Hellmann's drops Just Mayo lawsuit: Free press and victory for egg-less rival.

The Maker of Hellmann’s Just Dropped an Absurd Lawsuit Over the Definition of Mayonnaise

The Maker of Hellmann’s Just Dropped an Absurd Lawsuit Over the Definition of Mayonnaise

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 19 2014 4:02 PM

The Maker of Hellmann’s Just Dropped an Absurd Lawsuit Over the Definition of Mayonnaise

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Made with eggs.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lest you think making mayo isn’t a science—it is. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines mayonnaise as an “emulsified semisolid food” made with vegetable oil, at least one of several specific “acidifying ingredients,” and one or more “egg-yolk containing ingredients.” Which is why Unilever, the multinational food corporation behind Hellmann's, in November decided to sue vegan (read: egg-free) mayo company and competitor Hampton Creek.

Well, on Thursday the mayo wars ended almost as abruptly as they began when Unilever said that it had withdrawn its lawsuit. Unilever VP Mike Faherty said in a statement that nixing the suit will allow Hampton Creek to "address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities.” He added that Unilever and Hampton Creek “share a vision” of a “more sustainable world.”

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Even before the suit was filed, Just Mayo’s label stated that its product was egg-free. The container’s label also features a white egg with a plant on top of it, which Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick has said is supposed to indicate that the company uses plants instead of chicken eggs. “We were on the right side of the law,” Tetrick told the Huffington Post on Friday. “We have ‘egg-free’ on the front of the jar. It’s right there for people to see.”

Ironically, instead of stymieing Just Mayo, Tetrick told the AP that the Unilever lawsuit has benefited his company. When the lawsuit first hit in mid-November, Just Mayo sales took off. “Grateful. More jars of #justmayo were sold today than any day in @hamptoncreek history,” Tetrick tweeted at the time. Late on Thursday, Tetrick confirmed that the legal battle had been a plus for the company and had given Hampton Creek “the opportunity to tell our story to millions of people.” Probably not what Unilever had intended—but then again, it should have seen that one coming.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.