Hampton Creek, the bay area vegan mayonnaise startup brand, has not had an easy year. Despite raising significant capital enabling the brand to achieve its rapid growth, it was sued by competing brand Unilever (Hellmann’s) late last year, targeted by the U.S. egg board over its lack of eggs, and in August, it was told by the FDA that its mayo product does not meet the agency’s definition of mayonnaise and needed to change its name and marketing materials.
The agency pointed to a decades-old definition of mayonnaise which includes containing eggs and egg yolks. It’s a definition that the best-selling Hellmann’s mayonnaise takes seriously, and was at the core of Unilever’s lawsuit against Hampton Creek (Unilever later dropped the suit). The FDA says Hampton Creek needs to change its product’s name or face serious fines.
But now, Hampton Creek is pushing back, telling the FDA that it’s not violating any rules or regulations because while “mayonnaise” may be a regulated term, “mayo,” which is the official name of the Just Mayo product, is not.
"The term 'mayo' should not now be held to the regulatory standard for 'mayonnaise,'" wrote the company's lawyer, Josh Schiller, a partner at Boies, Schiller, and Flexner.
Now, the FDA says it will meet with Hampton Creek to discuss the Just Mayo’s product name and whether or not the company is technically in violation of any laws.
But the FDA says “mayo” is indeed indistinguishable from mayonnaise because it’s an understood shorthand, reports Business Insider.
"Additionally, the use of the term 'Just' together with 'Mayo' reinforces the impression that the products are real mayonnaise by suggesting that they are 'all mayonnaise' or 'nothing but' mayonnaise," the August warning letter from the FDA said.
Hampton Creek’s mission is to create plant-based products that eliminate the need for eggs (and other animal products) in order to minimize the environmental impact and animal welfare issues inherent in the livestock industry.
“Hampton Creek also proposes evolving the standard of mayonnaise to incorporate new and more ecologically sustainable food production methods, so eggless products could be covered,” reports Business Insider. “Also, the company has never obscured the fact that it uses plants instead of eggs.”
Related on Organic Authority