The PJ Tatler

Hellmann's Maker Files Suit Against Mayonnaise 'Imposter'

The question as to whether mayonnaise is really mayonnaise if it doesn’t contain eggs will be heading to a courtroom.  Unilever, the parent company of condiment brand Hellman’s Mayonnaise, is suing Hampton Creek for false advertising. Hampton Creek makes an egg-less sandwich spread that tastes like mayonnaise.

Investors in Hampton Creek include Bill Gates, the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and prominent venture capitalists. The “imposter” spread replaces eggs with yellow peas in its spread, which is called Just Mayo.

Unilever claims that the egg-less mayo is making a dent in their sales.

Hampton Creek makes another “imposter” product called Just Cookies, which is an egg-less dairy-free cookie dough. (What is the point?) Big retail chains like Walmart and Target have started selling the products.

Unilever claims that Just Mayo‘s logo gives the impression that it is made with eggs because the label has a picture of an egg, which “violates federal law governing trademarks and advertising claims by giving consumers the false impression that the product contains eggs.”

The company also claims that Just Mayo has not backed up the assertion posted on its Facebook page that it beats Hellman’s in a taste test.

In case you didn’t know, the government regulates what can be called “mayonnaise.”  The FDA defines mayonnaise as “an emulsion of vegetable oil, an acid like vinegar or lemon juice and an ingredient containing egg yolks.”  Therefore, Miracle Whip is only considered a sandwich spread or salad dressing but not classified as mayonnaise.

Unilever wants Hampton Creek, a private company that does not disclose its financial statements, to pay three times its profit in damages plus the legal fees of the plaintiff, a $60 billion company. It also is asking the court to require Hampton Creek to stop using the egg on its label; recall all products, ads and promotional materials that might confuse consumers; and stop claiming that Just Mayo is superior to Hellmann’s or Best Foods.

Hampton Creek founder Josh Tetrick said: “This is about something a whole lot larger than our advertising and speaks to the change we need in food production generally. We’ve got to figure out a way to solve the big problems like food’s impact on environment and health.”