Well, it’s one way to boost sales. Innovative vegan mayo producer Hampton Creek is being accused of dispatching 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 email. 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, which he said 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. (One new vegan wonder ingredient is liquid we typically dump down the drain.)