Target Corp. will no longer sell products made by food startup Hampton Creek Inc. after an internal review, the latest major blow to the beleaguered maker of Just Mayo eggless mayonnaise and other plant-based foods.
The retail giant decided to end the relationship about two months after receiving what it described as “specific and serious food safety allegations about Hampton Creek products.” Target pulled the San Francisco company’s products from shelves in June while it looked into the matter and shared the claims with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Hampton Creek has said its products are safe and comply with FDA rules. The FDA has said it won’t investigate unless it receives reports of consumers getting sick and has “no safety concerns with Hampton Creek at this time.”
“Although the FDA is not pursuing this further, we used the opportunity to review our portfolio, as we regularly do, and decided to reconsider our relationship with Hampton Creek,” Target wrote in an emailed statement Friday. “We are not planning to bring Hampton Creek products back to Target and have openly communicated our decision with the Hampton Creek team.”
Hampton Creek said Target’s decision stemmed from a statement the startup released without the retailer’s consent last week. “Target informed us that sharing with the public the FDA’s conclusion that our products are safe violated Target’s vendor communication guidelines,” Hampton Creek wrote in an email.
The loss of Target’s business is a big setback for Hampton Creek after a year filled with scandals. Before Target’s review this summer, it was the venture-backed startup’s largest retail customer, representing about a third of Hampton Creek sales from stores, two people with knowledge of the business have said. Target was bringing in $5.5 million a year for the money-losing food maker, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the financial information is private.
Some former allies have been distancing themselves from Hampton Creek recently. In the last year, the company has been rocked by revelations of an undercover project to buy back its own products from stores that briefly drew scrutiny from the feds, fundraising struggles and an executive exodus. This summer, the startup’s entire board left except for Chief Executive Officer Joshua Tetrick, and a bottled-water company co-founded by actor Jaden Smith sued over a trademark dispute.
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