The traditional recipe for mayonnaise calls for eggs, but there are many vegan mayonnaise brands on the market. One of those brands, Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo, got a boost in sales yesterday from an unexpected source — a big mayo company that’s suing for false advertising and fraud.

Unilever, maker of Hellmann's Mayonnaise,  is suing Hampton Creek for what it says are unsubstantiated claims that Just Mayo beat Hellmann’s in a taste test, using the image of an egg on its packaging when the product is eggless, and failing to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of mayonnaise (an emulsion of vegetable oil, an acid like vinegar or lemon juice and an ingredient containing egg yolks). The lawsuit also mentions that Hampton Creek is taking away market share from Unilever.

News of the lawsuit hit news websites and social media yesterday, introducing new consumers to Just Mayo. According to Hampton Creek’s Twitter feed, the company received more than 39,000 messages of support after the story broke, and more jars of Just Mayo were sold yesterday than in any day in Hampton Creek's history.

Hampton Creek positions itself as a sustainable company that makes its food affordable. Many people see this not just as a lawsuit that’s trying to stop competition, but also as a lawsuit that’s trying to impede sustainable progress. Chef Andrew Zimmern, best know for the "Bizarre Foods" TV franchise, has started a petition to Unilever, asking it to Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies.

In his petition, Zimmern says Unilever isn't helping to solve important global issues; instead it’s “trying to prevent others from doing so.” He also mentions that buying one jar of Just Mayo’s plant-based mayonnaise “saves land and water usage, reduces CO2 emissions, eliminates hundreds of milligrams of cholesterol.”

Despite the public pressure, Unilever may continue with its lawsuit. In the end, the law may side with Unilever and require Just Mayo to stop calling itself mayonnaise. For now, all the lawsuit has done has brought the product to people’s attention and increased sales.

I hadn’t heard of the product until now, but based on the people who are raving about the product's taste, I’m intrigued. I’ll be looking for the product on my next trip to the store out of curiosity. If it is comparable to the brand of mayonnaise made with egg that I use now, I may be persuaded to switch. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Lawsuit prompts flurry of interest in eggless mayo
Unilever’s lawsuit against eggless Just Mayo for false advertising inadvertently gives the small producer invaluable free advertising.