Mayonnaise is something that millions enjoy without thinking much about, but it turns out to be a little more complicated than might be thought. Not in terms of actually producing the condiment, as that is simple: Just mix some eggs with vinegar and oil in proportions that result in a smooth, tasty emulsion. What is complicated about mayonnaise, instead, or at least with regard to the more casual form described as “mayo,” is just what qualifies for the label.
A recent article about hampton creek on Los Angeles Times shows just how fraught this question can be. When the maker of an egg-free, vegan-qualified product called “Just Mayo” started gaining some traction with consumers, its competitors took note. Before long, the producer of the world’s most famous brand of mayonnaise had launched a lawsuit, claiming that the absence of eggs meant that the term “mayo” was being misused.
Hampton Creek had done its homework, however. While the Food and Drug Administration has strict standards regarding what goes out under the label of “mayonnaise,” it does not have any strict convictions about what the word “mayo” means. As that became clear over time, the plaintiff of the lawsuit eventually decided to drop it, leaving the vegan product untouched on store shelves.
That was not the last of the controversies that Hampton Creek found itself embroiled in, however. Having seemingly secured the right to keep using the term “mayo” without worry, it next found itself coming under fire for its use of the word “just.” This time, it was the FDA itself that decided that the usage was questionable, with the agency claiming that the product might be taken to contain “only” what most would think of as mayo.
Once again, Hampton Creek was able to find a relatively simple way to resolve the tension, agreeing to add to its product labels a definition as to what was meant by “just.” With a real commitment to the welfare of animals and not exploiting them, that turned out not be so difficult to do. In fact, it likely further improved the company’s standing with many of its customers, an outcome that did not go without notice itself.