Justice Is Served: FDA Says ‘Just Mayo’ Can Keep Its Name
No need to stockpile your favorite vegan mayo for 2016: It seems the battle over Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo may finally be over.
In an early Christmas present for the Silicon Valley food-tech start-up, the Food and Drug Administration has reversed itself and decided to allow the company to continue to use the Just Mayo name for a product that’s not, technically speaking, mayonnaise, as it isn’t made with eggs.
The decision follows a compromise the agency worked out with Hampton Creek, in which the company will tweak its label to prominently note that the sandwich spread is “egg-free” and to better emphasize that the “just” in “Just Mayo” refers adjectively to “reason, justice, and fairness”—not “just” as in “simply” or “only.” (You’re forgiven if that subtle play on words was lost on you amid the din of the grocery story—it was on me.)
It’s a message that Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick appears eager to hit home. “This isn’t a story about winning or losing. It’s a story about creating a just food system,” he says in a statement (emphasis, however, mine). “A food system that is healthier and stronger and more aligned with our values. It’s a story about a group of professionals and a young company thoughtfully engaged in that mission.”
Tetrick may only be pretending at humility here; the company’s press release goes on to call the FDA’s decision “historic” and to credit the agency’s change of heart to its recognition of “how we’re working to improve the food system”—because, you know, the behemoth federal regulatory agency has always proven itself to be so very forward-thinking.
But the folks at Hampton Creek probably deserve to engage in a bit of post-victory preening. After all, it’s been a hell of a year.
Yes, the start-up, which has attracted scads of venture capital with its vision of disrupting our food system by using plant-based alternatives to get rid of eggs, has seen itself hailed as visionary while managing to gets its flagship products on the shelves of retail giants ranging from Whole Foods to Walmart. But that success has also made it the target of some big foes.
First there was that lawsuit lobbed by Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s, the world’s No. 1 mayonnaise, charging Hampton Creek with false advertising and fraud. That ended exactly a year ago, when the giant food maker dropped its suit in the face of withering public criticism.
But then the FDA took up the cause, issuing a warning letter to Hampton Creek last August that any product marketed as mayo must contain eggs. And last month it was revealed that the American Egg Board, an industry-funded yet quasi-governmental group, had engaged in a systematic campaign to try to stifle the company.
That flap led to the early exit of the egg board’s CEO. And now the FDA has decided it’s A-OK with the Just Mayo name.
So, after all that drama, you can bet the folks at Hampton Creek will be toasting big at the holiday party this year. Eggless eggnog, anyone?