It was a well-publicized food scandal. Unilever, owner of Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise had a bone to pick with Hampton Creek over its mayonnaise-likes spread called Just Mayo. Unilever complained that, according to the 1957 Food and Drug Administration standards, a product must have a certain number of eggs and oil in it to be called mayonnaise, and Just Mayo did not have the required amount of fatty substances. Even though it was called Just Mayo and not Real Mayonnaise, according to Unilever, in the minds of customers, mayo equals mayonnaise equals the only REAL mayonnaise which is Hellman’s.
Dan’s Papers reports that Hampton Creek founder, Josh Tetrick decided to launch his own investigation into Unilever. He researched all of the company’s “mayonnaise” brands to see if they met the 1957 FDA requirements. Lo and behold, just as Tetrick was on the phone to his lawyer, Michele Simon, “He was reading something on the Hellman’s site to me and it just vanished, ” she told the New York Times. “It was freaky.”
The company was changing names of its products, and marketing associated with them, presumably because they didn’t have a high proportion of eggs and oil. Hellman’s Canola Cholesterol Free Mayonnaise got a new name and another light mayonnaise product was changed from mayonnaise to mayonnaise dressing.
Of course, Unilever’s mayonnaise coverup was spun into an act of virtue and integrity by management. Mike Faherty, VP for Unilever’s food division in North America, said, according to Dan’s Papers, “Contrast our actions over the last week and Hampton Creek’s. They’ve known about their misleading labels for months and done nothing, but the minute we found out there was something wrong, we took action.”
What a way to handle a schmear campaign.