On Friday, Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick fired back at a recent Bloomberg report that his startup, Hampton Creek, had sent undercover teams to buy its own products and call in to stores pretending to be consumers interested in the mayo.
“You’ve got to step back did it have any impact on sales, and it had no impact at all,” Tetrick said on CNBC. According to Bloomberg, Hampton Creek had hired contractors to go to grocery stores and buy the company’s flagship product, Just Mayo, an eggless spread designed to taste like mayonnaise.
“The primary reason for doing it, was [quality assurance] and [quality control],” Tetrick said. “We have all the data to back it up.”
He said that Hampton Creek had started its series of secret “mayo buybacks” in 2013.
“If I had to go back and do it again, of course I would do it again,” Tetrick said. “We started this in 2013, and to some extent we still do it today.”
It sent contractors to grocery stores like Safeway to buy up jars of its mayo, presumably so the grocery stores would have to order more. That would mean that Hampton Creek would look like it has more revenue, which would help when it went to raise more money from venture capital.
“To think this has anything to do with fundraising, that’s pretty silly,” Tetrick said.
Tetrick repeated that the purpose of the program was quality checks, and it had only spent $77,000 on the project.
“We spent more in snacks this year than the entirety of the program,” Tetrick said.
Hampton Creek was said to be looking to raise $200 million at a $1.1 billion valuation earlier this year. The company reportedly pitched investors that it was going to grow to $100 million in sales in 2016, but that it would lose $63 million during the same time period.
Hampton Creek boasts several big-name tech investors, including Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, and Founders Fund.
Last year, Business Insider reported that the company used “shoddy science” and regularly stretched the truth about its products. One former employee called it a “food company masquerading as a tech company.” Also in the past year, the FDA told Hampton Creek that it needed to stop calling its product “mayonnaise,” because it does not include eggs.
One question that Tetrick danced around? Why his employees were instructed in emails to avoid wearing Hampton Creek-branded clothing when purchasing mayo, and to pretend they were customers interested in the product when they called in.