Protectionism

Hellmann's Mayo Sues Competitor Because Free Markets Are Hard

|

Just Mayo, with offending egg. Credit: A Nutritionist Eats

Goliath fought with a javelin. Unilever, producer of Hellmann's mayonnaise, fights with a decades-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition.

The consumer goods company thinks that Hampton Creek, maker of Just Mayo, shouldn't be allowed to call its eggless vegan spread "mayonnaise" because there ain't no such thing as mayo without eggs. According to an FDA definition for mayo made holy back in 1957, that is. The Washington Post reports:

The global food giant argues that Hampton Creek's Just Mayo is not, as Unilever lawyers wrote, "exactly, precisely, only and simply mayonnaise," as defined by the dictionary and the Food and Drug Administration, which says mayo must include "egg yolk-containing ingredients."

Just Mayo uses Canadian yellow peas in lieu of eggs.

Not one to stand idly by as a scourge of faux mayo threatens benighted American consumers, Unilever has taken it upon itself to sue its upstart rival for false advertising and fraud. Unilever argues that Hampton Creek is misleading customers into thinking they're buying traditional mayo filled with eggy goodness because the product's logo resembles an egg.

But money tells a more creditable tale. Unilever is also upset that this wanton deception is cutting into its profits:

The Just Mayo identity crisis, Unilever lawyers said, has hurt Hellmann's market share, "caused consumer deception and serious, irreparable harm to Unilever" and the mayo industry as a whole.

The multinational corporation valued at $119 billion and boasting 45 percent of a $2 billion mayo market is out for blood, reports The New York Times:

Unilever wants Hampton Creek…to pay three times its profit in damages plus the legal fees of the plaintiff…It also is asking the court to require Hampton Creek to stop using the egg on its label; recall all products, ads and promotional materials that might confuse consumers; and stop claiming that Just Mayo is superior to Hellmann's.

In other words, Unilever wants Hampton Creek to go out of business and forget about the whole thing.

Analysts, pointing out the obvious, opine that this move reflects entrenched industry's fear of competition from nontraditional startups. Particularly scary are startups with substantial financial support making market inroads: Hampton Creek counts Bill Gates and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing among its investors.

This isn't the first time the FDA's protectionist regulations have been wielded by food industry leaders to whack-a-mole competitors. Earlier this year, candlemakers Mediterranean food company Sabra petitioned the FDA to establish rules defining what constitutes "real" hummus. The biggest hummus manufacturer in the United States claimed that, in total contravention of the laws of gods and men, renegade hummus producers were using black beans or lentils instead of the traditional chickpeas.

In its 11-page petition, Sabra demanded that "hummus must be comprised…predominately of chickpeas, and must be no less than 5% tahini." The company cited the standing definitions for other foodstuffs—including mayonnaise—as justification for codifying a hummus definition.

Count these as two more examples of protectionist regulations guaranteeing that industry leaders will defend their market positions within the halls of federal bureaucracies—and not on the battlefield of consumer preference.

CORRECTION: Bloomberg puts Unilever's market cap at $119.6 billion as of this writing.

NEXT: Brian Doherty on Internet Drug Sales

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. eggless vegan spread

    Wow, they found a way to make mayo even more disgusting. Congrats.

    1. Mayo is delicious, including on fries. It is you who is wrong.

      1. Mayonnaise haters just can’t accept that they are defective.

        1. Wow, defective in order to avoid that disgusting shit? Awesome trade-off.

          1. See, perfect example. I just feel sorry for you people missing out on one of the great pleasures in life.

            1. Your pity is much, much tastier. 😉

      2. Why not just eat cum?

        1. You do know that when fake cum is needed in a porn film mayo is used?

    2. I’m a vegetarian, but I don’t like Mayo much either. The only alternative I’ve had is Veganaise, which is actually pretty good. I have been meaning to give Just Mayo a try just to see how it compares.

        1. I do love aioli.

          1. aioli = garlic mayo

            1. forgot to add…fuck the french and naming everything all stupid just because they change or add one ingredient and other stuff, but thats enough reason for now.

      1. “Veganaise”

        Are you or are you not an elaborate performance art piece?

        #?paterleslibertaires

  2. Okay, just change the name to “Just Pea Snot” and your problems are solved

    1. That’s about as useful as marketing hones as “bee vomit.”

  3. just change one letter and you’re golden: http://youtu.be/dbYXLJRkcMI

  4. there ain’t no such thing as mayo without eggs.

    Well, there isn’t.

    I’m sort of ambivalent about this one. Isn’t it fraudulent to sell a product that you identify as something that it isn’t?

    1. ma?yon?naise (m???-n?z?, m???-n?z?) n. A dressing made of beaten raw egg yolk, oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and seasonings.

