Is This the Cookie of the Future?
At college campuses across the country, next week’s midnight snack might look like a run-of-the-mill oatmeal-raisin cookie, but it’s something radically different.
San Francisco–based Hampton Creek calls Just Cookies—arriving imminently at 500 college and university campuses, museum cafés, and corporate cafeteria lines catered by Bon Appétit Management Company—a healthier, more sustainable cookie. Sounds good, but what does that mean?
“Seventy percent of the cost of the chicken egg comes from the corn, soy, and water used to feed the chicken,” Hampton Creek’s Morgan Oliveira explained. “We take all that out.”
Meet the vegan cookie for everybody. (Although to market it to the masses, Hampton Creeks seems to be avoiding the vegan label.) It’s all-natural, cholesterol- and dairy- free, and uses shockingly few resources. A case of 210 Just Cookies requires 2,000 fewer gallons of water and seven fewer square meters of land to produce, compared with conventional egg-and-butter-based cookies, the company reports. Not only is that good for the environment, but it also means they’re cheaper. The cookies are available in chocolate chip, white chocolate–macadamia, sugar, peanut butter, and oatmeal-raisin and have won fans in Oprah Winfrey and chef Andrew Zimmern.
Hampton Creek made news last year with its first product, Just Mayo, which uses yellow-pea protein as an emulsifier in place of egg yolks. While the company’s talking points initially pivoted around plant-based egg alternatives—healthier, more efficient, longer shelf lives, and fewer disease risks, along with less animal cruelty, than chicken eggs—it's widening its scope. Oliveira said Hampton Creek is now investigating new plant-based substitutes for sugar, trans fats, and food dyes. But with a keen eye to price point, these products aren’t intended for the foodie few. “I personally think the extent of suffering and environmental degradation is beyond the pale,” CEO Josh Tetrick told Xconomy. “But the core reason we’re getting traction is people are busy and they have bottom lines to attend to.”
If you’re not about to cram for midterms or dine near the impressionist wing anytime soon, don't worry—the brave new cookie world is heading your way too. Look for Just Cookie Dough in Whole Foods in Southern California, Southern Nevada, Hawaii, and Arizona come the second week of September. Rather than pea-protein mayo, the grain sorghum is replacing eggs. Here’s a plus: Late-night practices to the contrary, premade, packaged cookie dough isn’t intended to be eaten straight from the tube (hello, salmonella). But knock yourself out with a 14-ounce container of Just Cookie Dough, which is designed to be eaten raw or baked. Classic chocolate chip is up first, but Oliveira says a chocolate–chocolate chip version is in the works. (Having eaten Just Cookie Dough in an afternoon slump at her desk, this writer can report that it is everything you want when spooning raw cookie dough straight into your mouth: rich, sweet, and studded with chocolate, with an indulgently creamy texture.)
The wide release and affordability of Just Cookies (and the imminent debut of Just Cookie Dough) is what makes products from Hampton Creek unusual. “This isn’t just going to happen in San Francisco, in a world of vegans,” Tetrick told Mother Jones last December. “This is going to happen in Birmingham, Alabama. This is going to happen in Missouri, in Philadelphia.” He wasn't exaggerating: Within six months of Just Mayo hitting shelves, jars were widely available in Costco, Safeway, and Kroger supermarkets and became available at Dollar Tree this summer. Though Just Cookie Dough is making its debut at Whole Foods, if Just Mayo is any indication, it’s likely coming to a less spendy supermarket near you.
“People can agree on healthier food needing to be more affordable, whether you’re a college kid or a mom trying to feed her family,” Oliveira said. “We’re trying to make things better that people are already eating.”