Is an egg-less mayonnaise a mayonnaise at all? This is the big debate that's cracked open in the condiment's corporate world.
Unilever, which manufactures Hellman's mayonnaise, is suing the American firm Hampton Creek for creating a no-egg mayonnaise brand with what it argues is a misleading name – “Just Mayo”.
It accuses Hampton Creek of using false advertising to sell its product, since the label of its Just Mayo range features an egg shape, even though the products are made using canola oil, lemon juice and pea protein.
This, Unilever argues, is creating unfair competition and affecting its own sales in the US, since the two brands are sold side-by-side in many supermarkets.
"Hampton Creek's literally-false name and its unsubstantiated superiority claims have already caused consumer deception and serious, irreparable harm to Unilever," the company wrote in its court filing.
Hampton Creek responded by accusing Unliever of using “horse and buggy era” definitions of what can be called mayonnaise. In a world having to cater to a broadening range of food requirements, it said that “building a food system for 2050 requires companies and governments to shatter existing paradigms,” and that “antiquated thinking won't feed the world or strengthen the planet."
But the US Food and Drug Administration seems to fall on the side of Unilever – its guidelines stipulate that mayonnaise should have some form of egg-yolk in its ingredients. The Oxford English Dictionary appears to support Unilever's claim, too – it defines mayonnaise as a "thick, creamy sauce consisting of egg yolks emulsified with oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, vinegar, and (usually) mustard".
Although to be fair, if you want to make an omelette, you have to crack a few eggs...