      Indeed. Why must the FDA be involved? “Just” get a reasonable judge.

    2. Fair point. I mean, how far can you go in calling a product something that has a specific meaning, when it doesn’t actually meet the accepted specifications? Is it okay to call hydrogenated vegetable oil, food coloring, and artificial flavoring, “cheese”?

      1. how about calling your products ‘organic’ and getting laws passed to make all other food seem to be non organic?I

        1. Especially since the term ‘organic’ is all but meaningless, anyway.

      2. Is it okay to call hydrogenated vegetable oil, food coloring, and artificial flavoring, “cheese”?

        I don’t think it is.

    3. Is it fraud if it is marketed as vegan mayo and presumably lists the ingredients somewhere on the product?

      It certainly isn’t enough a fraud to warrant government involvement.

      1. Apatheist ?_??|11.11.14 @ 3:19PM|#
        “Is it fraud if it is marketed as vegan mayo and presumably lists the ingredients somewhere on the product?”

        How about even if you are ‘mislead’ (since you can read?) and you don’t like it.
        I’d say don’t buy it again. I’ve bought mayonnaise that didn’t stack up to what I like; so what?
        (BTW, not you, Apatheist; the generic “you”)

      2. I do think that this suit is silly. The worst damage I can see coming from this is someone is out the cost of a jar (or case or truckload perhaps) of fake mayonnaise. I don’t see how Hellman’s could have been harmed to the extent of the damages they are asking for.

        1. Also, if it is taking away market share then I’d imagine there are repeat buyers. They have satisfied some customers based on flavor and if one of them is so outraged by their logo then maybe they should take up suit. Was there any controversy before this suit?

    4. It says that it is egg free right on the label.

      1. Bring back rollo.

      2. You mean the label that has the big picture of an egg? And that identifies the product as Just Mayo, where “just” does have the meanings quoted from the lawyers above? I’d say that rather overcomes the small-print mention of lark’s vomit.

        1. Please see my reply to Careless below.

      3. It’s weird. It says “just mayo” with a picture of an egg, but contains no egg or mayo.

        1. It isn’t just an egg. It is an egg with a pea shoot growing through it. They are attempting to replicate the flavor/texture derived from the eggs with yellow pea protein. I agree that you can certainly make an argument that it is somewhat deceiving, but the logo can also be defended.

          1. *can also be defended based on the flavor/product it is trying to replicate.*

    5. Isn’t it fraudulent to sell a product that you identify as something that it isn’t?

      I think that is where I come down on this. And it seems like a suit for fraud is the way to go about settling it. Would Hellmann’s have standing? Or would it require someone who bought it thinking it contained eggs?

      At any rate, words do have meanings, and when someone uses a well-defined term in contradiction of its meaning to present it as something it is not, that would seem to meet the definition of fraud.

      1. I agree that Hellmans is doing the right thing by suing for itself rather than filing a complaint with the FDA or FTC or whoever – isn’t this how libertarians see the market working? Somebody’s doing some shit, do something about it instead of whining to the gummit.

        POM is suing Coke over Coke’s “blueberry/pomegranate flavored juice beverage” that contains only trace amounts of blueberry and pomegranate juice and if you look closely at your next half gallon of ice cream you may notice it’s neither a half gallon nor ice cream (it’s a frozen dairy dessert since ice cream has to have a certain percentage of milkfat and the candied-up crap they sell now doesn’t have enough milkfat).

        To hell with Just Mayo selling a mayo substitute and calling it mayo – it ain’t mayo any more than margarine is butter or “spread” (whatever the hell that shit is) is even margarine. Pringles ain’t potato chips and anything named Cheez ain’t cheese.

        1. Hellman’s themselves has a mayo substitute that is appropriately labeled.

          1. Similarly, Unilever’s Dove isn’t labeled as soap.

            There are many advantageous, creative, and legal ways to label a substitute product. Just Mayo isn’t one of them.

    6. Who defines what words mean?

      The idea that food language doesn’t have meaning until the FDA defines it, at which point it’s set in stone–that language itself is technocratic rather than emergent and decentralized–is possibly the dumbest thing that technocrats have ever dreamed up.

      Naturally, it’s a key element of the organic movement.

      1. I think it is far from the dumbest. It’s not how I woudl do things, but from the utilitarian perspective of someone who thinks that government has a place in regulating things like this outside of the courts, it is pretty useful to have pre-defined terms so that you can know what you are getting when certain words are used to describe food. It’s probably one of the least bad things the FDA does.

        Of course it is going to get ridiculous and be abused by people like organic and anti-GMO activists. But in the context of the kind of government regulation that actually exists it’s really not terribly egregious.

