US-appointed Egg Lobby Paid Food Blogs And Targeted Chef To Crush Vegan Startup

The American Egg Board reacted in frustration to comments by TV show host Andrew Zimmern and articles on multiple websites about Hampton Creek. | Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The American Egg Board reacted in frustration to comments by TV show host Andrew Zimmern and articles on multiple websites about Hampton Creek. | Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

A government-controlled industry group targeted popular food bloggers, major publications and a celebrity chef as part of its sweeping effort to combat a perceived threat from an egg-replacement startup backed by some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, the Guardian can reveal.

The lobbyists’ media counterattack, in possible violation of US department of agriculture rules, was coordinated by a marketing arm of the egg industry called the American Egg Board (AEB). It arose after AEB chief executive Joanne Ivy identified the fledgling technology startup Hampton Creek as a “crisis and major threat to the future” of the $5.5bn-a-year egg market.

A detailed review of emails, sent from inside the AEB and obtained by the Guardian, shows that the lobbyist’s anti-Hampton Creek campaign sought to:

  • Pay food bloggers as much as $2,500 a post to write online recipes and stories about the virtue of eggs that repeated the egg lobby group’s “key messages”
  • Confront Andrew Zimmern, who had featured Hampton Creek on his popular Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods and praised the company in a blog post characterized by top egg board executives as a “love letter”
  • Target publications including Forbes and Buzzfeed that had written broadly positive articles about a Silicon Valley darling
  • Unsuccessfully tried to recruit both the animal rights and autism activist Temple Grandin and the bestselling author and blogger Ree Drummond to publicly support the egg industry
  • Buy Google advertisements to show AEB-sponsored content when people searched for Hampton Creek or its founder Josh Tetrick

The scale of the campaign – dubbed “Beyond Eggs” after Hampton Creek’s original company name – shows the lengths to which a federally-appointed, industry-funded marketing group will go to squash a relatively small Silicon Valley startup, from enlisting a high-powered public relations firm to buying off unwitting bloggers.

One leading public health attorney, asked to review the internal communications, said the egg marketing group was in breach of a US department of agriculture (USDA) regulation that specifically prohibited “any advertising (including press releases) deemed disparaging to another commodity”.

Read the whole story at theguardian

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