According to reports, Just Mayo bought their own products to make the brand more attractive. Bloomberg first reported on the buyback scandal.
Produced by Hampton Creek, Just Mayo, which claims to be “a vegan spread that has rattled the egg industry,” is an egg-free mayonnaise that comes in various flavors including garlic, chipotle, and sriracha.
According to the publication, in 2014, the founder of Hampton Creek, Josh Tetrick, set out to raise $90 million to launch his products.
Moreover, Mr. Tetrick was able to convince several leading Silicon Valley venture capital firms to invest in his company. And rapidly, Just Mayo was available at Walmart, Kroger, and Safeway.
It all seemed to have worked out for the best for all parties because Just Mayo products were flying off the shelves. However, it was all a lie. Tetrick was buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of his mayo to make the product appear more popular than it was.
Additionally, employees were asked to buy hundreds of jars of the product nationwide, contact store managers pretending they were customers, and ask about Just Mayo because high demand for a product typically prompts retailers to order more and stock it in additional stores.
In April of 2014, Caroline Love, Hampton Creek’s then-director of corporate partnership, sent out the following email to employees. It read:
“We need you in Safeway buying Just Mayo and our new flavored mayos. And we’re going to pay you for this exciting new project! Below is the list of stores that have been assigned to you.”
In a memo, Love spoke about a key competitor:
“The most important next step with Safeway is huge sales out of the gate. This will ensure we stay on the shelf to put an end to Hellmann’s factory-farmed egg mayo, and spread the word to customers that Just Mayo is their new preferred brand. :)”
Tetrick said Just Mayo bought back their products not to fake their sales number, but for quality-control purposes. He said the buyback program cost about $77,000 and represented less than 0.12 percent of the company’s sales. Tetrick added:
“These folks did an awesome job for us, primarily in helping us improve our quality. They were our eyes and ears on the ground. I’m proud of what we did and how we continue to do it.”
Earlier this year, Hampton Creek contacted several businesses in Asia for additional money to help fund 560 new plant-based products, such as vegan oysters, and blue cheese, plus an egg substitute product called “Just Patty.” It is not known if they have secured the funding that they need.