Hampton Creek, a startup food technology company recently achieved a level of fame in a way not even a million dollar advertising company could have planned, all thanks to a lawsuit filed by Unilever. The multinational corporation has accused Hampton Creek of false advertising for its product ‘Just Mayo’ but it could be hampton Creek that has the last laugh.
Normally, a lawsuit relating to false claims would land a company or individual in the 'bad publicity' pool. Surprisingly, because of the lawsuit brought about by Unilever, Hampton Creek could experience something of the opposite effect. Their product Just Mayo uses plant proteins instead of eggs to make mayonnaise, in an effort to, as they say, provide a healthy, sustainable option to egg-based foods. The reason behind creating an eggless mayo product is to avoid cruelty to animals and reduce the amount of energy needed to produce egg-based products - the overall ratio of energy input to food energy output for chicken-laid eggs is about 39-to-1 whereas it is hardly 2-to-1 for ‘Just Mayo’.
The company, based in San Francisco, has been accused by Unilever of unfair business practices and false advertising on the basis that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s “standard of identity” and dictionary specifically states that mayonnaise includes egg yolk-containing ingredients and Just Mayo has no eggs, therefore cannot be labelled 'mayonnaise'. Even though the product ingredient label states that it does not contain any egg, Unilever is flexing its corporate muscle to maintain its market hold.
These alternative products help in providing a healthier and eco-friendlier option for customers. Hampton Creek has a mandate of keeping the cost of their products low so as not to be economiccaly out of reach for lower income shoppers. Though the company achieved a certain level of attention on their on merit and the quality of their products, the lawsuit filed by Unilever has resulted in enormous publicity for Hampton Creek and their product Just Mayo, giving them a larger platform to explain the philosophy behind their product and catch the attention of potential new customers.
While this may end up having a positive effect on Hampton Creek publicity-wise (we cannot speak to the financial impact, positive or negative, of the lawsuit), it does not mean we should let companies (particularly multinationals) that engage in corporate bullying off the hook. An online petition on change.org ‘Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies’ has gained almost 92,000 supporters within just three weeks of launching. If you too want to tell these multinational giants to maintain their distance, you can sign the petition here.
To learn more about Hampton Creek's sustainable approach to food, please visit their website.