Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics partner Unilever is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
As public health lawyer Michele Simon of Eat Drink Politics reports on her blog, the food giant is suing San Francisco-based start-up Hampton Creek (maker of Just Mayo) “for daring to offer a cruelty-free and sustainable alternative” to traditional mayonnaise (note that Unilever owns the Hellmann’s brand).
- “Started in 2011, Hampton Creek has received a lot of media attention (and financial backing) for its scientific approach to making plant-based alternatives to eggs, aiming at the heart of a cruel and unsustainable industry. The company’s first consumer product, Just Mayo has enjoyed a fast rise to success, not only in natural retail channels like Whole Foods, but also mainstream markets such as Walmart, Costco, Target, and even Dollar Tree. Unlike previous vegan spreads that mimic mayonnaise, Just Mayo is not aimed at just being a niche product; and that’s exactly has Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s and Best Foods, shaking in their boots.”
- “The conventional egg industry is notoriously inhumane and wasteful. It’s not just that egg-laying hens live in cramped conditions, but egg production uses an unbelievable amount of energy, especially when compared to Hampton Creek’s approach. Here is how Forbes describes the comparison: “The ratio of energy input to food energy output for chicken-laid eggs is about 39-to-1, behind only beef and lamb farming. Hampton Creek’s plant products maintain a ratio of 2-to-1.” This translates directly into costs savings for consumers.”
- “In its legal complaint, the company argues that Just Mayo cannot possibly be mayonnaise because both the dictionary and the Food and Drug Administration say that mayonnaise contains egg. Over and over, like a hurt child, Unilever lawyers argue: “Just Mayo is not mayonnaise. It does not contain any egg.” Yes, we know. That’s Hampton Creek’s entire business model, they aren’t hiding it. It’s right there on the ingredient label. No eggs.”
- “It’s not Hampton Creek’s fault if its innovation is out-pacing federal regulations. That’s par for the course in almost any technology-driven industry. The company’s CEO Josh Tetrick told Food Navigator yesterday that FDA has only defined “mayonnaise” but not “mayo”, and that other vegan spreads use that word as well.”
- “Unilever is asking the court not only to make Hampton Creek stop using the Just Mayo name (and remove all current product from store shelves), but also to pay Unilever the amount obtained from profits, plus triple damages.”
Actions like these speak volumes.
PS: See The New York Times‘ coverage as well.