replacing eggs with his blend of vegan ingredients, which can be regularly tweaked and improved, makes it possible to continuously upgrade everything from cookies to condiments. "While a chicken egg will never change, our idea is that we can have a product where we push updates into the system, just like Apple updates its iOS operating system," Tetrick has said.

Last I heard, regular food scientists also try to improve their products on a regular basis. The hubris is overwhelming.
posted by wnissen at 9:21 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]


If you call it aioli*, though, you'd be surprised how many "mayonnaise are disgusting" people will just eat it right up.

Context is everything, though. People love butter, but grabbing a stick from the fridge and taking a bite? Disgusting.

Aioli contains garlic, which already sets it in another tier of condiments. But it often contains other spices, which gives it both extra flavor, and color that pushes it away from the look of "solid fat."

In comparison, when people think "mayonnaise," they're often not thinking of a delicious homemade mayo, but rather the milk-white paste that comes in a jar and looks suspiciously like Crisco.

It's not just about the ingredients, it's also about the context and presentation.
posted by explosion at 9:23 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Winston Zeddemore had the right idea about looking for a job and what you had to believe to get it.
posted by k5.user at 9:27 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I look forward to the revelation that you can get the same mayonnaise by just squeezing the eggs with your bare hands.
posted by Naberius at 9:41 AM on October 3 [11 favorites]


I came across this product a few months ago, and I too thought the main trick had to be that they were able to keep "mayo" in their name. That fact has to grease all their deals, and the woowoo cult BS is all about pretending the company is about something less mundane. It's not a hack on food, it's a hack on the FDA
posted by rhizome at 9:43 AM on October 3 [4 favorites]



“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”


Guess the winning lotto numbers so I don't have to work for jackasses who ask dumb questions.
posted by ian1977 at 9:46 AM on October 3 [22 favorites]


Mayonnaise doesn’t look anything like Crisco. Crisco is a solid, like a stick of butter, only white. Mayo is a cream-colored spread with the consistency of soft whipped cream.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:49 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


It's not a hack on food, it's a hack on the FDA

"It's not a hack on [the product], it's a hack on [the people who regulate the product]" appears to accurately describe about 85% of these companies these days. Which is what makes them so infuriating. I have enough respect for competence and imagination to admire people putting out actual cool new products that meet an actual need. But I guess late capitalism is out of ideas, so instead we get "how much money could we make if we ignored all safety regulations and lied to people about what the product is?"
posted by praemunire at 9:51 AM on October 3 [20 favorites]


BURN IT DOWN, SALT THE EARTH.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 9:53 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Came here to say what Frowner said, less articulately.

Ugh I hope it was clear that I meant Frowner said it more articulately than I could. Stupid commas.

posted by aspersioncast at 9:53 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Also, is Zigmond a True Believer in Zen for Everything, or the most cynical "cash in on mindfulness" guy we've had since Google's Chade-Meng Tan?
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 9:54 AM on October 3


"what would you achieve if you knew you could not fail"

The traditional answer to this, at least in Europe, has been "invade Russia." It always goes well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:54 AM on October 3 [19 favorites]


They should've called it "Just Mayno."

FUCKING AMAZING MAYO*
* Not actually mayo

Now *that* would have sold a lot of millennial mayo.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:10 AM on October 3


As a computer geek, albeit a low ranking one in Texas, I'm at the periphery of start up culture, and I'm continually amazed at how Silicon Valley venture capital types are **STILL** falling for people suffering from Programmer's Disease.

Vegan mayonnaise substitutes have been around forever, and some aren't half bad (I prefer the real thing, but Vegenaise is ok). None of the VC's who invested so heavily in Just Mayo would have been caught dead investing in a big promotional push by Vegenaise to expand into regular grocery stores. Anyone seeking their VC money for such a venture would have been laughed out of the boardroom.

But a tech bro who wants to start up his own, white dude owned and not tainted by icky vegans, knock off of Vegenaise and can spew some BS about data analytics? They cut him a check for hundreds of millions.

We saw the same thing with Soylent. There's been liquid meal replacements on the market since at least the 1950's. Some better than others. There's a thriving set of businesses that make liquid meal replacements for people who can't eat solid food for medical reasons. Jevity is one of the long established players in the game and has worked out most of the problems with a liquid diet fairly well. Their product is available to anyone who wants to drink their lunch.

