Readings — From the February 2015 issue

Unequally Yolked

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From a complaint filed last October by Unilever, the manufacturer of the Best Foods and Hellmann’s brands of mayonnaise, against Hampton Creek, which produces a vegan condiment called Just Mayo.

“Mayo” is defined in the dictionary and in common usage as “mayonnaise.” Under federal regulations and common definitions, “mayonnaise” is a product that must contain eggs. The word “just” is also a common term. When used as a modifier of “mayonnaise,” “just” means “exactly,” “precisely,” “only,” or “simply.” A product called “Just Mayo” should be exactly, precisely, only, and simply mayonnaise. Just Mayo is none of those things. The packaging features an image of a large egg on a brown label wrapped around a jar of sandwich spread (off-white in color, just like real mayonnaise). Just Mayo, however, does not contain any egg ingredients. Compounding the problem, Hampton Creek has referred to Just Mayo as “an outrageously delicious mayonnaise”; “creamy, rich mayo for any sandwich, anytime”; and “the #1 selling mayo at Whole Foods Market!” In a Facebook post, Hampton Creek depicts a cartoon image of Just Mayo standing over a spilled jar of Best Foods in a boxing ring.

Real mayonnaise is used by home and professional chefs to add flavor and bind ingredients in heated sauces. Consumers expect a product called “mayo” to taste and perform like “mayonnaise.” Just Mayo does neither. By calling itself “mayo,” Just Mayo deceives consumers and damages the entire product category, which has strived for decades for a consistent definition that fits with consumer expectations.

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