- JUST entered into an agreement in principle to produce and distribute its vegan JUST Egg product in Europe with Italy-based Eurovo, according to a company statement and CEO Josh Tetrick.
- Under the agreement, Eurovo, the continent's leader in producing packaged, pasteurized and dried eggs, will manufacture and distribute JUST Egg in its existing facilities. The European company will sell the product — which may have a different name, due to regulations — in retail and foodservice channels, then pay royalties to JUST.
- "What we were really looking for in this relationship wasn't capital, but was an experienced operational partner to really scale this," Tetrick told Food Dive. The partnership leverages Eurovo's facilities, knowledge of the market and distribution capacity to launch the egg substitute product on European soil, expanding its availability in a way that is sustainable from transportation and food safety standpoints.
In an interview Thursday about the partnership between JUST and Eurovo, Tetrick told Food Dive he is truly excited because this realizes one of his initial goals for the company. JUST's core mission is using science to create sustainable, healthy and good-tasting products — which currently include the mung-bean-based JUST Egg and vegan condiments, salad dressings and cookies. JUST, formerly known as Hampton Creek, spends a lot of time, effort and money on research and development to find the best components of food to use for its products. But in order to produce them at scale to make a difference in the world, he said, partnerships with large companies are needed.
Eurovo has the scale, history and reach to easily bring JUST Egg to the European market. In addition to benefiting from Eurovo's size and market expertise, Tetrick said JUST Egg can now be made much closer to European consumers — and more sustainably transported, instead of shipping product from the United States across the Atlantic Ocean.
"We could do it, but if we really want to have an exponential impact, let's partner with the largest, the most innovative egg companies and egg processors in the world and have them take their manufacturing prowess, their distribution expertise, their knowledge of the European consumer in this example, and have them let it rip — and really build something exciting and meaningful," Tetrick said.
In the company statement, Eurovo Group President Siro Lionello said the company has always worked with sustainability and animal welfare in mind, making investments two decades ago in eggs and products that were cage-free, free-range, organic and antibiotic-free.
“Balancing modernity and tradition while embracing changing consumer preferences and reducing our environmental footprint is a cornerstone of our business, and this relationship ensures that this approach will continue,” Lionello said in the statement.
This agreement in principle is a licensing of JUST's processes, not a stake in the company or precursor to any M&A activity. It's more collaborative than many recent tie-ups between food companies, and Tetrick said he hopes it is the first of many for JUST. The company is also working on producing lab-grown meat, and has been discussing similar agreements with meat companies. Tetrick said there could eventually be the same types of agreements for the company's condiments, cookies and Liberia-based nutrition product Power Gari, plus any other spaces JUST may get into in the future.
"If I want to simplify that recipe: We find stuff, we make our stuff, we put JUST on it," Tetrick said. "Then we find these forward-thinking companies around the world that have this exponential potential, we transfer the technology to them, and we ask them to go do their thing and hopefully we step back, and in a handful of years, we've done our part to make the food system a little bit better."
Tetrick said JUST is already well funded, having raised $30 million in the last year alone. The company has been estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.
Partnerships like this one are not common in the food world, where companies tend to fight for marketshare and shelf space. Tetrick said that in his conversations with other companies, he has found that many others are "incredibly open" to doing this kind of thing. It makes sense, he said, for established companies to add the types of products JUST makes to their repertoire — and make money from them.
Whether this is a sign of the wider food industry coming around to companies like JUST, which use food science and new processes to make alternatives to traditional products, is yet to be seen. After all, the fight over whether non-animal-derived products can be called "milk" is intensifying. JUST has a history of disputes with the American Egg Board. In the company's early days, the egg checkoff fought the company through complaints to the Food and Drug Administration and targeted online search ads. The checkoff took issue with the use of the name "mayo," since JUST's product contained no eggs.
Tetrick said he thinks partnerships like this one with Eurovo may show that attitudes are changing.
"You can look at it and you can say, 'That's my livelihood. That is stealing marketshare from me. That is attempting to sort of end my industry.' And maybe that is the reflexive way to look at it," Tetrick said. "Or maybe you can look at it another way if you step back and say, 'Wait a minute. What am I doing? What is my purpose? Why did I start an egg company? What am I interested in doing every day?' ...I think as folks engage in it a little more, away from just the quick headline, ... the interest is figuring out a way to build a better company, figuring out a way to sell more protein to more consumers, figuring out a way to sell more product to more consumers. And I think through that pragmatic lens, you'll find perceptions changing in the U.S."