JUST CEO Josh Tetrick created vegan mayo. Now, he wants to end world hunger

Income inequality: Hunger down the block from wealth
Income inequality: Hunger down the block from wealth

Someday, Josh Tetrick hopes his sustainable food startup, JUST, will be known for more than vegan mayonnaise.

Formerly named Hampton Creek, his seven year-old company sells a line of vegan products, including salad dressings, cookie dough and the aforementioned mayo, in stores across the US, Mexico and Hong Kong. But Tetrick wants to expand the offerings beyond that.

The latest project? Animal meat made from lab-grown cells. JUST hopes to make its first sale of the "clean meat" by the end of the year. It's also rolling out a vegan egg product, called JUST Scramble, this summer.

Tetrick created JUST after traveling in Sub-Saharan Africa, where he witnessed a shortage of nutritious and sustainable food. Compared to products with animal-based ingredients, Tetrick says JUST's products require much less water to produce and emit far fewer greenhouse gases.

But it hasn't been without its challenges. Just a few years ago, the company faced scrutiny from the US Food and Drug Administration and was sued by Unilever for using the word "mayo" to describe its egg-free mayonnaise called JUST Mayo (the suit was later dropped).

"We learned that doing what you know is right sometimes creates challenges but in the long-term, those efforts pay off," says Tetrick. "Once we got in the same room with [the FDA] and talked about what really mattered -- helping people eat better -- we found a solution that worked for everyone."

CNNMoney asked Tetrick about these and other challenges he's faced running his own company and the leaders he most admires.

My inspiration for JUST ...

Came from my best friend who thought that I could do something more with my life than pursuing a traditional career in investment banking or law -- and hopefully do a lot of good along the way. He, more than anyone or anything, motivated me to use business to figure out how to help people eat a little better.

Josh Tetrick Liberia 1
Josh Tetrick addresses malnutrition in Liberia.

I think eating well should be a basic right, yet 1.1 billion people will go to bed hungry tonight, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Nearly 2.1 billion live their days deficient in the micronutrients that promote cognitive development and prevent disease, and 6.5 billion, including most of the folks reading this, eat food that weakens their bodies and degrades the planet.

Many people don't want to eat this way, but due to food access issues, they don't have any other choice.

The food system is unjust and it wasn't something I'd thought about until my friend opened my eyes to it.

The scariest part of my job is ...

Feeling anxious that we're not working fast enough. Food demand will grow 70% between now and 2050, according to the United Nations.

The problems with the food system are getting worse, not better. Those include things like the negative environmental, health and animal welfare impacts of the food we eat. If we partner with others who share our perspective, we can figure out a way to change things fast. We just have to get it done.

If I could tell my 18-year-old self one thing, it would be ...

I had dreams of being a pro athlete, so I would tell my 18-year-old self: 'You're not going to be good enough to play in the NFL. Focus on understanding how to run a business.'

The thing that brings me the most joy is ...

Josh Tetrick office
Tetrick speaks at a company meeting.

Knowing that every day, we're feeding more people better food. That's the metric that matters more than any other. Doing that with people that I care about from all walks of life and from all over the world makes me feel very grateful and even more joyful.

If I could have dinner with any influential figure from any time period, it would be with ...

Leonardo da Vinci, because he had a curiosity about the world that I think was unparalleled.

When you're doing something new, you must have a beginner's mind and approach the world with the curiosity of a child, which he did. Otherwise, you're going to miss a lot. I want to learn to be more curious like him.

I'd like to be remembered for ...

Helping people around the world -- whether it's a single mom shopping at a Beckley, West Virginia, Walmart; our neighbors in San Francisco, California; or a 12-year-old girl in Monrovia, Liberia -- eat better, and through that, bringing a team together to build a company we can be proud of.

The thing you probably don't know about me is ...

I have a pretty bad palette. Fortunately, I can rely on six Michelin-starred chefs and JUST's broader product, research and development team to make sure the food we create is unquestionably delicious and better for our bodies and the environment.

If I weren't the founder and CEO of JUST I'd be ...

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Tetrick helps a child eat in Liberia.

Working for a nonprofit that serves children in Sub-Saharan Africa. After graduating college, I spent a lot of time there leading a U.N. business initiative in Kenya, working for former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and teaching school children in South Africa.

The best piece of advice I've ever received is ...

Find people you trust, ask them what you can do better and listen. I got that advice from Elon Musk and I apply it often.

My advice to people searching for their inspiration is ...

Figure out what your family needs, your community needs, and your country needs -- and what the world needs. Then figure out what you love to do -- whether it's music, art, design or engineering -- and turn that passion into a way to solve that urgent need.

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