Hellmann’s Parent Company Says Organic Brand ‘Just Mayo’ Isn’t Actually Mayo

Unilever files false-advertising suit against rising competitor

In a modern-day version of David and Goliath, multi-billion-dollar food behemoth Unilever, which makes Hellmann's and Best Foods mayonnaise, is suing startup Hampton Creek over its branding.

Hampton Creek sells Just Mayo, which uses a logo depicting an egg with a pea shoot growing through it. But Just Mayo does not contain eggs. Unilever claims the brand's logo and name amount to false advertising. Mayonnaise, by FDA regulations, contains egg yolk and vegetable oil—the reason competitors such as Miracle Whip call themselves "spreads" and not mayonnaise.

Hampton reasons its product is labeled “mayo,” not “mayonnaise.” Plus, it actively markets the absence of eggs, so the company claims it's not creating any false impressions.

"This is big business," Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick told The Wall Street Journal. "We’re competing directly with a company that hasn’t had real competition in decades. These things happen."

The suit was filed Oct. 31 in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey. Unilever claims: “The Just Mayo false name is part of a larger campaign and pattern of unfair competition by Hampton Creek to falsely promote Just Mayo spread as tasting better than, and being superior to, Best Foods and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.”

The New York Times reported that Unilever is asking for damages of three times Hampton Creek’s profits plus legal fees. Unilever also wants Just Mayo to change its logo, recall all products on the market and pull all marketing materials.

Hampton Creek has won some public sympathy, at least. The company reported that in the first 24 hours of the story going public, it received more than 18,000 supportive messages. Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern started a Change.org petition in defense of Hampton and other sustainable food startups, and his effort has garnered more than 16,000 signatures.