US retail giant Target will be permanently ditching products made by vegan startup Hampton Creek, according to a story broken by Bloomberg.
The products – including Hampton Creek’s flagship item Just Mayo – were removed from sale two months ago, after Target received an anonymous tip-off about safety issues.
These safety claims included allegations that products posed health threats (for salmonella and listeria), and were mislabeled, containing undeclared ingredients including honey.
The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] said it was monitoring the situation, but had not received any reports of people falling ill from Hampton Creek products.
Hampton Creek responded immediately to these allegations with a statement saying: “The allegations that our products are mislabeled and unsafe are false.
“We have robust food safety standards, and as such, we remain confident about the safety of all products we sell and distribute.
“We look forward to working with Target and the FDA to bring this to a quick resolution.”
But despite the FDA clearing Hampton Creek, Target decided not to reinstate Hampton Creek’s products.
An email statement by Target spokesperson Jenna Reck said: “Recently, the FDA closed its file on Hampton Creek products.
“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.
“We are not planning to bring Hampton Creek products back to Target and have openly communicated our decision with the Hampton Creek team.”
Reck reportedly would not share any further details, saying simply that there were ‘multiple reasons for ending the deal’.
With the Target deal worth a reported annual $5.5 million to the San Fran startup, the move will come as a blow to Hampton Creek, which has already seen its fair share of troubles.
These include board members walking out, an alleged ‘coup’ attempt by former senior staff, legal wrangles, and reported death threats against CEO Josh Tetrick.
According to Bloomberg, the relationship was severed because Target did not like the way Hampton Creek announced to the media that it had been cleared by the FDA.
Hampton Creek spokesperson Andrew Noyes told Bloomberg: “Target informed us that sharing with the public the FDA’s conclusion that our products are safe violated Target’s vendor communication guidelines.”
An email statement from Hampton Creek to tech news outlet TechCrunch said: “We understandably felt there was a necessity to share the FDA’s conclusions, so we did.
“Target publicly said they would leave this in the hands of the FDA.
“Target informed us that sharing with the public the FDA’s conclusion that our products are safe violated Target’s vendor communication guidelines.
“Target told us that is what drove their decision to end our relationship.”
Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick added his own email statement that said: “We’re thankful to the millions of consumers and a growing number of partners who continue to support our mission to build a food system where everyone is eating well.
“We’ve learned that focusing on doing good work, the kind that has an enduring impact, is the best way to approach these types of challenges.”