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Hampton Creek Wins The Mayo Wars, With A Few Caveats

The fight with the FDA over the definition of whether eggless mayo can be called mayo is resolved with a little clever wording.

Hampton Creek Wins The Mayo Wars, With A Few Caveats
[Photos: Hampton Creek/Facebook]

The absurd-ish battle over the definition of “mayo” is finally over. Hampton Creek, a Silicon Valley startup that makes plant-based foods to replace animal products, says it received word from the FDA that it can keep using the name “Just Mayo,” even though it’s made from pea protein, not eggs.

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The whole issue started a year ago, when Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s, petulantly sued Hampton Creek for implying Just Mayo was real mayonnaise, a delightful sandwich spread that the FDA defines as containing eggs. Unilever dropped the lawsuit in favor letting the agency handle the issue, and handle it did: In September, the FDA told Hampton Creek that its Just Mayo marketing–the product’s name, labeling, and imagery–was misleading.

The company, which is backed by high-profile investors such as Peter Thiel and Khosla Ventures and can now be found at most major grocery stores, agreed to make a few changes to its label (the new one can be seen below). One change was to increase the size of all claims on the label, including “Egg Free.”

Amazingly, it has also included a definition on the label of the word “Just”–which in this case doesn’t mean “to an exact degree or in an exact manner,” which would imply that Just Mayo is exactly mayo. “Just” is defined on the new label as an adjective that means “guided by reason, justice, and fairness.” This definition suited both the FDA and Hampton Creek, CEO Josh Tetrick told Co.Exist. He said the change gives the company a chance to communicate its values of working for a more fair, healthy, sustainable food system for all.

“This agreement shows that young companies can really work with policymakers and regulators in a collaborative, positive way,” he says. “It doesn’t always have to be an antagonistic relationship between the two … especially when we all agree on the same thing.” The FDA confirmed to Co.Exist that, after discussions to address issues in their warning letter and the labeling changes, the agency considers the issue to be solved.

Tetrick won’t say whether Hampton Creek is profitable yet, but it has been growing fast. It’s now moved into a 90,000-square-foot facility in the Bay Area and had its highest month of sales recently. It is also working on pipeline of 34 food products with egg replacements, including ranch dressing, pancakes, and the holy grail: scrambled not-eggs. They’ll just have to be more careful about their names from now on.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.

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