Unilever Pulls Lawsuit Against Just Mayo Maker Hampton Creek

Unilever, the maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, withdrew a lawsuit against startup Hampton Creek Foods Inc. over the labeling of its Just Mayo product.

A unit of London- and Rotterdam-based Unilever, the world’s biggest seller of mayonnaise, had accused San Francisco-based Hampton Creek of misleading consumers because its Just Mayo implies the product is mayonnaise, even though it doesn’t contain eggs. The ensuing debate over what defines mayonnaise created a backlash for the European company after Unilever edited consumer comments about mayo on its website.

Unilever pulled the suit “so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities,” Mike Faherty, vice president for foods at Unilever’s North American unit, said in a statement yesterday. “We believe Hampton Creek will take the appropriate steps in labeling its products going forward.”

The public spat with Hampton Creek, a far smaller competitor backed by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Chinese billionaire Li Ka-Shing, cast light upon the struggles Unilever has had in its food division, which also sells spreads such as Country Crock and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Yesterday, Hampton Creek said it had received another $90 million in funding from investors including Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., and Facebook Inc. co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

“Hampton Creek was founded to open our eyes to the problems the world faces,” Chief Executive Officer Josh Tetrick said in an e-mailed statement provided by the U.S. company. “This moment has only validated why.”

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