Like a school bully taking away your lunch, Unilever, the corporation dominating the mayonnaise market (it owns Best Foods and Hellmann's), is suing the celebrated company Hampton Creek over their cruelty-free alternative, "Just Mayo." This highly successful plant-based product is animal and eco-friendly, healthy, delicious, convenient, and cheap-it's even sold at the Dollar Tree (and is widely available in grocery stores). That's great news for people, animals, and the planet.
But it's a threat to corporations who profit from animal abuse. Unilever says since Just Mayo doesn't contain eggs, consumers are deceived by the label "Just Mayo," and that hurts Unilever's sales. But with more than a little egg on its face, Hellmann's recently tweaked product descriptions on its website-because some of its own mayonnaise didn't qualify as mayonnaise. That's just awkward.
Real false-advertising lawsuits hold powerful corporations accountable to the law. That's why groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund file false-advertising lawsuits against animal-abusing corporations. For example, Tyson Foods, the largest producer of chicken and second-largest producer of beef and pork products in the nation, uses cruel "broiler-houses" for chickens and "gestation crates" for pregnant pigs, yet called themselves a leader in animal welfare. California egg producers used misleading packaging that falsely implied their eggs came from hens who roamed free outdoors. The nation's largest force-fed foie gras producer called themselves "humane," while force-feeding young ducks, until we stopped them. That's what we do.
Because pretending to be eco-friendly and humane-while destroying the planet and harming animals-is "greenwashing." It's deceptive, but effective. Studies show that 85% of consumers will spend more on products they think are safer for animals and the environment. That's why courts should intervene when consumers are unfairly deceived; that's false-advertising, and that's illegal.
But that's not even close to what's happening in Unilever's lawsuit. The Wall Street Journal called this lawsuit "the latest battle between established food companies and the emerging natural and organic-food producers that are luring skeptical consumers away from traditional packaged foods." Public health attorney Michele Simon writes in her food policy blog that the lawsuit is "just a desperate attempt to get the courts to intervene in marketplace competition." Not only is Unilever clogging people's arteries with egg-laden products, now they are clogging the courts with frivolous lawsuits too.
Conscientious consumers are not colorblind; they can tell eco-green from the brown of baloney. If it looks like mayo and tastes like mayo, but lacks cholesterol and cruelty, it's Just Mayo. If it's harming sales, tastes better, costs less, and is cruelty-free, that's just smart.
With products like Just Mayo, Hampton Creek is doing the right thing. Their products–the company also makes cookie dough you can eat without the risk of Salmonella-are legitimately cruelty-free and better for the environment. So this lawsuit against innovative makers of a truly "green" product may be the worst greenwashing of all. Companies like Hampton Creek are shaping the future of food, according to Bill Gates, one of their investors. One day, plant-based products may sustain our planet, and that's just amazing.