Yet a tech bro with absolutely no background in medicine, nutrition, or any field even slightly related to the manufacture of safe liquid meal replacements decided to make his own and in the first iteration managed to leave out iron (anemia, what's that?) because he knew nothing about nutrition or making safe liquid diet products.

And the venture capitalists were waiting to shower him with money.

Or that stupid, stupid, juicer machine thing. Yet the supposedly very smart and canney Silicon Valley venture capitalists, people who supposedly learned the lessons of the dot com era crashes, thought it was worth the investment.

Ultimately I think its tribalism at work. The tech bros who have these 'brilliant' ideas to start up companies doing things that are already being done better by others are part of the same ethnic group, have the same cultural background and general worldview, and are basically part of the in group of the Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

I suppose we could see it as a good thing. Every failed startup represents hundreds of millions of dollars drained from some of the super rich parasites and injected straight into the economy.
posted by sotonohito at 10:11 AM on October 3 [52 favorites]


Lack of focus could be detrimental to a new startup, that was written all over Josh Tetrick’s vision for his vegan-mayo company
posted by foodies at 10:19 AM on October 3


if you're a vegan who doesn't use yeast

Wha-wha-whaaaaaat? Yeast is a fungus. Are there vegans who don't eat mushrooms?!
posted by rocketman at 10:29 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Zenefits is real?

Sweet Jesus, Zenefits is real.
posted by Yowser at 10:34 AM on October 3 [8 favorites]


Sweet Jesus, Zenefits is real.

Why did Frederick Winslow Taylor come from the West?
posted by thelonius at 10:39 AM on October 3 [7 favorites]


"what would you achieve if you knew you could not fail" Well we've seen from google manifesto guy that they already know that they can't fail; mediocre white men from rich families always have an escape route, whether it's to another company or wingnut welfare.
posted by Yowser at 10:41 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


This isn't Taylorism or management science. It's a grotesque perversion of the natural order, and a parody of libertarian ideals(which at their best aren't great). No surprise that Thiel would be involved.

YC is a uniquely evil place from a distance, with its Thiel and its Graham and its Andreeson and god knows what other vampires, literal or figurative.
posted by Yowser at 10:47 AM on October 3


Wow, the Zenefits story is one I hadn't heard about yet. I mean, I knew about Zenefits, and dumb name aside, it wasn't really something that seemed that disruptive. A good idea, but one that was an entirely logical next step. Small companies actually have a hard time managing that kind of stuff, and a lot of companies do payroll but don't do all the other stuff, and as someone who used to be the sort of accountant who did a lot of small business payroll, managing our clients' health insurance and retirement savings plans and whatever was actually crap but didn't seem to have any particular reason to be other than that nobody had gotten around to building decent systems yet.

I'm saddened but unsurprised to learn that they were too focused on Being A Startup to actually do what they were doing well.
posted by Sequence at 10:47 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Vegan "mayo" is terrible, but they do have a classic VC portfolio company story -- research and innovation addressing a broad market and targets immediate commercialization (i.e., shelves of Wal-Mart). Although the piece does not seem to recognize it, their claimed research techniques for plant substitutes for animal fats and proteins appear to emulate the shot-gun approach that a certain strain of modern biotech uses to identify molecular and biologic agents, mass-testing large numbers candidate agents to see if any seem to have efficacy. Your neighborhood vegan baker which is not doing science and has no capability to (and may even be averse to) getting to Wal-Mart doesn't have a tech story.
posted by MattD at 10:49 AM on October 3


People are varied and do many things, so it's not beyond the realm of imagining that there are vegans who won't eat yeast, I guess, but I've been vegan for a long time and I've never met any. It sounds to me like the kind of thing made up by people who think veganism is a religious-like prohibition against eating anything defined as an "animal product", rather than an ethical stance.

On which note, it looks like Jains in fact do not eat yeast for religious reasons, although the reasoning is apparently that "mushrooms, fungus and yeasts ... grow in non-hygienic environments and may harbour other life forms." Jains are not necessarily vegans, but some of them do advocate veganism. So I guess there are probably at least some vegans who do not eat yeast, although the reason for it is unrelated to what might be called secular veganism. Although, as I said, I wouldn't be surprised to run across a secular vegan or two that won't eat yeast, even if I'm not sure why that would be; the world is a big place.
posted by kyrademon at 10:50 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]




Zenefits is real?

