Multinational consumer goods company Unilever, makers of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, recently filed a lawsuit against a California company alleging its use and marketing of the term “mayo” in reference to its egg-free sandwich spread does not meet dictionary definitions.
Unilever’s complaint filed in federal court claims false advertising and unfair competition by Hampton Creek through the sale of its product “Just Mayo,” which Unilever says is misleading to consumers and takes market share from its Hellmann’s and Best Foods products.
“By calling its vegan sandwich spread Just Mayo, Hampton Creek falsely communicates to consumers that Just Mayo is mayonnaise, when it in fact, it is not,” the complaint states.
According to the Associated Press a marketing professor hired by Unilever to survey consumers found more than half thought Just Mayo was mayonnaise after seeing the label.
Unilever seeks a decision that would prohibit Hampton Creek from using the term mayo as well as a removal of all products from store shelves in addition to monetary damages.
But the lawsuit could backfire.
A petition started on Change.org has garnered more than 16,500 signatures and Hampton Creek reported on its Facebook page that more Just Mayo product was sold on Monday than any other day in company history.
San Francisco-based Hampton Creek launched its first product Just Mayo—which replaces eggs with a plant-based alternative—as part of the company’s commitment to sustainability and healthy food. The company sells its products at Safeway, Target, Whole Foods and Dollar Tree among others.