In a move that mimics a schoolyard bully deciding that the little kid they were picking on wasn’t so powerless after all, Unilever has wandered off of the playground so that Hampton Creek and their Just Mayo brand of plant-based mayonnaise can climb the monkey bars in peace.
“Hey you, get your damn hands off that vegan mayo.”
Announcing that they were dropping their lawsuit just six-weeks after filling it, Unilever has decided to step back from taking direct action in making Just Mayo change their name and labeling. Mike Faherty, Vice President for Foods of Unilever North America, stated in a press release, “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.”
Hampton Creek says they have no intention of changing their name or their label, but CEO Joshua Tetrick is handling the entire thing with class, saying, “My instinct all along was that Unilever would step back and ask if this was the kind of company they wanted to be, and to their credit, they said ‘no,’ and that’s a pretty awesome thing.”
The whole mayo melee began when corporate giant Unilever, who maintains both the Hellmann’s and Best Foods brands of mayonnaise, filed suit against Hampton Creek on the grounds that their Just Mayo brand name and labeling were misleading. According to the FDA, mayonnaise must consist of an emulsion of eggs and oil in order to be labeled as such.Though Hampton Creek’s label clearly states that the product is egg-free and the condiment is called “mayo” and not “mayonnaise”, Unilever asserted that their logo of an egg being split by a pea shoot was misleading and that mayo was a commonly accepted nickname for mayonnaise, which their product could not, by definition, be called.
As it turned out, shining a light on mayonnaise recipe requirements became a fun game of “change the label” for Unilever themselves after it was discovered that some of their own products didn’t quite fit the bill to be called mayonnaise either. The company surreptitiously changed many product names on their website to “mayonnaise dressing” due to their oil content being too low to qualify for the now coveted title.
“What? That? Oh, we’re calling that dressing now. Let’s not make a big thing of it.”
Through it all, Tetrick has taken the entire thing in stride, saying of the experience, “It’s been incredibly powerful to tell our story to millions of people.” Strange as it sounds, the entire situation actually proved to be a positive thing for the company, whose innovative process of using yellow peas in place of eggs yields a more sustainable, plant-based product. In the first week of the lawsuit, analysts calculated that Hampton Creek had received over $21 million dollars in free advertising due to the story’s far reaching interest.
So, what’s next for the little mayo that could? Oh, just securing $90 million dollars in additional funding (bringing them to $120 million to date) to continue further product development in the realm of sustainable, plant-based products! The announcement came on the same day as news of the dropped lawsuit, with Tetrick stating that the money would go to technology development and general expansion. He plans to use the money, ““to make sure in everything we do, we’re not holding back. We don’t want to waste this moment.”
Exclusive sneak peak of the inside of CEO Joshua Tetrick’s head on Thursday.
Now who’s up for a celebratory vegan rueben sandwich? Pass the vegan mayo, please!