A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Rose: 4 Reasons Why Just Mayo is Just Fine
If you didn’t already know, the FDA sent a warning letter to Hampton Creek over their Just Mayo product misrepresenting mayonnaise. Unilever filed a similar lawsuit in October of 2014 only to drop it a few months later. The claim here is that Just Mayo cannot use the word “mayo” unless the product contains eggs.
Since then Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo has gained significant market share, and recently became the only mayo to be used in all of 7-Eleven’s prepared foods in the United States.
Why does Unilever care? Because Unilever is the parent company of mayo brands Best Foods and Hellmann’s. In Bloomberg’s top 25 list of best-selling condiments in the U.S., the #1 spot belongs to Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise. The #4 spot belongs to Best Foods Real Mayonnaise.
Here are 4 reasons why Unilever’s lawsuit and FDA’s warning letter are preposterous:
1. You can take the egg out of the mayo, but you can’t take out the oil
If there’s a defining ingredient to mayo, it’s oil. Sure, you can find egg-free and oil-free mayos, but they’re often essentially nut-based spreads… which can also be very good.
To get an idea of the proportions used in typical mayo recipes, Europe’s Federation of the Condiment Sauce Industries recommends at least 70% oil and 5% egg yolk.
Even with the earliest mayonnaise recipes, eggs were only one possible emulsifier. The other possibilities were gelatin, veal, or veal brain glaze (gross!).
2. The original mayonnaise recipe did not contain eggs
In 1806, Alexandre Viard used aspic or jelly rather than eggs.
3. Let’s call it what it really is
If the word “mayonnaise” is sacred, then maybe all oil/egg mayos should be forced to use the correct version of it. Among the various possible origins of the condiment, it appears that the original name may have been “moyeunaise” or “salsa mahonesa.” I’m not sure if Hellmann’s Real Moyeunaise would be favorable to Unilever.
4. Nobody else wants to have this precedent set
If the FDA requires that a product is synonymous with certain ingredients, then surely the name of the product (if it references certain ingredients) is also synonymous with those ingredients. If we let this precedent happen, then there are many other products that also must change. Here’s a partial list of foods that do not contain the items that are referenced in the name of the product:
- Goldfish (Pepperidge Farms)
- Chicken of the Sea Tuna
- Bac’n Pieces (McCormick) and Baco’s (Betty Crocker)
- Froot Loops (Kellogg’s)
- Fruity Cheerios (General Mills)
- Honey Nut Cheerios (General Mills… contains “natural almond flavor” but no nuts)
- Lemon Cream Oreo’s (Nabisco)
- Hot dogs (There are no dogs in any hot dogs! … as far as I know. If we’re going for full-transparency, I’d love to see the ingredients of hot dogs incorporated into the product name. Then let’s see how many people keep eating those things.)