Here’s the existential question you never wanted to ask: “what is mayonnaise?”
What. Is. Mayonnaise?
That’s the question that’s at the heart of Unilever’s lawsuit targeting sustainable foods company Hampton Creek over its sort-of mayonnaise-type-food-stuff, Just Mayo.
After slapping Hampton Creek with a lawsuit for supposedly deceiving customers by peddling a product that isn’t actually mayonnaise, Hampton Creek is gearing up to countersue, according to TechCrunch.
But WHY are we talking about mayonnaise? WHO cares about mayonnaise? Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s and Best Foods mayonnaise brands, cares. It cares because it claims Hampton Creek is double-crossing its innocently unaware customers.
According to the New Jersey Law Journal: “Unilever is seeking to restrain Hampton Creek from referring to the product it sells as Just Mayo as mayonnaise, and from claiming that the product is superior in taste to the Hellmann's and Best Foods brands. The suit is also seeking the recall or withdrawal of all commercial labels, promotional materials, commercials, or letters containing false advertising of Just Mayo.”
The FDA has a pretty cut and dry definition of mayonnaise: “Mayonnaise is the emulsified semisolid food prepared from vegetable oil(s), one or both of the acidifying ingredients specified in paragraph (b) of this section, and one or more of the egg yolk-containing ingredients specified in paragraph (c) of this section.”
Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo is notably sans egg yolk. The sustainable kind-of mayonnaise consists of the following: non-GMO expeller pressed canola oil, filtered water, lemon juice, white vinegar, organic sugar, salt, pea protein, spices, modified food starch, and beta carotene. Don’t we all feel just a little whiter now?
This probably still brings you back to the “why” part. Why in God’s name does Unilever care what a company a fraction of its size call its mayonnaise-ish product?
Because the consumers have a right to receive the product that they think they’re purchasing and blah blah blah—and oh yeah, Unilever is losing mayonnaise market share to Hampton Creek. TRUE. STORY.
Unilever accuses Just Mayo of “stealing market share from Hellmann’s,” and opines that “Unilever will continue to suffer irreparable harm in the marketplace.”
Jesus H. Christ.
Just to clarify, Unilever pulled in over $62 billion in 2013. Hampton Creek has raised a whopping total of $23 million since 2011. Yeah. Makes sense. I can see where Unilever would get concerned. It only has 62 billion pieces of the pie. And then here comes this startup, looking to take a fraction of a piece of Unilever’s 62 billion pieces of pie…
The lawsuit is so ridiculous that a Change.org petition has already been started—by none other than the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern, who chose Just Mayo over Hellmann’s in a blind taste test (which sounds like a disgusting taste test).
"Hampton Creek is a startup food technology company striving to solve some of the world's biggest problems. It's using plants to create products to help ensure food security to feed starving people, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the healthfulness of foods, and end the cruel treatment of animals,” wrote Zimmern. "Unilever is not only contributing to these problems by using inhumane, unsustainable, and unhealthy ingredients, but rather than solving important global issues, is trying to prevent others from doing so.”