Food & Alcohol

Published on December 19th, 2014

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Unilever Ends Mayogate by Dropping Lawsuit

In the end, the company that makes its mayonnaise with eggs was left with the ingredient on its face.

The maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise closed the book on Mayogate Thursday, announcing that it had withdrawn its lawsuit against Hampton Creek, the maker of a competing vegan spread called Just Mayo, which doesn’t contain eggs.

“Unilever has decided to withdraw its lawsuit against Hampton Creek so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities,” said Mike Faherty, vice president for foods at Unilever North America.

just mayo container

Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick said there are no plans to change Just Mayo’s labeling.

“We feel proud,” he said in regard to the lawsuit being withdrawn. The 34-year-old CEO said Hampton Creek received “tens of thousands” of supportive emails from consumers who share the young company’s mission of sustainable eating.

In its lawsuit, Unilever had argued that the name “Just Mayo” and the prominent image of an egg on the label constituted false advertising because the vegan product doesn’t contain any egg ingredients. By the FDA’s definition, the lawsuit argued, mayonnaise isn’t mayonnaise without eggs.

“Despite its name, Just Mayo does not contain just mayonnaise,” the lawsuit alleged. “In fact, it is not mayonnaise at all. Rather, it is a plant-based vegan alternative to real mayonnaise.”

The food giant had claimed that Hampton Creek was stealing market share from Hellmann’s. Tetrick said Hampton Creek understands the FDA’s definition for mayonnaise and that’s in part why the product was named Just Mayo.

Mayogate began to turn against Unilever less than a month after the lawsuit’s Oct. 31 filing when Hampton Creek alerted the company to inaccurate mayonnaise advertising on its own site.

“We received a letter from Hampton Creek raising concerns about our website content,” a Unilever spokesperson had said in an email to TINA.org. “The next week we made changes to the website. … There’s a big contrast between us and Hampton Creek — we took action while their label is still misleading.”

UPDATE 12/23/15: Following a review, the FDA will allow Just Mayo to keep its name as long as Hampton Creek implements certain changes to the label, including enlarging the word “egg-free” and defining “just” to mean “guided by reason, justice and fairness” to avoid any confusion that Just Mayo is an exact replica of mayonnaise.

For more of our coverage on product labeling, click here.

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