SAN FRANCISCO — The startup is housed in a garage-like space in San Francisco's tech-heavy South of Market neighborhood, but it isn't like most of its neighbors that develop software, websites and mobile-phone apps. Its mission is to find plant replacements for eggs.
Inside, research chefs bake cookies and cakes, whip up batches of flavored mayonnaise and pan-fry omelets and French toast — all without eggs.
Funded by prominent Silicon Valley investors and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hampton Creek Foods seeks to disrupt a global egg industry that backers say wastes energy, pollutes the environment, causes disease outbreaks and confines chickens to tiny spaces.
The company, which just started selling its first product — Just Mayo mayonnaise — at Whole Foods Markets, is part of a new generation of so-called food-tech ventures that aim to change the way we eat.
"There's nothing to indicate that this will be a trend that will end anytime soon," said Anand Sanwal, CEO of CB Insights, a New York firm that tracks venture capital investment. "Sustainability and challenges to the food supply are pretty fundamental issues."