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11 November 2014Trademarks

Unilever sues over ‘false’ mayonnaise

The maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has sued a US company for false advertising, claiming it cannot call its product mayonnaise because it contains no eggs.

Unilever said the name of Hampton Creek’s eggless spread, ‘Just Mayo’, amounts to fraud.

San Francisco-based Hampton Creek’s mayonnaise alternative, which first went on sale a year ago, uses a Canadian pea plant instead of egg yolk. The company’s investors include Bill Gates and the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

But Unilever has cited false advertising laws as well as unfair competition and claims the product has hit sales of its renowned Hellmann’s brand.

“Hampton Creek sells a sandwich spread named Just Mayo in direct competition with Unilever’s Best Foods and Hellmann’s brands of mayonnaise,” Unilever said in the complaint, filed at the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.

“Despite its name, Just Mayo does not contain mayonnaise. In fact, it is not mayonnaise at all.”

In the complaint, Unilever’s London-based subsidiary Conopco, which makes the Hellmann’s product, said the Hampton Creek logo of a white egg with a pea shoot through it violated unfair advertising codes.

It added that the US Food and Drug Administration and most dictionaries specify that mayonnaise contains egg yolk.

“Hampton Creek’s literally-false name and its unsubstantiated superiority claims have already caused consumer deception and serious, irreparable harm to Unilever and to the product category the industry has taken great care to define in a way consistent,” the complaint added.

But television chef Andrew Zimmern, a fan of Just Mayo, started a petition online at campaign website on Sunday, asking Unilever to “stop bullying” small companies.

“When a 60 billion dollar company flexes its muscles to prevent a good-for-the-world start-up company from succeeding, there are only two words for that: corporate bullying,” the petition said.

At the time of writing, it had more than 15,000 supporters.

Unilever has asked for money damages, litigation costs, attorney fees and damages.

Hampton Creek and Unilever did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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More on this story

23 December 2014   The maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has withdrawn a lawsuit in which it accused a US start-up of falsely labelling its product as mayonnaise.