        1. That it’s a necessary element of the state’s present regulatory system strikes me as the most ridiculous aspect of all. These are the same people who count the calcium bumps on an eggshell to determine whether it’s up to code, and now they’re taking it upon themselves to define mayo? That’s not how words or language work–they don’t derive their meaning from central authorities, but from how they’re employed popularly. You might as well have a government agency defining which historical accent of English is the correct one.

          Which is to say that if the next generation buys lots of this product that has no eggs in it and begins calling it mayo, mayo will be understood to be an egg-free product.

          This is probably a weird digression. But I’m the type who gets the giggles when people act as though they’re not really married unless they get a license from the state, the state being the central authority that defines what marriage is. Despite the best efforts of Hayek and Darwin, we live in a world where people think that singular authority is the sole means of creating meaning or order.

          1. Sure. I’m not favoring the FDA defining what everything means. If you read food packaging, you can see how silly that gets.
            But the law has some place deciding what words mean. If not, fraud becomes impossible to define. “When I said ‘10% return guaranteed’, what I actually meant was that I was going to take your money and buy myself a boat.”

            1. That’s where common law comes in, and I agree that any judge would look at a product that calls itself mayo without revealing that it has no eggs in it would say that it’s misleading customers. Just Mayo reveals on the label that it has no eggs, so I can’t see that here–this is just a huge business using the state to harm a smaller competitor.

              But the FDA’s regulation-by-fiat is as far from common law as it could possibly be.

              1. But regulation has the advantage that it swiftly allows people to arrange their affairs with certainty, without waiting generations for judges to work out common law and screw a bunch of litigants in the meantime.

          2. That’s not how words or language work–they don’t derive their meaning from central authorities, but from how they’re employed popularly. You might as well have a government agency defining which historical accent of English is the correct one.

            Or the words “married” and “spouse”.

            1. Darn, didn’t read the rest of your post on the next screen!

      2. There are cases where it makes sense, and others where it’s a bad idea, to have a regulatory definition of a word for use in trade. “Natural”?extremely bad idea to come up with a regulatory definition of, because too many widely divergent meanings. Cases where a word has not too extremely divergent, yet substantially different meanings that become contentious in trade?good idea to formulate a regulatory definition.

    7. Zeb – You are correct; this is a well-precedented argument (going back to the Salad Dressing (Miracle Whipe anyone) versus Mayonnaise days) and completely clear-cut. No legitimate company would ever claim to be an “egg-free” mayo and would be rapidly sued by competitors.

      Hampton Creek knowingly misled and violated standard of identity regs and also engaged is a number of additional false advertising claims.

      I find it tiresome that Reason, who purportedly is against the GMO-movement and for free-markets/capitalism seems to side against successful/established food companies in nearly every case.

      1. I think that the lawsuit itself is way over the top. On the other hand, I do think words actually have meanings and you can’t intentionally mislead in marketing.

        Was anybody mislead in this case? I’ve got no idea. Furthermore, they didn’t use the word mayonnaise on the label, so I’m not sure this is anything more than one corporation trying to use the courts to gain an advantage on another.

      2. Yeah, the whole “entrenched industry fear of non-traditional startups” is a bit of a stretch here. If Hampton Creek wants to enter the market, fine. But you don’t get to mislead and capitalize on another well established brand (or, in this case, accepted definition) in order to do so. Call yourself “vegan sandwich spread” and put the work in to convince people you taste as good as or better than mayo (good luck).

        I’m also not buying the “word meanings are relative” argument.

        1. Language is dynamic, not relative.

          The FDA “defining” words is like the Catholic church defining “good” to mean “Catholic.” Good luck with that.

          1. Language is dynamic, not relative.

            So is mayonnaise a tax then?

            1. Let me get back to you in 500 years on that one.

          2. What do the words on a 227 year old piece of parchment mean today? My point is that there needs to exist some northstar for reference. I agree with you that we don’t need some government flunky creating official definitions and dictating edicts. But I’m willing to bet the meaning of “mayonnaise” was publicly accepted before any FDA seal of approval. They’ve given that seal so that parties in commercial and consumer transactions have that northstar. It seems the kind of dynamism you refer to always seems to require an initial misrepresentation which then subsumes the original meaning.

            BTW, my priests didn’t have a word for me…at least not one that could be uttered and didn’t require ten Hail Marys. 😉

            1. I didn’t mean for my comment to sound as glib as it reads now that I look at it again. Internet and intent and all that.

              For cases of fraud, I’d use the old reasonable person standard (I really lean toward Hayek’s take on the difference between law & legislation). Here, would a reasonable person looking at a product that advertises itself as vegan, sans eggs, and has as its logo a bean sprout becoming an egg be defrauding a buyer who thought that, because it has the word mayo in the name, it has eggs? Most of us would probably say no.

