Hampton Creek Prevails and Secures Stronger Branding in the Process

On the one hand, mayonnaise is a simple emulsion of eggs and oil, with vinegar added to provide some zing. That basic formula has held up for hundreds of years, with plenty of little embellishments along the way also becoming popular. While mayonnaise in its everyday glory is an important part of culinary life for many people all around the world, it does not always hit the mark. Vegans, for example, have long had trouble with replacing it, with the eggs that seemed to be so essential proving to be difficult to find a substitute for.

That changed recently, when Hampton Creek introduced a vegan alternative, an unveiling that also proved that mayonnaise is not so inherently simple as is generally assumed. With the label “Just Mayo” suggesting something particular to both customers and competitors, it was not long before a legal challenge was filed by one of the latter.

In the end, the company’s lawyers proved to have done plenty of research of their own, and the original case was dropped. Apparently alerted to the product by the media coverage of the suit, though, the Food and Drug Administration starting investigating things more closely itself. Not to be swayed by another bump in the road, though, the company stuck to its guns and once again came out the winner.

That might seem like a lot of trouble over something simple, but the issues involved ended up proving to be surprisingly significant. First, there was the question of whether “mayo” is the same as “mayonnaise,” a possible distinction that might not originally have occurred to most. Second came the issue of whether a stylized egg on the product labeling might itself deceive consumers, even while clear promises of vegan content within would seem to suggest that no such items were used in making it.

Finally, the company also had to answer as to its usage of the word “just,” and this turned out to be the only place where it had to make a concession. Far from proving to be an actual setback, though, the clarification that the word referred to justice ended up turning into a branding asset of its own and an easy way to wrap up a minor controversy.