Sweet Jesus, Zenefits is real.


And it's spectacular.
posted by rhizome at 10:50 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


> Wha-wha-whaaaaaat? Yeast is a fungus

I have known a vegan who didn't eat yeast, but it was for health reasons, not ethical. I forget the details, but as I recall it sounded legit and not woo. An allergy or digestive problems or some such.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:51 AM on October 3


Despite the stupid name, the Zenefits concept didn't seem ridiculous to me. Not crazily innovative, but it's a specialized legitimate function of a corporation, it's hardly unimaginable it might be outsourced. The same smallish companies have to hire accountants, etc. to do the books and the taxes, so why not third-party benefit management?

Well, apparently because that kind of function requires the complete opposite of the start-up mindset.
posted by praemunire at 10:58 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Some people don't eat yeast because they believe it contributes to systemic yeast infections/Candida issues/something something alcohol as a byproduct of yeast fermentation. My understanding is that this is fully woo, but I could be wrong.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:00 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


In re outsourced HR: I left a particular job and the company outsourced its HR. In the process, the entire record of my employment was fucked up, no one at the outsourcing company knew anything about my employment and the HR people at the company had been let go, so they of course were not around to confirm my work history. I was very lucky that the job I was interviewing for essentially took on trust my claims about my work history, because there wasn't any way to prove that I'd worked there.
posted by Frowner at 11:03 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


IDK, Mr Gates is not very physically imposing. He's certainly not eating to be roughly the size of a barge.

But he does use Amstrads in all of his decorating.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:09 AM on October 3


IDK, Mr Gates is not very physically imposing. He's certainly not eating to be roughly the size of a barge.

🎼 No one's been like Bill Gates
A king pin like Bill Gates ♬
No one downs a muffin while being watched like Bill Gates 🎶
🎶 As a specimen yes he's intim-i-dating
My what a guy that Bill Gates! 🎵🎵
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:28 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]


it's not beyond the realm of imagining that there are vegans who won't eat yeast

Having worked for years at a food co-op in Oregon, I can confirm that there are absolutely vegans who will not eat yeast.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:28 AM on October 3 [10 favorites]


They should not even be allowed to use the word "mayo" in their name if what they are selling is not egg yolk + oil + an acid, emulsified. Maybe if they clearly call it "eggless mayonnaise product"
posted by knoyers at 11:28 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


what about "food lube" or "sandwich grease"
posted by poffin boffin at 11:33 AM on October 3 [16 favorites]


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair reported that he couldn’t tell the difference

A man known for his impeccable judgement.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:35 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]


what about "food lube" or "sandwich grease"

floob sounds very much like a techbro venture
posted by notorious medium at 11:37 AM on October 3 [7 favorites]


Your neighborhood vegan baker which is not doing science and has no capability to (and may even be averse to) getting to Wal-Mart doesn't have a tech story.

That's because no one wants to eat a tech story. 😋 😝 🍅
posted by octobersurprise at 11:42 AM on October 3


I mean, clearly, if I knew I could not fail, I would take over the goddamn government in a bloodless coup, kick out all the Republicans and initiate the golden age of Automated Luxury Communism. I would be too busy to worry about vegan mayo, that's for sure.
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on October 3 [22 favorites]


a poster of him watching Bill Gates eat a muffin

A muffin? I expected Bill Gates eating 50 eggs, something like that.


We're talking Bill Gates, not Steve Harwell.
posted by Samizdata at 11:51 AM on October 3


Zenefits was a great idea in broad strokes, but they grew so fast that they basically had to drop the small business customers who desperately need cloud-based payroll and benefits services that can run without full time in-house HR, and that left them facing corporate America, where the in-house HR execs are as unpromising a target for SF salesbros as you can imagine, and there's a very mature and comprehensive set of vendors.

There is a paradigm for this stuff that works great -- MindBody is a terrific example, with a huge share of customers who have no professional admin workers, to say the least of HR -- but it simply doesn't make for a $10 billion company.
posted by MattD at 11:51 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


initiate the golden age of Automated Luxury Communism. I would be too busy to worry about vegan mayo, that's for sure.