              All the digressions about what the meaning of is is aside, I’m mostly irritated that the FDA is ripping the meaning of fraud away from the reasonable-person standard developed over centuries of legal trial, error, and feedback and handing it over to bureaucrats who can be manipulated by established interests who would benefit from the FDA’s anti-market tendencies.

              1. Fair enough. And I completely agree with the regulatory capture threat.

      3. It doesn’t call itself mayonnaise, shit for brains.

        If you want to be a fucking pedant cunt, I’ll out-pedant you.

        It calls itself “Just Mayo”.

        The FDA may have defined a product called “mayonnaise” in 1957, but that is utterly irrelevant to the question at hand here.

        France may have made it illegal to call a product “champagne”, but they can’t say fucking shit about me calling my product “‘pagne”.

        1. France may have made it illegal to call a product “champagne”

          The alcohol industry is full of states implementing special-interest branding bs like this from the Reinheitsgebot forward. The FDA is just the latest in a long line of dictatorial language mavens.

    8. It doesn’t call itself mayonnaise.

      It calls itself “Just Mayo”.

      Nowhere on the label does the word mayonnaise appear.

      1. Mayo means mayonnaise. Calling itself “Just Mayo” implies exactly the opposite of what it really is, as it is anything but mayo. I don’t really care and I don’t believe that anyone (particularly Unilever) is significantly harmed by it. But it is mislabeled.

        1. Let me see if I get your argument correctly here – you’re saying that because this product, which states on it’s label that it doesn’t contain egg, has a name that most people associate with mayonnaise, it is guilty of mislabeling because it doesn’t contain the egg its label says it doesn’t have.

          And this makes sense to you?

          1. Yes. While I’m sure it says there is no egg in it, I certainly can’t see that from the picture here. What I do see is an egg and a word that means a product made from eggs. That’s very misleading.

    9. I agree, Zeb. If it was called “Veggie Mayo” or something, fine. If something’s called “Veggie burger” I don’t expect it to be beef. But if it’s called “Just Beef,” yeah, it better be just beef. “Just Mayo” is deceptive labeling.

    10. Except, I don’t see “mayonnaise” on their label. Only “mayo” – because they’re not fully mayonnaise.

  5. Vegans are pussies. That is all.

    1. Which is odd since pussies are pretty much pure carnivores.

    2. I don’t think I’d ever eat vegans.

  6. Is sloopy ok?

    1. He’s busy working and trying to get a house set up for me and the girls to come out and live in on Monday.

      1. Just keep calling him, and hopefully he doesn’t see this post.

      2. It was a joke about his hatred of artisanal mayo but that’s good to hear.

  7. Pus. Imitation pus, but still, pus.

    1. Delicious, heavenly pus.

      1. I just recently tried mayo on a hotdog for the first time. Fantastic!

        1. You know, I don’t think I’ve tried that.

          A surprisingly good hot dog topping is peanut butter (preferably chunky) and deli mustard. It should also be a high quality all-beef hot dog.

          1. I thought only Dennis the Menace went for peanut butter on hot dogs. Maybe Ketcham (name suspiciously similar to ketchup) was on to something.

            1. Certain parts of California they put peanut butter (chunky preferred) on hamburgers. Surprisingly good.

        2. Subhuman. Pus-eater.

          Pus on ground lips and anuses. And you praise it.

  8. An egg on the label of a food product containing no eggs does seem fraudulent.
    Lest the outrage get out of hand, take a gander at the label of Miracle Whip Salad Dressing — it’s what some of us grew up on ‘instead of’ mayonnaise. The law prohibits calling it mayonnaise due to compositional differences — it doesn’t meet the definition.
    While I understand the innate appeal of siding with the little guy that the big guy (who is no saint) is bringing the law down on, how is their product not fraudulent?
    And if it’s fraudulent, how is that not anti-libertarian?

    1. “And if it’s fraudulent, how is that not anti-libertarian?”

      I’ll take a stab here:
      The possible harm is so slight, it is better to keep the government out of the issue, since involving it presents a chance of REALLY HORRIBLE RESULTS!
      Yeah, I know, ‘utilitarian’. I can be that way when I get a chance to keep the government at arm’s length.

      1. Eh, pretty much all labeling laws involve “slight” harm. If that’s 300 calories per serving and not 200, meh, what’s 100 calories? If it’s not really kosher, meh, it won’t kill you. Does it really matter if this is real silk or synthetic? If the scale at the butcher’s, or the pump at the gas station, overstates what you are getting by 1%, the harm is “slight.” Etc.

