If your job is to promote one specific ingredient, and an upstart company with backing from none other than Bill Gates comes along with a new product it claims more or less eliminates the need for your ingredient, you’re going to do what you can to protect your cause. And so it is perhaps unsurprising that a recently unearthed trove of emails reportedly reveals staffers at the American Egg Board working with a PR firm, as well as coordinating with the makers of Hellman’s, in an effort to dissuade Americans from buying the egg-free Just Mayo.
American Egg Board CEO Joanne Ivy also apparently reached out to a consultant she hoped would be able to keep Just Mayo off the shelves at Whole Foods (it didn’t work), and spoke with someone at Unilever, which makes Hellman’s mayonnaise, when the company first sued Hampton Creek, which makes Just Mayo. According to The Guardian, Ivy wrote in one email:
I just got off the phone with a guy working with the Unilever case with Hampton Creek … He wanted me to say that we supported Unilever in this lawsuit against Hampton Creek, but I told him that we could not take a position. However, since the regulation requires egg in mayo and the product does not, I said that they should make sure the FDA is aware to address this situation. I feel sure they are aware, but maybe they need to be pushed.
That was in November 2014. On August 12, the FDA did, in fact, address the situation in a letter to Hampton Creek, writing that mayo is pretty obviously meant to be shorthand for mayonnaise, and that any product called mayonnaise has to have eggs, which Just Mayo does not. Publicly, anyway, Hampton Creek CEO remains undeterred, saying there’s no reason for the company to rename its product. It’s unclear just how tenable that stance will prove to be, though. As one expert on the matter recently told the Times, “The company and the F.D.A. may have a back-and-forth and come to an agreement about modification of the label, but certainly it does seem that the F.D.A. is on fairly strong footing.”