In a case that demonstrates everything that's wrong with our overly litigious society, a $60 billion corporation is suing a sustainable-food startup because (drum roll, please) the behemoth is losing customers to the underdog.
Unilever, the corporate overlord of Hellmann's and Best Foods mayonnaise brands, has filed suit against Hampton Creek, the innovative creator of the egg-free, sustainably made Just Mayo. Why? The corporation claims Just Mayo isn't actually mayonnaise (because it doesn't use eggs), so Hampton Creek is deceiving consumers.
Meanwhile, Just Mayo has beaten Hellmann's in taste tests, and Unilever has admitted it's losing market share. Sounds like sour eggs, um, grapes.
According to the New Jersey Law Journal, "Unilever is seeking to restrain Hampton Creek from referring to the product it sells as Just Mayo as mayonnaise, and from claiming that the product is superior in taste to the Hellmann's and Best Foods brands. The suit is also seeking the recall or withdrawal of all commercial labels, promotional materials, commercials, or letters containing false advertising of Just Mayo.
Oh, and the corporation wants "damages," of course.
In a statement, Unilever even has the cojones to claim the suit is all about upholding regulations that are in place to "protect consumers."
These corporate bigwigs should hang their heads in shame. But given that they're the purveyors of industrialized food, that's probably not likely.
In the words of the Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern (who started a petition to get Unilever to cease and desist):
"Hampton Creek is a startup food technology company striving to solve some of the world's biggest problems. It's using plants to create products to help ensure food security to feed starving people, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the healthfulness of foods, and end the cruel treatment of animals."
Zimmern himself chose Just Mayo over Hellmann's (his previous favorite brand) in a blind taste test. So did Serious Eats.
Basically, Hampton Creek is doing everything right, and that's earned it a lawsuit. Just Mayo is on the shelves at Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, and lots of other big-name retailers, and it's scaring the bejesus out of Unilever. Hampton Creek is taking some of the corporate behemoth's market share, and Unilever doesn't like it. In fact, the filing says as much.
But instead of making its own sustainable, cruelty-free creation, the corporation is embarking on frivolous lawsuits.
As Zimmern adds: "Unilever is not only contributing to these problems by using inhumane, unsustainable, and unhealthy ingredients, but rather than solving important global issues, is trying to prevent others from doing so. As an example, even purchasing just one jar of Hampton Creek's 'Just Mayo' instead of Best Foods/Hellmann's saves land and water usage, reduces CO2 emissions, eliminates hundreds of grams of cholesterol.
"When a 60 billion dollar company flexes its muscles to prevent a good-for-the-world startup company from succeeding, there are only two words for that: corporate bullying."
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You can sign the petition here, and please stop buying Hellmann's. Just Mayo tastes way better anyway.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.