Agriculturized Content Marketing

October 7, 2015

When you think of paid content, eggs are probably not the first product you envision. However, the Guardian reveals, “US-Appointed Egg Lobby Paid Food Blogs and Targeted Chef to Crush Vegan Startup.” Apparently, the American Egg Board’s (AEB’s) efforts began when Silicon  Valley startup Hampton Creek began gaining traction with their egg alternative. Fearing encroachment on its territory, the AEB is reported to have paid food bloggers up to $2500 to insert their talking points into recipes and other content; to have slammed publications that wrote positive articles about Hampton Creek; to have attempted to recruit celebrities to push real eggs; and, my favorite, to have purchased Google ads that returned AEB-sponsored content when users searched for Hampton Creek or company founder Josh Tetrick.

There is a slight problem: these tactics appear to violate U.S. Department of Agriculture rules. Reporter Sam Thielman tells us:

“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’. Tetrick called for the USDA to clamp down on the food lobby, as thousands of petitioners called on the White House to investigate the USDA itself for ‘deceptive endorsements’. ‘This is a product that has been around for a very long time,’ the Hampton Creek founder said. ‘They are not used to competition and they don’t know how to deal with it’.”

That’s one way to look at it. It seems that Tetrick’s company, however, is not beyond reproach. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently told them to rename their main product, “Just Mayo,” because mayonnaise, by definition, contains eggs. There also seem to be some issues with their methods and work environment, according to former employees. See the article for more details on this culinary rivalry.

Cynthia Murrell, October 7, 2015

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