Unilever, owner of such delicious sandwich spread brands as Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Best Foods "REAL Mayonnaise," has launched a smear campaign against San Francisco-based foods startup Hampton Creek, accusing the company of falsely marketing their eggless, vegan sandwich spread Just Mayo as something that it's not.
"We brought this lawsuit because the use of the Just Mayo name blatantly misleads consumers," a Unilever spokesperson told the SF Business Times. "In fact, the product is Just NOT Mayo as it does not contain one of mayonnaise's key ingredients - eggs - in violation of the federal regulations that are in place to protect consumers."
"By calling its vegan sandwich spread 'Just Mayo,' Hampton Creek falsely communicates to consumers that Just Mayo is mayonnaise, when it in fact, it is not," the lawsuit claims.
As a $60 billion international corporation, Unilever feels that Hampton Creek ought to pay out damages equal to three times their profits from the product, as well as Unilever's legal fees for bringing the suit. They're also demanding that Just Mayo remove the egg icon from its label and that Hampton Creek recall all of their products and promotional materials with the "Just Mayo" name.
As SF Magazine points out, the corporate bullying is probably driven by Hampton Creek's sudden surge in popularity and market reach. The 62-person company, which counts Bill Gates among its investors, has recently begun selling in Whole Foods, Costco and Wal-Mart stores. On the other hand, the FDA's definition of mayonnaise specifically names egg yolks as a necessary ingredient. In the past, the administration has also put the nix on using terms like "cheese" to describe vegan alternatives.
Anyhow, Hampton Creek founder Josh Tetrick is hopeful Unilever will drop their suit and in the meantime, this whole thing has already arrived at it's logical conclusion: a Change.org petition promoted by Andrew Zimmern.