Hellmann’s Sues for Mayo
You might think you could get through life without ever reading about a lawsuit involving mayonnaise, but then you would be wrong.
One of the most popular brands of mayonnaise in the world is Hellmann’s, and like many companies, they are very protective of their branding. This is also true of Unilever, the massive company that owns Hellmann’s. They have sued, and threatened to sue, many smaller companies over the years that utilize words in their marketing that are similar to words used in the marketing for the companies they own.
The Mayo Suit
Therefore, it really wasn’t much of a surprise to learn that in 2014, they sued a company in California that uses the word Mayo in the name of the sandwich spread that they make. Unilever says that “federal regulators and dictionaries define mayonnaise as a spread that contains eggs.”
Therefore, they say that their suit, which claims false advertising, has merit. The company they are suing, called Hampton Creek, has labeled their product Just Mayo, but the product they make is plant-based, and it does not actually use any eggs in the process of making it. They believe that by calling the product Just Mayo, they are implying that the product is mayonnaise, which it isn’t, and that they are “stealing market share from Hellmann’s.”
The complaint went on to talk about a certain expectation that cooks have when they are using the product, and that is should taste like mayonnaise and it should perform like mayonnaise. It states that this other product does not do either of those things, and that the oils that are in Just Mayo separate when the product is heated.
On the other side of the fence, the CEO of Hampton Creek, Josh Tetrick, says that his company is not trying to mislead consumers. They are using plants in their product because they believe it can make their food products better. He went on to joke that eventually we would be seeing lawsuits about pasta and cookies. Given the way that so many companies and individuals love to sue one another, he might not be far off base.
He also said that the label they are using on their product states that it does not use eggs, and that it clearly shows that they are using plants rather than eggs in their product.
Unilever, who still believed that the labeling was deceptive, hired a marketing professor to conduct a survey online. The survey found that more than half of the 822 people who took it thought that it was mayonnaise upon seeing the label.
However, after a few months, Hellmann’s dropped their lawsuit against Just Mayo when it did not seem to be progressing for them. Instead, they decided that they would launch their own vegan mayonnaise, which they have called Carefully Crafted Dressing and Sandwich Spread. While the word mayo does not appear on their label, because the company is so closely associated with mayonnaise, you have to wonder whether anyone was confused by it.