Is This the Fake Egg's Moment?
Bloomberg Businessweek|June 08, 2020
Eat Just is building a small but early niche in China, a world away from its former name and vegan mayo scandals
Deena Shanker and Larissa Zimberoff

On a recent Monday morning in a Shanghai conference room, four executives from a major Chinese food producer and distributor sat socially distanced from one another, pulled down their masks, and tried some fake eggs. In a makeshift basement office in San Francisco, 15 hours behind, Josh Tetrick, the chief executive officer of egg- substitute maker Eat Just Inc., watched via Zoom. His head chef in China presented the Shanghai execs with eight ways to serve the ersatz ovum, Just Egg, which is made primarily from mung beans. The hope was that one would be tasty enough for the Chinese company to sell online and at fast-food chains.

The eight options included Tetrick’s two favorites. The Inside-Out Egg is a faux omelette stuffed with lettuce, a hash brown patty, and spicy mayo; the Pinwheel Egg is essentially a fake-egg burrito with rice, fried onions, and pickled radishes. Both bombed. Still, the pitchees picked a winner, and while Tetrick stresses that no deal has been signed— hence the anonymity—he says Eat Just, better known as Just, is moving on to the next round of talks.

Although the negotiations have taken more than three years, things sped up over the past several months, Tetrick says. “Because of what’s happening around Covid,” the CEO says with uncharacteristic understatement, “there’s been a notable change

about how consumers are thinking about food.” Last year, Beyond Meat Inc.’s initial public offering and Impossible Foods Inc.’s bleeding beefless Whopper helped bring plant-based meat to 51% of American lips, according to research firm Piplsay. Before the pandemic, the emerging industry had set its 2020 sights on China, where plant protein has been a staple for a millennium but meat imitations are just getting started. Regional plant-protein makers have made inroads in Hong Kong, but most of China is largely unclaimed territory for mass-market fake meat. Just, however, is already there.

Tetrick’s company says it’s sold tens of thousands of bottles of its liquid formula in China over the past year, mostly via shopping sites owned by internet giants Alibaba Group and JD.com, as well as in a handful of retail stores, restaurants, and hotels. The numbers don’t exactly herald a revolution—the company says a good day on the Alibaba and JD sites means 1,300 bottles sold—but the early move into China has positioned the American company well, says Sean O’Sullivan, managing partner at venture capital firm SOSV. (The firm invests in plant-based protein makers but hasn’t invested in Just.) Tetrick’s company, valued at $1.2 billion, has raised $300 million in venture funding and says it’s sold the equivalent of about 40 million fake eggs, mostly in the U.S.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEKView All

Test All of Minnesota? You Betcha

Minnesota is setting an example for other states and the federal government. If anyone is interested

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

The Cult of Positivity

WHY BLIND OPTIMISM IS DRIVING US NUTS

7 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

SPOTIFY'S PODCAST POWER PLAY

The company is staking its future on converting music listeners to podcast fans and has become the favorite to own the industry—for better or worse

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

The Electric Truck That Couldn't

In the past six months, Nikola has faced an SEC probe, lost partners, and seen its shares tank

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

WALL STREET SOUTH

Florida braces for a gold-plated makeover as finance rethinks its attachment to New York

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

Yet Another Winning Year For Hindsight Capital

With the miserable year of 2020 over, it’s time to return to the offices of Hindsight Capital LLC.

2 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 11, 2021

Why the U.S. Senate Is Broken

Adam Jentleson argues that toxic partisanship rose when the filibuster became a cudgel

6 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

Social Media Hits Mute After the Capitol Riot

Facebook and Twitter can block the president, but his supporters will move on

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

America's Missing Workers

Near-record levels of absenteeism could be hampering the recovery

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 18, 2021

Where to Go in 2021

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY NEEDS A TRAVEL REBOUND. YOU COULD USE ONE, TOO. AS SOON AS IT’S SAFE, MAKE YOUR PLANS COUNT WITH 24 IDEAS TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD ONE SMALL STEP AT A TIME

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
January 11, 2021
RELATED STORIES

CHINA'S GEELY, BAIDU ANNOUNCE ELECTRIC CAR VENTURES

Chinese automaker Geely says it will form an electric car venture with tech giant Baidu, adding to a flurry of corporate tie-ups in the industry to share soaring technology development costs.

1 min read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #481

Where Is Jack Ma, China's E-commerce Pioneer?

China’s best-known entrepreneur, e-commerce billionaire Jack Ma, made his fortune by taking big risks.

5 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #480

Gain Of Function

How much risk of an accidental pandemic is too much?

10+ mins read
New York magazine
January 4-17, 2021

Yin Lu CHINESE HERITAGE AND SYMBOLISM

Yin Lu CHINESE HERITAGE AND SYMBOLISM

10 mins read
Art Market
Issue #54 December 2020

HUAWEI: A GENUINE COMPETITOR TO APPLE AND GOOGLE

Now considered the poster child of China’s technology sector, Huawei has defied the odds in recent years amidst growing pressure from political leaders in the US and Europe. But just how did the company climb to the top, and overtake Samsung to become the world’s biggest smartphone brand? Let’s pull back the curtain and reveal the secrets behind its success.

6 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #479 *Special Edition

China's Rebel Historians

Defiant researchers chronicle a past that the Communist Party grows ever more intent on erasing.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
January - February 2021

A Silicon Curtain Descends

TRUMP ESCALATED AMERICA’S WAR AGAINST HUAWEI AND CHINA. BIDEN SHOULD BEWARE BURGEONING TECHNONATIONALISM.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
February 2021

CHINA'S ALIBABA, TENCENT UNIT FINED UNDER ANTI-MONOPOLY LAW

China’s market regulator on Monday said it fined Alibaba Group and a Tencent Holdings-backed company for failing to seek approval before proceeding with some acquisitions.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #477

5-STAR Brunch

Tips and tricks to make an Insta-worthy brunch at home.

2 mins read
RETREAT Magazine
Issue 20

Warrior

CINEMAX Presents The Tong Wars Drama Series WARRIOR, based on the writings of Martial Arts Legend Bruce Lee

1 min read
Apollo Male Models
Winter 2020 Dan Decker