        In this area, I am OK with government protecting people from fraud, even if there are no “really horrible results.”

    2. I agree – and moreover I did not appreciate the snarky tone of the article, as if it’s OBVIOUS we should agree with it 100%.

    3. An egg on the label of a food product containing no eggs does seem fraudulent.

      I’m still upset about Little Debbie snack cakes.

      1. Made me chuckle.

      2. What? You mean baby oil is made of *petroleum* products?? Not fresh squeezed babies?
        The nerve of some companies!

        1. And don’t get me started about Girl Scout Cookies!

          1. If you want authentic Girl Scout cookies, I know a guy…

            1. He sells them out of the back of his windowless utility van, doesn’t he?

              1. It’s the one that says “Free Merit Badges” on the side, right?

            2. That would be me, yes.

            3. Hey, you’re talking to someone who got kicked out of Boy Scouts for eating brownies…

        2. I’ve read that in Africa, baby food labels do not have (or used to not have) babies on them, because labels always show the food product, to overcome language and illiteracy issues.

          I also remember reading about a Peace Corps worker who was reduced to a diet of hot dogs and peanut butter, because the natives stole everything else, but wouldn’t eat what they thought were (or looked too much like) penises and feces.

          1. That either says something about the peanut butter or the feces there.

    4. The logo is a bean turning into an egg.

      That to me clearly indicates a bean product trying to imitate an egg product.

      It’s not their fault if you’re semiotically retarded.

      Stuff made with soy isn’t milk, either. But most people are able to understand that soy milk didn’t come from a cow.

      Look, I’ll never eat any of this shit, but your entire argument rests on the premise that it should be illegal to be clever in naming or labeling a product because people (including you) are too stupid to actually EXAMINE the product and its label.

      Fucking learn to read. You lazy fuck.

      1. Is that what it’s supposed to be? From here it just looks like an egg with a flower in front of it.

      2. If A soy milk called itself “just milk”, do you think it would get away with that?

  9. Are they calling it “mayo” or “mayonnaise”? I can see a difference because “mayo” is just a meaningless string of sounds whereas “mayonnaise” has an actual meaning.

    1. It apparently is only marketed as “mayo” and not “mayonnaise”.

    2. mayo [m???] n. INFORMAL mayonnaise

      Sorry.

      1. We’ll see if it matters legally. I agree that pretty much everyone considers it to be an abbreviation of mayonnaise, but there could be a loophole and I really don’t see the actual harm Just Mayo is causing to consumers. The label above at least does say that it is egg-free. They also aren’t lying about the ingredients they use.

      2. So what?

        The FDA should possess NO power. But the illegitimate power it has seized extends only so far as its exact, literal, written definitions and not one step farther. There is no “implication”. There is no “it follows that”. There are the words on the page, and absolutely nothing else.

    3. That’s ridiculous. “Mayo” is common restauratese for mayonnaise. Even as pedantic as FDA is, they gathered that my petition’s reference to “cigarets” (which I intentionally spell that way as a blow for language reform) meant “cigarettes”, although they called it idiosyncratic spelling.

  10. The biggest hummus manufacturer in the United States claimed that, in total contravention of the laws of gods and men, renegade hummus producers were using black beans or lentils instead of the traditional chickpeas.

    Reason, I like the cut of this intern’s jib. I petition that Welch give him a double helping of gruel and 10 fewer daily lashes during Intern Discipline Time.

    1. Except Sabra is right – hummus has chick peas. Period. I would agree to keep the government out of it, but calling those other things hummus is fraud.

      1. “Hummus-style snack spread.”

        1. That’s better.

      2. I agree.

        If it’s made with legumes other than chickpeas it’s bean dip.

    2. Best intern since L***

      1. D**’* T*** A**** L***

      2. DON’T ALLUDE TO L***!!

      3. Lucy, Lucy, Lucy, Damn it!!

  11. boasting 45 percent of a $2 billion mayo market

    I’m honestly shocked that it’s only 45%. Is Hellmann’s / Best Foods available in all markets?

    1. Well, if they’re inculding not-mayo products like Miracle Whip that might explain it.

      1. Does anyone knowingly eat that stuff?

        1. Dave Lindelof preferred it, having grown up on it. Much too sweet for me, but might be OK to make Russian dressing with. In fact Miracle Whip can be considered a kind of Russian dressing by itself.

          1. My family made faux Russian dressing by mixing mayonaise with chilli sauce.

    2. Well, Cain’s does a good business, as do store brands. And most restaurants probably use Cisco or something.

    3. Love me some Duke’s.

    4. I’ve noticed lately that cheaper private-label store brands, previously noticeably inferior to Hellman’s, have caught up in quality. Either that or my taste has deteriorated.

