Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, has withdrawn its lawsuit against the food startup company Hampton Creek for false advertising of its “Just Mayo” product.
In November 2014 Unilever sued Hampton Creek, saying that “Just Mayo” cannot be marketed as mayonnaise (even though it is solely marketed using the term “mayo” instead) because it does not meet the definition of the product specified by the Food and Drug Administration.
Unilever also noted the use of egg-oriented imagery in its promotional materials, and said that its false claims were “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.”
Therefore Unilever believed that Hampton Creek was stealing market share from Hellmann’s. Unilever holds the biggest share of the U.S. mayonnaise market, estimated to be worth $2 billion annually.
However, Hampton Creek said, in its defense, that it only marketed its product as “mayo” instead of mayonnaise because of labeling regulations.
On Thursday Unilever announced that it has decided to withdraw the lawsuit so that Hampton Creek can address its label with regulatory authorities and industry groups.
Hampton Creek CEO, Josh Tetrick, said that the company has had “positive conversations” with industry groups and government officials.
Tetrick has said that Hampton Creek doesn’t plan on changing the product’s name or labeling, but it may make the word “just” a bit larger.
The “Just Mayo” label has a white egg with a plant growing in the front. The product does not contain eggs and Tetrick says that the image is used to highlight how the company uses plants as opposed to chicken eggs.
Ironically the lawsuit has benefited Hampton Creek in some aspects, as it gives the company “the opportunity to tell our story to millions of people”, boosting sales.
Tetrick commented on the news that Unilever would be dropping the lawsuit, stating that the company has “a classy bunch of people who realized that this isn’t aligned with their corporate ethos.”