When I first met Josh Tetrick, it was around 2013 and his company JUST was named Hampton Creek. Its sole product? A stellar vegan mayo. Fast forward to a few years later and the vegan power player has become the leading innovator in the vegan egg replacement category, most recently launching JUST Egg folded, to complement JUST Egg in a bottle (a fave of vegan singing superstar Lizzo in her plant-based fried chicken and biscuits recipe. We caught up with Tetrick to hear more about JUST’s roots, what vegan dessert he can’t get enough of, and what’s on the horizon for his rapidly growing biz.

Q: So how’d a football player from Alabama come to start one of the hottest vegan companies to date?

JT: Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, meant that I cared about being a professional football player and one day joining the NFL but it also meant that I wasn’t eating very well due to my family situation. For much of my life growing up, I was on food stamps and when you're growing up on food stamps, you're typically not eating very well. I usually ate a steady diet of cinnamon rolls out of vending machines, nachos and cheese from 7-Eleven, Burger King chicken sandwiches, and low-quality cafeteria food.

After college, I spent time in Sub-Saharan Africa teaching kids and I saw these kids being denied really important nutrients to allow them to live their lives the way they wanted to. So, food and the problems associated with food were a part of many areas of my life and I thought the best way for me to use my life to do something meaningful would be to create a healthier food system. This is what inspired me to launch JUST.

Q: What are some of your favorite self-care rituals right now?

JT: Outside of work, I’ve been focusing a lot on personal wellness—everything from hiking Mount Sutro Reserve, which is about five minutes from my house [in the San Francisco area], to spending many hours a week trying to beat my output on Peloton, to walking in Crissy Field and throwing tennis balls into the ocean for Elie, my golden retriever. I’ve also been getting back into stretching. I was flexible back in my athlete days and ignored that part of my physical body for a long time, so I’ve started to stretch more during quarantine.

I’m also eating loads of fresh produce from our local farmer’s market each week, which is delicious and helps support the agricultural community in the region. Last night is a great example. We had fresh corn, tenderstem broccoli, fava beans and peas for dinner.

Q: We’re all giving in to our sweet tooth these days. What’s your go-to vegan dessert?

JT: My favorite plant-based dessert is a brownie made with a whole bunch of black beans, dates, cacao powder, chili and a bit of cinnamon. The recipe is from the Integrative Medicine Department at UC Davis; they have some great whole-plant recipes available on their blog. I love these brownies because if you put them in the fridge to cool and enjoy them chilled, it’s like you’re eating brownies out of a vending machine like the ones I grew up with in Birmingham.

I’ve also made some delicious chocolate chip cookies with JUST Egg. One of my easy, go-to recipes includes almond flour, dates, chocolate chips, and JUST Egg. Chef Chris Jones and his daughter Savannah nailed this recipe in a cooking tutorial for our “JUST At Home” series on Instagram. Check it out below.

Q: What book do you keep returning to time and time again and why?

JT: The book I keep returning more than any other is called Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado. It’s about Nando and his rugby team surviving 72 days in the Andes mountains and how that experience informs the rest of his life. On a flight from Peru to Chili, Nando’s plane crashes in the Andes and they’re forced to figure out a way to survive. Through that process of survival, there are a lot of things about life that Nando is able to see more clearly and the ways in which he wants to continue living his life. It’s a story that demonstrates how you can use extreme hardships in life and transform those hardships into something even more meaningful.

Q: How’s the whole working remotely thing going for you? Any tips?

JT: I’m talking to my team more than ever before. I’m also taking a lot of calls on walks now. Sometimes, during the first few hours of the day, I’ll take a tennis ball and walk up my street to Tank Hill park and I’ll toss the ball to Elie while I take a few calls. This allows me to get outside and take care of her while also taking care of my work.

I’m also doing a lot to ensure our team remains connected and supported through this time apart. This includes more all-hands meetings, more virtual “get togethers” and happy hours, frequent emails keeping folks updated on the state of the company and the most important things happening each week. Every Friday, we send a company-wide email called “Bright Spots” that celebrates individual and team wins.  All of these things help tie us together a bit more when we can’t see each other in person.

Q: What's your favorite product in your line and why?

JT: My favorite product folded JUST Egg! I pop it into the toaster and either chop it up, mix it with some vegetables and brown rice for lunch or dinner or put it in my breakfast sandwich. I start just about every day with it—it's versatile and delicious.

Q: What’s on deck for JUST egg fans?

JT: What’s next is a lot more plant-based eggs! To date, we’ve sold the plant-based equivalent of 50 million eggs, saving just under 7.5 million kg of [Carbon dioxide equivalent] CO2e, 3,044 acres of land, and 1.86 billion gallons of water. We wanted to focus on the egg because it’s the most commonly eaten animal protein and it’s mostly eaten for breakfast.

We’re going to continue making JUST Egg better, healthier, more sustainable and more affordable. We want to continue to allow people to have the opportunity to buy JUST Egg in retail and in food service, in the U.S., in Europe, in China and elsewhere. There’s an opportunity to be one of the top breakfast proteins on the planet and through that, we can do so much good.

How inspiring is this formidable founder? On that note, you’ll catch us in our kitchen hearing the toaster ping and the hot sauce bottle crack open for a swizzle of heat on our JUST Egg folded toast.

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