When is Mayo Mayo? And When is it Not? Hampton Creek Knows the Answer
From its introduction into Whole Foods in September 2013, Just Mayo has garnered media coverage far beyond that normally associated with a new vegan product. Hampton Creek, a San Francisco based food-tech company tried more than 1,500 plants over a two year period before settling upon the final formula. The resultant spread contains no eggs, replacing them in the ingredient listing with a protein derived from a variety of yellow split pea primarily grown in Canada.
In just over a year Just Mayo was available nationwide in retail grocery chains including Walmart, Kroger, Costco and other mainstream outlets in addition to Whole Foods. This led the Unilever, parent company of Hellmann’s, the brand with the largest market share of mayonnaise, to bring suit in federal court in October 2014 claiming false advertising. The suit was based on a decades-old decree by the FDA that mayonnaise must contain at least 65% oil, and an egg-yolk product. The suit was subsequently dropped when Hampton Creek agreed to make label modifications. Interestingly, Unilever soon followed with its own egg-free mayonnaise.
With the success of Just Mayo Hampton Creek continued to expand its market share, and increased the number and variety of products. As of the end of 2015 the company was poised to add 43 new products to the five varieties of Just Mayo featured in stores. Although not using eggs in their formula was the issue which made headlines initially, all of the products use plant based ingredients to replace all animal products, not just eggs. One of the goals of Hampton Creek continues to be to change the way people think about food, and to be more environmentally conscious.
The company does not base its advertising and sales on being vegan, although all of its products certainly qualify for that description. What they have done is make food available to low and medium income consumers at a price competitive with traditional brands. This opens the market for those who cannot afford to shop the higher priced health food chains.
Just Mayo is the product that launched Hampton Creek as a national producer, and will soon be joined on the shelves by many more products. The food chemists and scientists in the San Francisco laboratory are testing another 500 products for eventual release.