Li Ka Shing puts money into 'egg' venture

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Hampton founder Josh Tetrick (left) offering scrambled eggs - made with a plant-based egg replacement - to tycoon Li Ka Shing.
The Straits Times

Scrambled eggs that taste like eggs but are made from plant-based products might not sound appealing but the idea has proved tasty to Asia's richest man.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing has backed American firm Hampton Creek Foods and its "eggs" through his venture capital arm Horizon Ventures.

Horizon, which showcased the firms and four others in its investment portfolio here yesterday, was the lead investor in a recent US$23 million (S$29 million) funding round for Hampton.

Other backers included Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.

Hampton founder Josh Tetrick, who was in Hong Kong when the funding was sealed in February, cooked scrambled eggs for Mr Li using his plant-based egg.

Mr Tetrick told The Straits Times yesterday: "He makes better scrambled eggs; mine was over-cooked. But I'm glad he likes the taste of our product."

Hampton and the other start-ups in Horizon's portfolio were here on a one-day visit yesterday to explore business opportunities such as distribution and production facilities.

Hampton Creek Foods, crowd- lending firm Welab, recycling start-up Tipa, lighting firm Nanoleaf and Nanospuntech, which makes special fibres to encapsulate liquid or solid substances, made the trip to Singapore.

Hampton is the kind of start-up with disruptive technology that Horizon wants to invest in, said its adviser, Mr Bart Swansong.

Mr Tetrick added: "The Horizon partnership is important because we didn't aim to play small.

"We get up every day not to sell only in the United States but to the world. They're opening up their business contacts to us, which is great. "

The two-year-old start-up is looking for distributors and production facilities in Asia for its egg-free food alternatives.

Its first product is called Just Mayonnaise and is free from cholesterol, soya, dairy and lactose. It will be sold in Hong Kong supermarket chain ParknShop by the end of this month.

ParknShop is a member of the A.S. Watson group belonging to Hutchinson Whampoa, which is owned by Mr Li.

The product is already being sold in United States supermarkets Whole Foods and Cosco.

Mr Tetrick argues that plant-based products are cheaper and healthier than eggs.

Chicken eggs are susceptible to diseases like avian flu and bacterial attacks like salmonella which can cause gut diseases, he noted, adding: "About 33 million Americans have egg allergies and sensitivities. There're many more around the world who suffer too. So our product will help them."

The start-up has screened 3,100 plants and discovered 11 varietals like the Canadian yellow pea that can replace eggs.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 8 in The Straits Times.

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