The company said Tuesday that Hellmann’s first eggless version will hit shelves later this month under the label “Carefully Prepared Dressing and Spread”.
The Unilever company launches this new product in a context that placed it suing a vegan mayonnaise, Hampton Creek, a San Francisco start-up that makes an egg-free emulsion called Just Mayo. Unilever sued the company in 2014, saying the "Just Mayo" name was misleading as it did not contain eggs, as required by federal mayonnaise identification standards, but after intense debate between the parties and harsh criticism. On the part of Hampton and related organizations, Unilever withdraws the lawsuit, and it is not just that, since after this the company launches a new product… vegan.
When asked if Hellmann’s new expansion was the company's response to “Just Mayo,” Russell Lilly's chief marketing officer said it was simply catering to the tastes of its customers.
“The whole point is to offer options to the millions of Hellmann’s fans,” Lilly said. To attract more customers, Hellmann’s is also introducing its first organic mayonnaise this month.
Although Unilever ended up dropping its lawsuit against Hampton Creek, the case made the labeling of "mayonnaise" and "mayo" a surprisingly controversial issue.
The parties eventually reached an agreement that allowed Just Mayo to keep its name, in exchange for a couple of label adjustments to make it clearer that it does not contain eggs.
In a phone interview, Josh Tetrick (Hampton Creek CEO) said that he does not feel threatened by Hellmann’s latest product, and that such choices from major food companies will help create a larger market for plant-based alternatives.
"I hope Kraft follows Unilever, so I hope Kraft and Unilever compete," Tetrick said.