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Unilever Got Legal On A Company Over What Mayonnaise Is

Eat Just vegan mayo

Big businesses are ruthless and won't hesitate to get their high-priced lawyers involved, particularly if they think a rival is trying to get an advantage.

Companies have spent millions on lawsuits defending their name or stopping their rivals from stealing their ideas over the years.

Some of them are entirely reasonable, but others could be seen as a bit strange, petty, or a giant trying to shut down a much smaller rival.

READ MORE: The biggest companies that lost millions in lawsuits

We'll let you decide which one of those this is.

In 2014, the food giant Unilever launched a lawsuit against a small but rapidly growing start-up, Hampton Creek.

Unilever was unhappy at its rival trying to pass off a distinctly egg-free spread as "mayo."

The company even cited regulators specifically defining mayonnaise as a spread containing eggs.

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Unilever was unhappy at its rival trying to pass off a distinctly egg-free spread as "mayo."

The company even cited regulators specifically defining mayonnaise as a spread containing eggs.

Thus, when Hampton Creek called the non-eggy mayo "Just Mayo," Unilever got its lawyers involved.

It claimed Hampton Creek participated in false advertising and stole the rightful market share of Hellmann's (One of its products). 

The complaint stated: "Consumers and cooks have an expectation that mayonnaise should both taste and perform like mayonnaise. 'Just Mayo' does neither."

Hampton Creek's CEO Josh Tetrick didn't seem to think it was a big deal, saying: 

Today it's mayo, tomorrow it's a cookie ... next year it will be pasta. Maybe we'll see big cookie and big pasta lawsuits against us next.

Tetrick pointed out Just Mayo's label states that it is an egg-free product.

It also featured a white egg with a plant growing in front.

The boss said this is the company's way of showing that they use plants instead of chicken eggs.

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What happened?

Unilever withdrew the lawsuit after a backlash from consumers and the media.

It issued a statement saying: "We believe Hampton Creek will take appropriate steps in labeling and marketing its products going forward, and we've agreed to withdraw our lawsuit against them.

"Therefore, the lawsuit was dropped, and no verdict or settlement was reached.

However, in 2015, Hampton Creek was given a formal warning from the FDA that Just Mayo's labeling was indeed misleading because it didn't meet the standards for mayonnaise.

It was also warned over an "implied health claim "implied health claim that these products can reduce the risk of heart disease due to the absence of cholesterol."

This couldn't be included as the product had too much fat in it.

It now trades as Eat Just, having changed its name in 2016.

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