I can make egg-free versions of tons of dishes. Muffins, waffles, potato pancakes, you name it, someone’s probably created a vegan or allergy-friendly variation out there.
Mayonnaise, however, is tough to cheat. We buy Vegenaise, which I think is tasty, but it’s not the same. There’s a new egg-free offering out there by Hampton Creek, who created Just Mayo, a mayonnaise substitute made from peas, sorghum and other plants.
Fine, right? What’s wrong with a niche product, serving vegans or egg-allergic customers who needed or desire a mayo substitute?
According to Unilever, the makers of Hellmann’s, this isn’t okay. They claim people might get confused about Just Mayo, and that if you are going to call something mayonnaise, it legally had to have egg in it.
In a result surprising no one, Hellmann’s has blown it. Even if they win their case, it may be a “win the battle, lose the war” type of moment. Everyone wants to try Just Mayo and it’s been a huge publicity boon to the small brand, and people are p.o.’d at Unilver for their hard-charging tactics. There’s even a Change.org petition, Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies, signed by over 26,000 people. (Go little guy!)
I’ll leave the merits of the case to the lawyers, but I’m always excited to see a food sub out there — and I’m not too impressed by Hellmann’s either.