Well then what is the point of Automated Luxury Communism if we are too busy to worry about vegan mayo?

Also, I would call it...

'Snot Mayo.

What is it? Its 'Snot Mayo.
posted by ian1977 at 11:51 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Automated Luxury Communism. I would be too busy to worry about vegan mayo, that's for sure.

Automated Luxury Communism will need the finest plant based foods. Ain't getting no fully automated slaughterhouses for less effort than a fully automated plant based luxury vegan diet would take.
posted by ambrosen at 11:55 AM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Is vegan mayonnaise that hard to do? It's 95 percent vegetable oil, water, and lemon juice which are all vegan. All you need is an emulsifier, and you can get fabulous tasting variations even without the Magic of Food Science (TM), aioli uses garlic instead. It seems odd that it would be particularly difficult with modern food chemistry to substitute something less strong tasting than garlic.
posted by tavella at 11:57 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]


Wha-wha-whaaaaaat? Yeast is a fungus. Are there vegans who don't eat mushrooms

Nthing yes. Yes there are.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:58 AM on October 3


That seems... weird.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Ultimately I think its tribalism at work. The tech bros who have these 'brilliant' ideas to start up companies doing things that are already being done better by others are part of the same ethnic group, have the same cultural background and general worldview, and are basically part of the in group of the Silicon Valley venture capitalists.


Leads for Juicero's series B were both finance guys. Draper, the D of DFJ and the lead of most of Theranos's rounds, was Harvard MBA (although Stanford EE, although he never did any EE work ever). Zenefits was led in A and B rounds by Dalgaard, who's an MBA, I recall. Hampton Creeks was led by Swanson, who did a Wharton MBA.

VC's are about 10% tech folks and 90% MBA's. This is at the core of the stupidity: I probably just listed a bunch of folks who couldn't make an http request manually with curl. But they know money, I suppose.
posted by hleehowon at 12:01 PM on October 3 [8 favorites]


Polovets has a blog called Coding VC because it's that rare to find someone who still codes who's a VC...
posted by hleehowon at 12:02 PM on October 3


If I knew I could not fail, I would flap my arms, fly into outer space, and found my interstellar empire.
posted by kyrademon at 12:05 PM on October 3 [13 favorites]


Automated Luxury Communism. I would be too busy to worry about vegan mayo, that's for sure.

Maybe it's the other way around, the quote from the article says Josh Tetrick "will guide us into the abundant beyond." Vegan mayo is a stepping stone on the path to our post-scarcity future in the abundant beyond.
posted by peeedro at 12:07 PM on October 3


“What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

It's so easy to pick on this, but "a vegan mayonnaise company" is such a ludicrous answer to that question that it makes me wonder what question he is actually answering, in his heart of hearts, but "What as yet unexploited consumer niche is both marketable and achievable with my skillset, time, and funding constraints" isn't a poster anyone puts on their wall.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:10 PM on October 3 [12 favorites]


RE 'They should not even be allowed to use the word "mayo" in their name if what they are selling is not egg yolk + oil + an acid, emulsified. Maybe if they clearly call it "eggless mayonnaise product'.

The imitation products will always be compared to the real things. Making it an alternative creates a market for potential converts but it does have it's own pitfalls.

However, I have found once one's tastes change, the real can start to taste putrid. I personally have found this with cookies. In helping develop some awesome vegan cookies in Toronto, I found that tasting cookies with animal products started to no longer taste normal after time. Of course, that in itself is rooted in habits, circumstance and anchors. So even Vegenaise could become the norm and the original would become the outsider. In essence , over time replacements can and often will supplant the original product (especially if health becomes part of the equation).

Yes, there are always people defending definitions like this. It reminds me of the battle to keep soymilk from having the word milk in it. Or adding the inclusion of "alternative" to the name to make sure people know it is not "real"...

But, in the case of a county in the Republic of Ireland named "Mayo", should they to be renamed to avoid any confusion of sandwich lovers?

Mayo: A county in the Republic of Ireland, in the north-western part of the province of Connacht; county town, Castlebar that is not made of eggs, vegetable oil, egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, and seasonings.