  12. This is just like when the early German settlers to Texas made people start calling their delicious abomination of schnitzel “chicken fried steak”

    1. Damm I want that with some white grave and mashed potatoes right now.

  13. First marriage now mayonnaise. You hipsters are fucking the whole country up with your definitions

  14. Well, as far as ‘legitimate claims’ go, this actually has more merit than, say, idiots trying to get the FDA to parse the essence of what is ‘natural’ or not

    I mean, no one moaned that Miracle Whip was prevented from calling their product ‘mayo’, and is instead classified as a ‘dressing’ (oil). And while some might assert that “I Can’t Believe it’s NOT Butter” makes the words before ‘butter’ small such that, browsing along the shelf, your eyes catch ‘butter’ to help you understand what it is intended as an *alternative option* for….

    Meaning, i don’t see why this is particularly eggregious. (ahem)

    1. hmmm…you agree with this?

      “Unilever wants Hampton Creek?to pay three times its profit in damages plus the legal fees of the plaintiff?It also is asking the court to require Hampton Creek to stop using the egg on its label; recall all products, ads and promotional materials that might confuse consumers; and stop claiming that Just Mayo is superior to Hellmann’s.”

      So, no egg images on a product without eggs, and you can’t say you’re better than the competition?

      1. What lawyers ask for and what lawyers settle for, as i understand it, are actually not always the same thing.

        Meaning, this is simply lawyers being lawyers. The only point i had there was to say that there is probably some legitimate basis to sue. Aside from that, how heavy handed they come down is just ‘corporations gonna wield market power’ stuff. I don’t think its necessarily laudable practice, but it at least has some legal merit, potentially.

        re: “stop claiming that Just Mayo is superior to Hellmann’s.”

        Do they? If the product isn’t even in the same category (actual mayo), and they are comparing themselves to the ‘leading brand’ specifically, yes, that would be something that you’d sic the lawyers on, for sure.

    1. Or *add* one: “MayOh”.

      1. “May-ay-ay-OH!”

      1. Mayonnayz

  15. Unilever can be such a joke sometimes. If they want to sue over a competitors ingredients then maybe they should be sued over their canned, dry mix “Hollandaise” sauce.

  16. As someone who made batch after batch of artisanal mayonnaise so my obsessed husband can prove how easy mayonnaise is to make, mayonnaise isn’t mayonnaise without oil, eggs, and vinegar. This isn’t mayonnaise, this is an abomination and should be nuked from orbit like all vegan replacement products.

    1. “This isn’t mayonnaise, this is an abomination and should be nuked from orbit like all vegan replacement products.”

      Now see, that just shows a misunderstanding of basic economics. If you nuke the vegan replacement products, all of those reedy, shifty and unholy vegans will create enough market demand that new vegan products will quickly appear to fill the need.

      Someone with a better understanding of the economics would instead recommend nuking the vegans from orbit. Twice. Just to be sure.

      1. My oldest daughter is vegan. One if her many problems. Anyways I’ve been pretty surprised at how good some (certainly not fake bacon) vegan products can be. We had Vegan cake for her birthday and I would not have known without being told.

        1. A good cook can make good food out of just vegan ingredients; I’ve had amazingly delicious “I can’t believe this actually has not animal products in it” vegan food. The problem is that the vast majority of vegan food isn’t made by good cooks.

      2. Someone with a better understanding of the economics would instead recommend nuking the vegans from orbit. Twice. Just to be sure.

        Ah, demand-side creative destruction

      3. Does it really have to be spelled out that “nuking” includes the vegans as well as the products that cater to them?

      4. Does it really have to be spelled out that “nuking” includes the vegans as well as the products that cater to them?

  17. Possible relevant anecdote =

    I DID once, in a rush to buy lots of food for a cookout, come home to discover that the “HotDogs” i’d purchased were something along the lines of this

    …made of chicken, not ‘beef/pork’.

    yes, yes, I know – insert the “yes, lisa, a MAGIC animal!” joke now. Did I care? Not really. But I do like to know what I’m getting before I buy it.

    But the point is, if you compare the labeling of things you find in the supermarket category, you will find that they actually do tend to cluster their ‘appearance’ around variations of the Leading Brands labels. (oscar mayer? hebrew national? I assume so)

    Meaning – they intentionally do label their products in manners intended to both convince the consumer that the products are ‘similar’, and even in case can be entirely misleading. Look closely at that first example – where the hell do you see the word “Chicken” in featured prominently in bold type?.

    Of course i don’t want the FDA to have Moar Regulashuns of hot dogs to ensure I never have to eat anything but the finest of diced Pig rectums… but i sure as hell wouldn’t object to Oscar Meyer suing people who hurt their sales with misleading labels, provided they can actually demonstrate such impact in a court of law.

