Hampton Creek founder Joshua Tetrick is at the forefront of a movement to make food better for us and better for the environment.

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Ever since the terms climate change and global warming became essential to any serious discussion about the current state of our planet it has become increasingly clear that inefficiencies in our food system are largely to blame, particularly in the way we manage livestock. The FAO estimates that the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the world’s most pollutant industries. It’s a huge problem that few are willing to address head on.

Josh Tetrick and the folks at Hampton Creek are among the exceptions—those offering real and viable solutions using a market-friendly approach. His company has made headlines around the world for their demonstrated commitment to food innovation and the development of products that are better for us and for the environment.

Their Just Mayo mayonnaise incorporates yellow pea protein as an emulsifier, eliminating the need to use eggs, which are the product of an industry Tetrick often cites as being a prime example of energy inefficiency and animal cruelty. With a team of researchers constantly looking for new and innovative uses of the roughly 400,000 known plant species, Tetrick ensures us that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface, that plant-derived ingredients are indeed the way of the future.

IFT caught up with Tetrick in the middle of his busy touring schedule to learn more about the exciting work his company is doing and the thinking behind these innovations.

IFT: I understand you spent some time in Sub-Saharan Africa prior to launching Hampton Creek. What impact did this experience have on your perception of the global food system?

Josh Tetrick: I came up with the idea for Hampton Creek after spending seven years working in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that I observed serious issues with the food system and came back to the U.S. wanting to find a way to make it easier for people to make better food choices. I thought what if we could just use plant proteins in place of other ingredients in food that would improve them, making them more affordable and healthier but still taste good?

IFT: It seems many consumers have preconceived notions about plant-based foods, particularly as substitutes for the products they know and love. How do you raise consumer consciousness on a massive scale not just for, say, Whole Foods customers comprise a minority?

Josh Tetrick: We never use the words “vegan” or “plant-based” when describing our products. It’s not about that. It’s about making it easier for people—everywhere—to make better food choices. And to do that it has to be cheap and taste good. We just happen to use plants to make this possible. But our products are 100% meant for everyone, whether you shop at Whole Foods or live out of a white envelope, or better yet, for my dad in Missouri, who is one of the worst eaters I know.

IFT: Just Mayo contains pea protein, which seem to be used more and more in both animal feed and consumer food products. What is the potential for pea protein and other pulse-derived ingredients in day-to-day products found in supermarkets the world over?

Josh Tetrick: We use a certain varietal of the Canadian yellow pea in just one of our products – our mayo. It is great as an emulsifier and very sustainable and affordable too. It’s also great for those with food allergies. I think people are starting to shift to looking at other plants – we’ve become so addicted to soy and corn and forgot about all these other great plants out there, peas being one of them.

IFT: How does Hampton Creek develop new products? Do you start with a product look for a way to make it with plant ingredients or do you start with ingredients and look for ways to use them as substitutes in everyday foods?

Josh Tetrick: We start by looking at plants from all around the world at the molecular level and screening them based on different  characteristics—molecular weight, solubility, etc.—depending on what we want to use them for. Promising proteins go on to further testing and are also entered into our database. With 18 billion plant proteins out there, we have a lot of screening to do.

IFT: Explain the thinking behind the “10x” principle you mentioned in your TED Talk. Why do solutions need to be 10x more sustainable, more affordable, etc. in order to achieve real change?

Josh Tetrick: 10x means ten times, a phrase that is common in Silicon Valley. Basically, we must be making the good choice exponentially better on all of those fronts to create massive change, which gets us excited each and every day.

IFT: In the face of a powerful industrial food complex, how does a food startup stay positive and convinced that their innovations can change the system and bring about an “absolute and complete reinvention”?

Josh Tetrick: Everyone at Hampton Creek is incredibly passionate and driven to make it easier for people everywhere to eat better. We all believe that people are not the problem, but rather a food system that has made it too easy to eat poorly, and we’re all driven to change this and reinvent it. Even if it’s just little steps at a time, they matter, and we all know that.

IFT: What does the future hold for your company Hampton Creek? What sorts of products, ingredients and innovations are you currently looking at as having market potential in the U.S. and abroad?

Josh Tetrick: We’re working on a number of new launches, products, and more, but one of the most exciting things these days is a new partnership we have with the Compass Group, which is the largest food service company in the world. It supplies food to colleges, hospitals, corporate cafeterias (think New York Times, Google, etc.), prisons, and more, all around the world. Over 4 billion meals a year. And they are so passionate about making food better for people. They’ve entered into a strong and special relationship with us that will make it easier for a lot of people to eat better—starting with cookies and mayo—but that is just the beginning.

Video: Josh Tetrick talks about Hampton Creek’s partnership with Compass Group on CNBC’s Mad Money

IFT: What advice can you give to other startup companies involved in similar endeavors?

Josh Tetrick: I’ve gotten a lot of advice from a lot of people. I think basically you have to listen to your gut. It’s best to follow your instincts when starting a new business, be it food or otherwise.

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