I have to admit it has a nice jingle to it. The real mayo is indeed best referred to as what it is.. genuine sandwich lube. mmm, enjoy your sandwich.
posted by cookiemaster at 12:16 PM on October 3


OK, response to a response that's buried.

Please fellow Mefi folk... my idea about spreading vegan food to a vast, much, much larger audience is an audience that doesn't include anyone that's a poster here.

Create good, great food that is vegan, then the enormous gigantic public will eat it up. Keep offering so-so taste-a-likes-sorta-kinda but vegan and... Well here we are.

(I'm all in favor of vegetarian-mostly diets, but I've known vegans who think bees are exploited for honey, so honey was a no-no. I tried arguing that we were the stewards, the slaves of bee colonies, ensuring the bees a place with shelter, food, water... but, alas, that's where extremism tells you honey is a no-no.)
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:20 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


...also, there's ways to raise hens where they eat grain, bugs, grass, dirt, vegetable peelings, water that is non exploitive or brutal or evil. FFS, the egg laying, rooster-less hens I've known are total bosses, and strut around yodeling quietly to one another and don't give a single fuck if you take the eggs they lay while they do their own thing. I really like chickens.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 12:26 PM on October 3 [10 favorites]


> "...also, there's ways to raise hens ... that is non exploitive or brutal or evil."

Yes. We know. Thanks, though.
posted by kyrademon at 12:35 PM on October 3 [5 favorites]


"While a chicken egg will never change, our idea is that we can have a product where we push updates into the system, just like Apple updates its iOS operating system,"

Fuuuuuuuucccckkkkkkkk thiiiiiiissssssss shiiiiiiiiiiiittttttt

And yeah, "enthusiasm," "passion," and all this higher purpose cultish mission bullshit in startup is just a way to find and exploit workers, to get more work with less money. It behooves shitheads like Thiel to promote this in his entrepreneurs and have it trickle down to the workers so that they get greater return on their money, ignoring the underpaid people being ground down and 'disrupted.' Startups are fucking hard, and becoming a unicorn is statistically extremely unlikely. But who cares when you can get other people to bleed for your cash.
posted by Existential Dread at 12:39 PM on October 3 [8 favorites]


eggless mayonnaise product


Margarinaise
posted by bonehead at 12:40 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


But, in the case of a county in the Republic of Ireland named "Mayo", should they to be renamed to avoid any confusion of sandwich lovers?

I don't think the Earl of Sandwich was ever in Mayo.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:42 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Margarinaise

faux-leo
posted by ian1977 at 12:48 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


These yeast avoiding vegans know that it comes to rest on every working surface naturally though, right? And that, in the same minute quantities, we're breathing the stuff in and washing it down with water constantly, right?

I just don't know why yeast and yeast by-products are something people would avoid eating/drinking/spreading on toast.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:49 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


There's a place near here that does a vegan Reuben that's not 100% accurate but far closer than you'd expect it to be and very tasty. So a lot of things are possible.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Art: Are you talking about the Chicago Diner, by chance?
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:03 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Plum Bistro.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


"a vegan Reuben that's not 100% accurate but far closer than you'd expect it to be and very tasty."

I had a similar sandwich at the Chicago Diner, which despite its name, is a really old vegetarian spot in Chicago. Was it tasty? Yes. Did it have a weird texture? A little. Did it swell my stomach up to insane gassy proportions that even Pastrami wouldn't have?

Yes. Maybe it's a portion thing, I don't know. I'm really not a meat eater. I enjoy meats in small amounts. It just seems every time there's a meat substitute )Hey, what happened to Quorn?) it's just kind of gross.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:10 PM on October 3


> There's a place near here that does a vegan Reuben that's not 100% accurate but far closer than you'd expect it to b

...and about as good as you can expect a Reuben to be in Seattle, anyway?
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:13 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


So relative to the article: when the big fraud came out (a year ago?) about Hampton Creek basically hiring people to buy Just Mayo to boost sales numbers, I was kind of curious and bought a jar.

They absolutely get the texture as close to real mayonnaise as any vegan product - though personally, I prefer the flavor of vegenaise.