    1. I know many women who fucked up recipes by substituting fat or sugar free ingredients when a basic understanding of food chemistry would tell them it wasn’t going to work and would result in an inedible disaster. The “fat free” dairy products are examples of fraudulent misbranding. “Fat free sour cream” and “fat free half and half” come to mind.

  18. If Hellman’s claims their mayonnaise is better than Kraft’s and I disagree, can I sue them for fraud and deception for using the world “better”? After all, they intentionally used that word to persuade me to buy their mayonnaise. I will be calling a dictionary to the stand as one of my witnesses.

    1. 4 out of 5 Dentists think you misunderstand how comparison advertising works

    2. There was a brutal war between the painkiller manufacturers back in the 80s over claims to relieve headaches faster, etc. Millions spent in legal fees, bodies in the ditches, fortunes paid to scientists to identify the literature, dogs and cats sleeping together, etc.

      1. The Cola Wars claimed the lives of millions

        Want to know why Pepsi always won the pepsi challenge? Because if you’re given 1 sip, sweeter tastes better. when you drink a 20 oz soda? Coke wins.

      2. The most deceptive otc pharma ad campaign ever has to be “Anacin 3, with coating”. “Coating” used as a crude homophone for “codeine” combined with the magic “3” suggesting 30mg of opiate alkaloid goodness that wasn’t fucking there. I couldn’t believe they got away with it for as long as they did.

  19. If Uniliver LOSES this suit, Hampton Creek will rapidly face heavy competition; there is nothing special about their product and many less-expensive ways to produce mayo.

  20. Well, oil-water-pea goo is not mayonnaise, any more than soy mush is a hamburger.

    I don’t eat mayonnaise, because I don’t care for it. But the mayo-eaters ought to insist that the oil-water-pea goo be labeled as “imitation mayonnaise” or some such thing, lest anyone mistake the oil-water-pea goo for the real deal.

    The treble damages and so on are silly.

    1. I can read the label. Christ.

      1. Okay. I can read labels as well. I just don’t enjoy grocery shopping enough to spend much time pondering condiments.

        I would like to be able to purchase, for example, ketchup without having to read the detailed ingredients list to determine if it’s made out of tomatoes or bananas. Since the banana ketchup says BANANA KETCHUP in big bold letters on the label, I am able to do that.

        Ditto for Caesar dressing. I would like to know if it is made with eggs or with pea goo without getting out the magnifying glass.

        It seems as though the pea goo folks are being intentionally deceptive by putting a big ol’ egg on the label of their eggless oil-water-pea goo emulsion. A lawsuit is not necessary, just mayo lovers voting with their feet and their wallet if substituting pea goo for eggs in this manner is unacceptable to them, just like I do with my Caesar.

        The Hellman’s makers could actually turn this to an advantage. A voiceover says, “Which one would YOU rather have in your mayonnaise?” A pretty basket of eggs with a comely hen and the word “This?” Then a nasty pile of goo that resembles the raging diarrhea you get after a run-in with a bad roasted guinea pig in Costa Rica, and “Or this?” Back to the eggs and chicken, and “Choose real mayonnaise. Choose eggs.”

    2. But the mayo-eaters ought to insist that the oil-water-pea goo be labeled as “imitation mayonnaise” or some such thing

      If the product includes an ingredients list on the label, it already contains sufficient information to let you know it’s not traditional mayonnaise.

      “But Fluffy, I don’t know the difference between traditional mayonnaise and bean pressings based on reading the list of ingredients!”

      Then you’re stupid and deserve to lose your money.

  21. What not change their name to “Better than Mayo” or “Mayo is Racist”.

    1. Leave Grady out of this.

  22. Labeling requirements aren’t really the worst infringement on free markets. I mean sure, you might prefer to have a group of private certification firms such that only people who obained TrueMayo(tm)’s certification could use their mark, but in the real world, if you want to market “Bourbon” or “Kentucky Bourbon” or whatever, you need to meet the definition of those products. If not, you’re free to market as “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bourbon” or “Much More Delicious Than Bourbon” or whatever.

    I’m not sure that startups are all that relevant – this company can sell their product as “Better than Mayo” just like Kraft sells their product as “Miracle Whip.”

    Hilariously, Wikipedia tells us that the FDA stopped Kraft from calling Velveeta a “Pasturized Process Cheese Spread” because Velveeta didn’t even meet the definition for THAT!!! Imagine the relief on the faces of the entrenched pasturized process cheese spread manufacturers that Kraft wouldn’t be misappropriating their good will!

