The most stupid lawsuit in the entire history of stupid lawsuits has just been dropped, thanks in no small part to the litigators realizing that it was, well, a stupid lawsuit with zero chance of success. Mayo giant Unilever, which owns the Hellman’s and Best Foods brands, has dropped its lawsuit against Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo, just one day after the small startup announced it had attracted another $90 million in financing.
Unilever filed the lawsuit against Hampton Creek for violating truth-in-labeling laws, since there is an obscure 1957 FDA regulation specifying that mayonnaise must contain eggs. Unfortunately for Unilever, the company was itself selling healthier mayonnaise-style products that didn’t live up to the FDA’s definition either. What’s more, after filing its lawsuit, the company began quietly modifying its website to alter references to these products.
As is typically the case in this sort of thing, Unilever isn’t admitting wrongdoing, and instead issued a mealy-mouthed non-apology over the incident:
Unilever has decided to withdraw its lawsuit against Hampton Creek so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities.
For its part, Hampton Creek likely owes Unilever a massive thank-you for generating a level of publicity that money can’t buy. Dozens of major media pieces covered the incident, nearly all siding against Unilever for bullying and displaying a level of dickish intent rare even among multinational food conglomerates.
So now, the “Mayo Wars” will be won, not in the courtroom but in the marketplace. Given that Just Mayo’s the better, healthier product, don’t be surprised if one day it edges past Hellman’s/Best Foods as the #1 selling brand of mayo.