What would it look like if we started over?
That question is the driving force behind Hampton Creek, the company responsible for Just Mayo, Just Cookies, and just about every good experience I’ve had in the past 24 hours.
That last bit is because I had the opportunity to tour Hampton Creek’s new facilities in San Francisco’s Mission District, all while learning about the company’s latest world-changing endeavors and tasting the fruits of its labor. An unassuming behemoth of a warehouse on the outside, the facility is absolutely brimming with creative energy fueled by leading-edge scientists, Michelin-starred chefs, and—true story—actual robots on the inside.
As ground zero for the movement away from conventional animal agriculture, this warehouse is where co-founder Josh Balk, CEO Josh Tetrick, and the whole Hampton Creek team come together to reimagine the food system and ask that same nagging question: What would it look like if we started over?
With the technology we have now, the only feasible answer to this question is that our food system would look a lot less like an unsanitary, inefficient, crowded factory farm and much more like the offices of Hampton Creek where they’re creating a food system free from all of the problems that result from our reliance on animals for food.
How’s that, you ask?
Lucky for you, I asked too.
For starters, the company has already created an impressive line of taste- and price-competitive plant-based alternatives to many popular products. I even had the chance to sample a prototype of a totally egg-free fast-food egg puck of the sort popularized by the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin. This is more than a novelty. After years of avian flu outbreaks, taking the chicken out of the equation is something foodservice suppliers, not just environmental advocates, are clamoring for. Because of this, a future in which a fast-food breakfast is totally plant-based is well within our reach.
So yeah, I got a little excited:
But Hampton Creek is making bigger contributions to the future of food than just creating delicious products. Its scientists (and those robots I mentioned) are embarking on a groundbreaking project to analyze and map the unique characteristics of every plant-based protein. This addresses a problem Bill Gates famously referenced: More than 90 percent of plant proteins remain unexplored as potential meat, dairy, and egg substitutes. After traversing the globe to gather plants, letting their robots analyze these specimens on a molecular level, and having their scientists experiment with them in numerous combinations, the company plans to release this information as an open-sourced database for other food innovators to take up the mantle. This will open up a whole new world of flavors and possibilities for plant-based foods.
As but a humble servant of the good food movement, seeing this project take off was a big moment for me. Oh, and I also got to watch Josh Tetrick play with a golden retriever puppy. In that moment, all was right with the world.
To learn more about how The Good Food Institute works to support companies like Hampton Creek, visit our website.