Food Trends

Hampton Creek used undercover employees to buy hundreds of jars of Just Mayo

Hampton Creek

 (Hampton Creek)

Well, that's certainly one way to boost sales. 

Vegan mayo producer Hampton Creek is being accused of dispatching undercover agents to buy back hundreds of jars of its own product.

The reason? To make Just Mayo more popular than it really was and impress investors, suggests Bloomberg following interviews and a review of emails, receipts, and expense reports.

Besides purchasing the egg-free sandwich spread, the contractors—called "Creekers"—were instructed to call those same stores masquerading as customers and ask about Just Mayo to "create buzz," per one e-mail.

"Make sure you are not wearing your HC gear when you go into Safeway. This is an undercover project," Caroline Love, now VP of mission at the company, wrote in an email to the "secret" employee, reports Bloomberg.

An April 2014 email to Creekers proclaimed that their actions “will ensure we stay on the shelf to put an end to Hellmann’s factory-farmed egg mayo." 

CEO Josh Tetrick defended the buybacks as an importat quality control test. He said the tests  cost an inconsequential $77,000. "We spend more money on snacks than we spend on this program," he told CNBC. 

The primary purpose, said Tetrick, was quality control, though "we also thought it might give us a little momentum out of the gate," another exec conceded. Consumerist, however, sees the volume as not "quite right": Receipts showed one Creeker bought 140 jars in a day. 

"It is highly questionable for a company to purchase its own goods," Stanford accounting professor David Larcker tells Bloomberg. According to email, the buyouts ceased in November 2014, though three Creekers say they were verbally told to continue through 2015.

This article originally appeared on Newser: Hot Vegan Company Sold a Lot of Mayo to Itself