You can’t call something “Just Mayo” if it is egg-free because mayonnaise must contain eggs, Anglo-Dutch food giant Unilever is arguing in a lawsuit against California startup Hampton Creek.
Unilever owns the Hellmann’s brand, which it says makes proper mayonnaise … with eggs. Hampton Creek uses the word “Mayo” in its sandwich spread brand. Hellmann’s lawyers say that dictionaries and federal regulators define mayonnaise as an egg-containing spread.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, “Mayonnaise is the emulsified semisolid food prepared from vegetable oil(s), one or both of the acidifying ingredients … and one or more of the egg yolk-containing ingredients.”
Hampton Creek says it does not call its product “Mayonnaise”, it is called “Mayo”.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, Hellmann’s accuses Hampton Creek of false advertising, because it advertises its egg-free spread as “Just Mayo” and is unjustly stealing mayonnaise market share.
Unilever is also seeking unspecified damages.
This quote is posted on the Hampton Creek website.
According to the complaint:
“Consumers and cooks have an expectation that mayonnaise should both taste and perform like mayonnaise. ‘Just Mayo’ does neither.”
At $2 billion annually, the US mayonnaise market is twice the size of ketchup’s, and Hellmann’s has the biggest share.
Hampton Creek tells consumers it is egg free
Hampton Creek told The Wall Street Journal that it is not misleading shoppers because it clearly tells them one of the product’s benefits is that it is egg free.
Hampton Creek is a San Francisco-based startup that was founded with $30 million in funding from the world’s richest individual Bill Gates, and Li Ka-Shing, the wealthiest person in Asia. Just Mayo can be bought at Kroger, Whole Foods, and Dollar Tree stores.
Hampton Creek’s vision is to offer plant-based products to replace egg-based ones, which it claims are healthier and better for the environment. The company also sells a range of egg free “Just Cookies”.
Hampton Creek says ‘Just Mayo’ is better for your health because it is egg free.
Food multinationals losing market share
Giant food companies are losing market share to literally thousands of emerging natural and/or organic food producers as consumer preferences change.
The Wall Street Journal quotes Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, who said “This is big business. We’re competing directly with a company that hasn’t had real competition in decades. These things happen.”
According to Unilever:
“The ‘Just Mayo’ false name is part of a larger campaign and pattern of unfair competition by Hampton Creek to falsely promote ‘Just Mayo’ spread as tasting better than, and being superior to, Best Foods and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.”
Since the complaint was filed (Oct 31), a petition on Change.org urging Unilever to stop bullying sustainable food companies has attracted 17,600 supporters.