And then I went right back to making my own mayonnaise at home with eggs from my neighbor and an immersion blender. Cheaper, better, and arguably more ethical (fewer/reusable containers, lower food miles) depending on where you stand on backyard chickens.

Other than that, this guy sounds like a some entrepreneurs I've known - a serial fabulist trying to surround himself with a posse of true believers. Like Travis Kalanick, he might be his product's own biggest obstacle to success.
posted by rocketman at 1:20 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


My husband is allergic to eggs and soy so I though Just Mayo would work well for him but it turns out he's also allergic to peas....

I may attempt the chickpea juice mayo, or stick with the old sub sour cream method.
posted by vespabelle at 1:23 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]



My husband is allergic to eggs and soy so I though Just Mayo would work well for him but it turns out he's also allergic to peas....

I may attempt the chickpea juice mayo, or stick with the old sub sour cream method.


Well if the pattern keeps up, you'll turn him allergic to chickpeas and sour cream as well ;)
posted by Carillon at 1:31 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Other than that, this guy sounds like a some entrepreneurs I've known - a serial fabulist trying to surround himself with a posse of true believers. Like Travis Kalanick, he might be his product's own biggest obstacle to success.


This is the exact phenomenon that the old VC practice of "getting the adults in the room" (aka, replacing the original founders with a buncha MBA's) tried to defend against. Doesn't defend against it very well, given the general megalomania of many MBA's.

(this has now become the last resort, given the lateness of them doing it to Uber)
posted by hleehowon at 1:33 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


I mean, clearly, if I knew I could not fail, I would take over the goddamn government in a bloodless coup, kick out all the Republicans and initiate the golden age of Automated Luxury Communism. I would be too busy to worry about vegan mayo, that's for sure.

Shouldn't that be fully automated luxury gay space communism?
posted by medusa at 1:47 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Back at Hampton Creek headquarters, I watched Tetrick wipe Elie’s vomit off the floor adjacent to the research kitchen.

There were a lot of things about Tetrick and his company that I found troubling, but a CEO of a multi-million dollar company who cleans up after his own dog is doing something right.
posted by layceepee at 2:43 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Since nobody seems to have taken a swing at the AI / machine learning angle yet, and since this precise "assume the tool is a hammer (machine learning), now go use it on everything you can find whether it's a nail or not" thing just happened to me at my workplace today -- the best line of any of these articles for me was the deadpan "To be sure, artificial intelligence is not crucial to making vegan mayonnaise." The number of problems that people think you can just throw machine learning at to create profit is only dwarfed by the number of fools with money who think they can spot ten more such problems.

To whoever made the "LEAVE THE TECH CEOS ALOOOONE" comment above about us not knowing/caring what the CEOs of traditional conglomerates think: Unilever isn't out there trying to tell me they're solving world hunger with artificially intelligent condiments. They know they're just a company that makes stuff for people to buy, and that's good enough for them. These clowns can't accept that boring life, so they invent this narrative where they're profoundly changing the world. It's just fake mayo, or fake eggs, or whatever. Call me when the Unilever CEO is making these sorts of grandiose claims about their company and bringing in a billion dollars for a mediocre idea.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:30 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


a CEO of a multi-million dollar company who cleans up after his own dog is doing something right.

Pretty low bar, there.
posted by rhizome at 3:38 PM on October 3 [7 favorites]


*It is ridiculously easy to make delicious homemade aioli, fyi. Not vegan, though.

For what it's worth, eggs are not needed to make aioli. It is possible to make with nothing more than garlic and olive oil.
posted by slkinsey at 4:05 PM on October 3


To whoever made the "LEAVE THE TECH CEOS ALOOOONE" comment above about us not knowing/caring what the CEOs of traditional conglomerates think: Unilever isn't out there trying to tell me they're solving world hunger with artificially intelligent condiments. They know they're just a company that makes stuff for people to buy, and that's good enough for them. These clowns can't accept that boring life, so they invent this narrative where they're profoundly changing the world. It's just fake mayo, or fake eggs, or whatever. Call me when the Unilever CEO is making these sorts of grandiose claims about their company and bringing in a billion dollars for a mediocre idea.


they do the fronting too

including, for some idiot reason, a venture capital arm
posted by hleehowon at 4:09 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


All corporations have VC funding arms now. That's just how the financialization of the entire economy works.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:28 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


just because I'm not surprised by it doesn't mean that it isn't caused by some idiot reason
posted by hleehowon at 4:29 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


the financialization of the entire economy is inherently idiotic
posted by Apocryphon at 4:50 PM on October 3 [6 favorites]


> Mayo is a cream-colored spread with the consistency of soft whipped cream.