    1. Kraft has mayonnaise too, but it’s almost as sweet as Miracle Whip.

  23. Earlier this year, candlemakers Mediterranean food company Sabra petitioned the FDA to establish rules defining what constitutes “real” hummus. The biggest hummus manufacturer in the United States claimed that, in total contravention of the laws of gods and men, renegade hummus producers were using black beans or lentils instead of the traditional chickpeas.

    Uh, I don’t even know why people would use black peas or lentils for a food that literally translates to “garbanzo bean” in Arabic (do the other two taste better to your “average” American?)… but, really, who cares?

    1. Who cares? Food snobs, that’s who. And H&R is rife with food snobs.

      1. Still waiting for my artisanal pesticide-free pot grown fair trade in Mongolia.

        1. Dude, you know that SR2 was shut down right?

  24. What’s with the infatuation with “An Officer and a Gentleman”? Is it because you all “GOT NOWHERE ELSE TO GO!!!”

    /unclear on the concept

  25. Well, I didn’t see them call themselves “mayonnaise”. They call themselves “mayo”. Now, for all I know, they could be naming their product after a county in Ireland. Or they may be saying they’re not fully mayonnaise. So, I have to give this one to the hippy freaks. Sorry guys.

  26. I was a food industry analyst for ~12 years or so.

    My personal favorite example of something unconscionably retarded was, during the “low carb” food-fad (see: Atkins, etc)… a startup company visited my firm on their investment road-show, and debuted a trial product they were considering…

    *Low-Carb Bottled Water*

    I was in the meeting room, and no one commented about it so i raised my hand and asked…. ‘But… uh. Water. Just water? Flavorings? No Sweetener? Nothing?” just water.

    I then asked if they thought that people might find it a little insulting to their intelligence.

    They said, “The way we see it is sort of like how Orange Juice companies highlight ‘with Vitamin C!’ on their labels. Its ‘Informative’, not misleading.”

    This seemed to actually impress some of my colleagues, shockingly. I then pointed out, “But OJ *does* otherwise naturally have vitamin C. Water does not otherwise have carbs that are now missing. You might as well call it, “Low-Poison Water”, or “Zero Irradiation-Water”.

    No one laughed. Needless to say they never launched it.

  27. I guess I won’t be buying Hellman’s any more.

    1. Why should Hellman’s be punished for taking advantage of stupid law?

    2. Just make your own. It’s ridiculesly simple to make.

  28. “anti-biotic free penicillin”

    “Hydro-carbon free gasoline”

    “fat free sour cream”

    “vegan mayonnaise”

    Sounds like good ol’ fashioned FRAUD

    1. How about when women act like they’re not crazy.

      1. or “deep dish pizza”

        1. A mis-branded casserole

  29. On the other hand, there’s the ketchup company that labels it’s product, “Real Ketchup”. The ingredients are recycled motor oil, phosphorous and arsenic.

    A more fundamental question is, “Should a consumer be able to rely upon a product being what it purports to be?” If a connector is advertised as having “gold-plated contacts” is copper good enough? If your medical insurance advertises a “$5000 deductible”, is a $50,000 deductible good enough?

    At some point, companies that advertise their products as something they are not should be punished – and prevented from lying to their customers. If the product “Just Mayo”, is really “Just Horse Manure” close enough for Lucian to eat it?

  30. Egg yolks have been the primary ingredient of mayonnaise since, well, forever, in every dictionary as well as the FDA’s dusty archives. If insisting your product is just pure mayonnaise and putting an egg on the label when there is no egg in it is not false advertising, what would false advertising be? I could understand wanting this to be purely a civil tort so that private parties could patrol it for the rest of us without using taxpayer’s money, out of their own self-interest, instead of lobbying to get the government to do it. Still, if government has a legitimate purpose, it is opposing force and fraud, and this is flat-out fraud. And all this post’s horror of Unilever’s desire to protect its profits from fraud have an unpalatable Mother Jones kinda feel.

    1. Well, what are they paying taxes for, then?

    2. I stand with Hellman’s. Unless I’m west of the Rockies where my sympathies lie with Best Foods.

    3. Again, it isn’t just an egg. It has a pea shoot going through it, so could they not make the argument that it is meant to be a representation of the flavor or texture they are trying to replicate with pea protein?

      I’m not a lawyer, so maybe it doesn’t make a difference at all.

  31. “CORRECTION: Bloomberg puts…”

    Fuck Bloomberg.

  32. This is why we hit them up dude.

    http://www.anon-way.tk

  33. Whether Unilever is suing or not is irreleavnt – this product is simply not what it appears to be : mayo. It should be required to call itself a mayo-like whatever. You are not empowering the consumer by allowing deception like this.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.