A 2015 CNBC article about Hampton Creek lists the food technology organization as a disruptor, which is a favorable term for innovative companies that are making substantial changes in their industries and in consumer lifestyles. The news media outlet releases a list of 50 of these companies each year, along with details of why they made the list. All are private companies that represent a broad range of industries. In 2015, Hampton Creek was included along with companies focusing on medical technology, aerospace, financial services and alternative energy.
These forward-thinking organizations tend to successfully rock the boat in the business world and sometimes have a considerable effect on existing brands, products and services. Hampton Creek was sued by Unilever after the smaller company’s sandwich spread started becoming a little too popular for the big corporation’s comfort. A direct competitor to Hellman’s mayonnaise, Just Mayo was priced affordably and placed on the shelves with other sandwich spreads. Unilever protested that Just Mayo can’t be mayonnaise because it doesn’t contain eggs. Hampton Creek said they didn’t claim that this product was mayonnaise.
Giant corporations usually don’t sue small ones for competitive issues because they know consumers root for the underdog. That’s exactly what happened in this particular case, as the general public and the media had fun making jokes about the situation. Unilever dropped the suit and came out with its own version of egg-free mayonnaise, or rather, an egg-free mayonnaise-like sandwich spread.
Whether or not Hampton Creek ever becomes big enough to rival the megacorporations in food production remains to be seen. The company still only has a limited number of products on the shelves, all plant-based and free of meat, eggs or dairy items. However, it has dozens of others in the works, and plans to get them in stores as soon as possible.
It should be a point of pride for a company to be considered a disruptor in the way that CNBC views the term. The disruptive influence on society and in the marketplace is a positive one, even though some of the bigger corporations don’t necessarily think so.