So this seems like as good a place as any to mention the fact that I frequently confuse the names "Miracle Whip" and "Cool Whip" and therefore cannot be trusted at picnics.

It would be hard to describe the exact mixture of confusion, disgust, and pity on my friend's face as she demanded, "I asked you to bring Cool Whip for the fruit, West! What the hell is this? Who puts Miracle Whip on fruit?!"

"Um... the Waldorf?" was not the correct response, it turns out.
posted by Westringia F. at 5:15 PM on October 3 [8 favorites]


The whole enterprise seems like it was constructed in a backwards sort of order. Either someone realized they wanted to make vegan mayo and figured you could get way more funding if you throw a bunch of hilarious bullshit about AI and machine learning in there, or someone had some spare capacity for extremely buzzwordy Silicon Valley tech and was just looking around the room trying to figure something they could get on shelves immediately. At no point did someone have a product they liked and a plausible means to deliver it as is to consumers.

I wonder how much longer this stuff can go on. Is there any business that can't be turned into a tech startup with an app and a way to order it online? eGarbage, where you schedule your pickups remotely, share your calendar with the company on the cloud, and track their progress on the blockchain!
posted by Copronymus at 5:32 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


You've heard of Lugg, right?
posted by fragmede at 5:59 PM on October 3


Came to read about the awfulness of the Just Mayo guy, was not surprised by the amount of MeFites who gleefully shit on vegans. Sigh.

(Never tried Just Mayo. Hard to find in Ontario outside the GTA. Hellman’s vegan version is v good, if spendy.)
posted by Kitteh at 6:56 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Seriously people, all these favorites and NONE on my Steve Harwell comment? Really?

So, NO ONE KNOWS THE STORY ABOUT "SMASHMOUTH, EAT THE EGGS?

REALLY?

(Google "Steve Harwell eggs" or look here - https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/6wnmbr/i-made-the-smash-mouth-guy-eat-a-shit-ton-of-eggs - It even includes another source of MeHate, Guy Fieri!)

That second REALLY makes me wish MeFi supported bigger text sizes.
posted by Samizdata at 7:42 PM on October 3


Samizdata, you'd get better reception in something awful
posted by hleehowon at 7:44 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Samizdata, you'd get better reception in something awful

But they don't have favorites, and it's...it's...all white there!
posted by Samizdata at 7:47 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Just as a data point, my office has been serving Just Mayo packets for at least a year and literally no one has noticed the difference as far as I can tell. It's not aioli, but for sandwiches and hamburgers it seems to be doing a fine job as a bland and tasty condiment addition. The downside is their labeling is so subtle that the actual vegans had not realized it was even an option (and weren't familiar with it as a concept, along with everyone else.) I'd be sorry to see it go because it's nice to have a mass market option suitable for anyone who wants mayo but has an egg allergy/vegan/religious need to avoid the real stuff.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:57 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


you can have the 1-5 ratings, rate the GBS pro-trump thread all shit
posted by hleehowon at 9:18 PM on October 3


Nobody cares about Smashmouth and also eating 50 eggs is first and foremost a Cool Hand Luke reference.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:29 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


Nobody cares about Smashmouth and also eating 50 eggs is first and foremost a Cool Hand Luke reference.

TIL I REALLY need to watch Cool Hand Luke in toto.
posted by Samizdata at 11:00 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


He named his dog after a famous Holocaust survivor because the name seemed 'cool'?

Wtf is this satire?
posted by Faintdreams at 9:13 AM on October 4 [5 favorites]


Hey, what happened to Quorn?

It's really common in the UK. Mo Farah is on their adverts. I like their 'chicken' pieces - we keep a bag in the freezer for adding quick protein to a veggie stir-fry.
posted by mippy at 9:29 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Nothing happened to Quorn. Just had some tonight (the meatballs, in wedding soup). It's definitely the best meat substitute, but it's not vegan.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:00 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


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