A New LAtimes Article About Hampton Creek Captures the Attention of Many

What is mayonnaise, anyway? Love it or hate it, most people with an opinion on the matter think of the ubiquitous white condiment as an emulsion of eggs, oil, and vinegar. Even if it turns out that just what counts as mayonnaise is fairly settled ground, ideas as to what deserves the label “mayo” are more contentious and varied.

A recent LAtimes article about Hampton Creek, for example, makes this obvious. With a founder who is an athlete and a committed, almost lifelong vegan, the company produces a line of products known as “Just Mayo.” While the federal government lays down pretty strict rules about what can bear the label of “mayonnaise,” it turns out that it is much less strict about the abbreviated form of the name.

Either because of feeling threatened or just to make trouble, a competitor sued Hampton Creek, claiming that the naming and labeling were deceptive. With no eggs within to speak of, but a stylized sketch of one on the label, it might have been obvious that the product would not qualify as mayonnaise under the federal rules. At the same time, much more in terms of leeway with regard to the word “mayo” meant that the competitor eventually saw fit to drop the suit entirely.

Hampton Creek was likely breathing a corporate sign of relief at that point, but the story had not come to an end. Its own interest in the imbroglio aroused, the FDA began sniffing at Hampton Creek’s doorstep, eventually issuing a ruling on related matters. The company and the FDA come to a relatively amicable agreement, with Hampton Creek promising to add a disclaimer clarifying some of the wording and naming of its products.

Surprisingly to many observers, though, concessions regarding the label “mayo” were nowhere to be found. The FDA stood by its laissez faire attitude regarding that term, focusing instead on the use of the word “just” in the name of the products. After Hampton Creek agreed to add a note that it meant to evoke connotations of fairness and justice toward animals with that term, the FDA came away satisfied in what turned out to be one of the most interesting stories it was involved in last year.