There is a war brewing in the heartland of America. A war the prophecies foretold, a raging conflagration that will engulf every man, woman, and child across the realm. This war comes not with steel or fire, but with a far more deadly weapon: emulsification.
I'm sorry, I've been watching a lot of Blizzard game trailers lately and I think it's screwing with my head. Anyway, there is a mayo war brewing, but surprisingly, it isn't between people who think America's #1 condiment (seriously) is pretty good in moderation and those who are wrong.
What's actually happening is that food giant Unilever,* maker of Hellmann's mayo, is suing San Francisco startup Hampton Creek, the makers of Just Mayo, on grounds that basically boil down to "they were taking part of our market share and that really harshes our greed-boner."** Their entire case appears to rest on the notion that Just Mayo isn't actually mayo in that it doesn't contain eggs. Then again, Just Mayo has never claimed to have eggs (it uses Canadian yellow peas instead) — the closest Hellmann's can get to a reasonable argument is "their logo looks like an egg" and "the packaging has the word 'mayo' on it." Please note that neither point is in any way close to a reasonable argument.
Unilever's demands are even more laughable — or they would be, if a major corporation wasn't actually trying to make them in a court of law as if it didn't make them sound like deranged, petulant children. Here's their actual argument as listed in the Washington Post, which I swear to God is being made by people who, at least physically, appear to be adults:
The Just Mayo identity crisis, Unilever lawyers said, has hurt Hellmann's market share, "caused consumer deception and serious, irreparable harm to Unilever" and the mayo industry as a whole. The firm wants Hampton Creek to stop calling it Just Mayo, yank the product off store shelves and pay Unilever damages worth three times the startup's profits.
Here's the most telling quote from the WaPo piece:
"It's not about using the (mayo) word," said Michele Simon, a public health attorney who wrote about the suit. "It's about the fact that this company is taking market share away. And now it's like they've awakened the giant."
So, basically, they want the product to stop existing because it's hurting their sales, everyone knows it, and there are still human being treating that as if it wasn't against the entire concept of both capitalism and anti-trust laws. Not that I expect any of my readers would (you guys have a double-digit quantity of brain cells, after all), but don't be taken in: Unilever/Hellmann's do not give even a semblance of a shit about consumers and the definition of mayo, they just don't like that someone's making a product that people like more than theirs. They are literally trying to sue their competition out of existence. This seems an opportune time to point out that Unilever made $64 billion last year. This isn't a company that's hurting.
Here's their actual, honest-to-goodness defense:
"Our concern here is not about innovation, it is about misleading labelling," a Unilever spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "We simply wish to protect both consumers from being misled and also our brand."
Wow, you guys are some contemptuous, arrogant little cockgoblins, aren't you? Do you really think anyone who's even remotely paying attention is going to be fooled?
For their part, Hampton Creek isn't backing down. In fact, they're taking the opportunity to get their product even more press and shine a light on Unilever's game of litigation grabass, enlisting the help of celebrity chefs like Andrew Zimmern and tweeting pictures of Just Mayo and Hellmann's as David and Goliath.
Let's all hope any judge they put this case in front of laughs it out of court. In the meantime, I have to figure out which non-Hellmann's brand of mayo to buy.
* Oh my God, could a food company possibly have a more ominous-sounding name? That's not a company name that donates to charities that provide kittens to needy orphans. That's a company name that grinds both the kittens and the orphans in a giant mincer and serves them as nutritional protein paste with a warning label about how they are not responsible for the fact that this product may cause moderate-to-severe death.
** See? Sometimes you can judge a book by its forbiddingly-named cover.
Image via daffodilred/Shutterstock.