Walmart, the store where shoppers can go to buy shampoo, baseball bats, and flat-panel televisions in one trip, now sells more of Hampton Creek’s vegan mayonnaise than any other retailer—including Whole Foods.
It’s easy to attribute the sales difference to sheer size, as Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick does. Whereas Whole Foods has about 400 locations in the US, Walmart has more than 4,000, and says it carries Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo at a majority of them.
Neither Hampton Creek nor Walmart would disclose their sales figures for Just Mayo. But just the fact that Walmart is widely stocking an eggless alternative to traditional mayonnaise says something meaningful about Americans and their growing predilections for new, plant-based versions of items normally made with animal products.
The preference isn’t limited to people who shun animal products entirely. In a 2015 Mintel market research survey, for example, 92% of respondents said they ate eggs, but 38% also said they ate egg substitutes. Vegan mayo isn’t just for vegans anymore.
Whole Foods was the first major US retailer to sell Just Mayo, but Hampton Creek now counts the country’s largest retailer—Walmart—and largest foodservice company—Compass Group—as customers as well. Compass, which serves more than 4 billion meals a year in locations like schools, hospitals, and event venues, tells Quartz that it now uses Just Mayo for most of its mayonnaise needs.
“Conscious consumers will only get you so far,” Tetrick tells Quartz. “But if you create something that tastes better, that’s affordable, and make it easy for everyone to access, that’s how change is going happen.”
Though some informal taste tests have ranked Just Mayo as less palatable than egg-based competitors like Hellman’s, other comparisons have been more flattering. Just Mayo scores a 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon and a 5 out of 5 on Walmart.com, with plenty of rave reviews coming from non-vegans. (“I wouldn’t have ever known this was eggless mayo if someone hadn’t told me,” wrote one Amazon reviewer.) “Taste is always number one,” Susie Weintraub, an executive at Compass Group, tells Quartz. She says that if Just Mayo didn’t measure up on taste, it wouldn’t be in the company pantry.
Cost is another reason shoppers and big buyers are choosing Just Mayo. On the supermarket shelf, it’s priced competitively. On Walmart.com, a 30-ounce jar of Just Mayo sells for $3.48, the same price as a 30-ounce jar of Kraft’s Mayo with Olive Oil, and $0.50 less than Hellman’s. With this year’s avian flu outbreak and the higher egg prices that followed, Hampton Creek says inquiries into its product skyrocketed, as new customers like 7-Eleven hopped on the eggless bandwagon.
The competitive threat Hampton Creek poses is being taken seriously by the egg industry. This was indicated most clearly in September, when emails from the American Egg Board, an industry group overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, were made public. (Sample from an August 2013 email from the now retired president and CEO of the egg board: “‘What are we doing at AEB with regard to this competing product??’ We need to have an answer!”)
Tetrick says Hampton Creek has plans to add more products to its lineup, like pancakes, frozen meals, and a scrambled-egg substitute. The privately held company continues its international expansion, too: Just Mayo has been in Hong Kong’s mega-grocer PARKnSHOP for more than a year, and in Canadian Costco stores for several months. Tetrick tells Quartz that soon Just Mayo will be on the shelves of Walmart stores in Mexico, too.