Back in 2015, the Silicon Valley elite were pretty pumped about Hampton Creek, a vegan food company with the vibe of a tech upstart. Headlined by their eggless Just Mayo product, the new venture hit a few bumps in the road early on, including misreported facts about the eco-friendliness of its products and FDA allegations of misbranding, among other controversies.
Bloomberg's 2016 discovery highlights a particularly questionable business practice, though. The financial outlet reported that Hampton Creek was sending covert employees out on a large-scale and secret operation to buy hundreds of jars of Just Mayo off of store shelves in order to create an image of sales success.
CEO Josh Tetrick claimed the buyback program, which allegedly helped launch the brand to the top of Whole Foods' mayo charts, cost the company $77,000. But Bloomberg's investigation puts it closer to the $1.4 million mark at its peak in 2014 -- which doesn't look good next to $1.9 million in sales during the same period.
The unorthodox move definitely generated Twitter buzz, but it also earned Hampton Creek a (now closed) investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission. As of 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported that Target has stopped carrying all Hampton Creek products and its entire board, save CEO Tetrick, has departed the company.