What’s In a Name? Consumers Give This Some Thought in Regard to Various Commercial Food Products

Products with a great reputation from Hampton Creek food technology firm keep fans eagerly awaiting new arrivals. It all started with an egg-free mayonnaise alternative called Just Mayo, which is currently available in four flavors. When consumer good corporation Unilever suspected Just Mayo might become a major competitor to its Hellman’s brand, it filed suit against Hampton Creek. The alleged offensive action appeared to involve implying that the sandwich spread was authentic mayonnaise, although the label doesn’t include that word. It shows an image of a small plant in front of an egg, conveying the idea that the substance contains plants instead of eggs. Unilever eventually withdrew the lawsuit, but the scenario attracted consumer attention and appeared to boost sales of Just Mayo.

Many people wondered what the problem was. A large number of commercial processed foods in stores have names and labels indicating certain qualities while not stating they contain related specific ingredients. An example would be cereals that are promoted as fruity, even though they contain minuscule or no amount of fruit. Soft drinks also are labeled by flavors such as orange, cherry and lemon-lime, even if they don’t contain any fruit juice. The idea is that they taste like fruit. Essentially, that’s what Hampton Creek did with Just Mayo: crafted an egg-free sandwich spread that tastes like mayonnaise and has the same texture.

The difference between Just Mayo and these faux fruit items is that Just Mayo might be considered healthier than traditional mayonnaise in certain respects. It has zero cholesterol, for example. It doesn’t contain any genetically modified organisms. It also doesn’t have synthetic dyes or artificial flavors.

The dairy industry put up a bit of a fuss over so many non-dairy beverages being called milk, but that was also to no avail. Consumers can still buy soy, almond, coconut and rice milk. Many people prefer these substances over cow’s milk, believing the plant-based beverages are healthier. People also can buy soy cheese with no milk content and vegetarian sausage without any meat. What’s in a name? As long as the labeling makes it clear that a product is an alternative to something else, consumers know the difference.