Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing, a Hong Kong business magnate and philanthropist who has earned the title of “Asia’s richest man”, is now a major investor in a Northern California health food company. Hampton Creek got its start in 2011 and concentrates on replacing eggs with healthier, cheaper and more ethical ingredients. Li Ka-shing’s investment firm is putting in just over half of $30 million US in funding for Hampton Creek’s egg replacing venture. Li’s fellow investors in the enterprise include illustrious tech industry names such as Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang and Bill Gates.

Technology enables everyone to have more options to better our future together. To keep up with all the demands for the growing global population, we need to be more efficient, more environmentally friendly, and have more quality and affordable choices.

—Li Ka-shing (via the Daily Mail) 

Pic: hamptoncreekfoods.com

But what is egg replacer and what’s the point?

Stories of fake eggs in China have been circulating for a few years now. Besides being copiously featured on blogs and rumor websites, scandals involving artificial eggs passed off as real have even surfaced in reports from media outlets like the New York Times. A video report from Japan’s Fuji TV shows the supposed fake eggs, explaining how they have a different appearance from real eggs. Personally, I can’t tell. I also can’t imagine the economic advantages of bothering to make counterfeit raw eggs that look and (I suppose) taste real when chickens lay them for “free”. I’m a bit sceptical of these “Chinese fake egg” stories to be honest.

But there is more that one kind of fake egg. Egg replacement products used by non-egg-eating vegetarians, vegans, and those with allergies or hypersensitivity to eggs have been on the market for years. I remember baking with egg replacer as far back as 1989. However, a starchy white powder used in baked goods is hardly an egg. You can’t make a decent scramble out of it no matter how hard you try.

Yet Hampton Creek foods has upped the game in egg replacing — and apparently there are not just big bucks, but serious ethics behind replacing the “incredible edible egg”.

From Forbes:

70 percent of the cost of real eggs goes into chicken feed, says Tetrick, making his egg substitute potentially more economical to produce and a less of a strain on the environment. While feeding chickens takes 39 calories of energy to create a single calorie of egg protein, yellow peas – the main ingredient in “Mayo” – take only 2 calories of energy for each calorie of protein. 

I can think of a few billion individuals who would appreciate a good egg replacer. Pic: Farm Sanctuary

So far Hampton Creek markets eggless mayonnaise, which is hardly a new or revolutionary product. But this is no cottage industry; founders Joshua Tetrick and Josh Balk are out to change the world by becoming the Google of food. Seriously, their “Our Story” PDF says just that. Their “Just Mayo” is already outselling Hellmann’s by a third and with the kind of backing Hampton Creek has managed to attract, if there’s anyone who can make a plant-based egg it’s these guys.