FDA Says Hampton Creek Can't Call This Product 'Mayonnaise'

Unilever Had Sued at One Point Over Eggless 'Just Mayo'

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Hampton Creek's Just Mayo.
Hampton Creek's Just Mayo. Credit: Business Wire

Just Mayo just isn't.

Hampton Creek Foods, the healthy-food startup backed by investors including Bill Gates, can't refer to its vegan-friendly sandwich spread as mayonnaise because it doesn't have eggs in it, U.S. regulators said.

The company's Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha also contain ingredients that "are not permitted by the standard of identity for mayonnaise, such as modified food starch," the Food and Drug Administration said in a warning letter to Hampton Creek, whose investors also include Silicon Valley luminaries Peter Thiel and Vinod Khosla. The letter was dated Aug. 12 and was posted online Tuesday.

"The use of the term 'mayo' in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food, mayonnaise," the FDA said.

Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The San Francisco-based company calls itself "the world's fastest growing food company" and sells its products at stores run by Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Target. Tetrick has said Hampton Creek's mission is to make food healthier and more affordable. The company has raised $120 million in funding, including a $90 million round last December, according to CrunchBase. Hampton Creek also sells Just Cookies, which its website says are cholesterol free, all natural, sustainable and affordable.

Major marketers enlisting courts against small rivals
Unilever, which makes Hellmann's mayonnaise, sued Hampton Creek last October, alleging that its Just Mayo brand was misleading because it contains no eggs. The suit follwed Procter & Gamble Co. suing Hello Products, charging that its toothpaste's "99% Natural" claim was misleading given a batch of ingredients that were chemically processed, and Nestle suing Blue Buffalo for saying some of its products have no animal by-products or grain.

That was a departure from years of relying on the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, and came as major marketers suffered slowing growth. But the big marketers said they were just going after "egregiously" false marketing claims.

Unilever withdrew its lawsuit against Hampton Creek in December so the startup could work with regulators on the description of its products.

The FDA also said Hampton Creek can't claim its Just Mayo is cholesterol-free and make statements that imply the product is heart-healthy because there is too much fat in it to make health claims.

The FDA gave Hampton Creek 15 working days to respond to the letter.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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