The Mayo Wars Come to Flavor Town
When it comes to food packaging and labeling, small changes in language can mean a big difference to the product within. We all know that Kraft American Singles aren’t cheese, they are a processed cheese product.
In the past 100% juice was likely to have been made from concentrated grape or apple juices regardless of what the color, words, or images on the label may have implied.
And while this practice has encountered legal challenges, it’s still perfectly okay for Dunkin’ Donuts to sell a blueberry donut, that doesn’t have a speck of blueberry in it. Despite the apparent presence of blueberry specks throughout the interior, those “flavor crystals” are made from sugar, corn syrup, corn cereal, corn starch, hydrogenated palm oil, artificial flavor, red 40, green 3, and blue 1.
It’s been almost a year and a half since I wrote about Just Mayo, Deception, and Unilever. I found it to be amusing that Unilever, such a master actor in the field of deceptive product packaging, was taking issue with a relatively small vegan mayo maker, Hampton Creek.
Well, recently the food giant decided to try and tackle the neophyte head on.
Unilever is the parent company of Hellmann’s and Best Foods mayonnaise, along with about a gajillion other food brands. The brilliantly deceptive Breyers is amongst their holdings. As are a long list of imitation foods like Brummel & Brown, Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Imperial Margarine, Mrs. Filbert’s, Planta, Promise, and Stork margarine.
The problem was that Hellmann’s was losing market share to this vegan upstart. So Hellmann’s decided to create a vegan spread too. And someone in marketing decided to call the line extension, “Carefully Crafted.”
Well, after suing Hampton Creek over the word “Mayo” which had long been used to describe eggless mayonnaise alternatives, Unilever would surely get flack for putting the word on its vegan offering.
For the record, Unilever did end up dropping the lawsuit and Hampton Creek worked out a deal with the FDA.
So how is the Hellman’s “Carefully Crafted” product? Having grown up with Hellmann’s I have a strong affinity for the brand. Its flavor profile and texture have always been my definition for store bought mayonnaise.
I bought a jar of Carefully Crafted to put head to head against Just Mayo.
On paper, the two products are surprisingly similar. Just Mayo is made from canola oil, filtered water, white vinegar, organic sugar, salt, pea protein, spices, modified food starch, lemon juice concentrate, fruit and vegetable juice (color), calcium disodium EDTA (to preserve freshness). Carefully Crafted is soybean oil, water, sugar, distilled vinegar, salt, modified food starch, lemon juice concentrate, natural flavor, and calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality).
But when it comes to appearance, taste, and performance Just Mayo clearly comes out on top.
While I hate to admit that color plays a role in my enjoyment of a food, the stark bright whiteness of Carefully Crafted is a bit off-putting. It’s so white that I wonder if there’s actually a whitening agent involved. But I can’t find one on the label, so I assume that’s just the natural color. And while I know that Just Mayo adds a bit of fruit and vegetable juice to achieve the color that would otherwise come from egg yolks, I’m okay with that.
Taste can be subjective. But I find the Just Mayo to have better flavor too. And I was actually surprised by this. I really thought that since the Hellmann’s product used “natural flavor” it would have the advantage. At the very least I expected the Unilever food scientists to be able to more closely replicate the flavor of the core brand mayonnaise from my youth.
But it’s the richer, fuller texture of the Just Mayo that I enjoy the most. It holds up the best when dragging my hot, crispy, pan fried potato wedges through a mound of the stuff. That said, the Carefully Crafted does a fine job for tasks like enriching a slaw.
Ultimately though, Just Mayo is the mayonnaise substitute for me.
Yes, I know, I really should make my own real mayonnaise. And I do. On occasion. However, it’s impossible for me to make a small batch of it. And the real stuff is so damn good, that I’ll eat what I make. And that’s not good for the diet.
There’s a role for store bought processed foods. There is. Sometimes you want to have things with a longer shelf life that you can use a tablespoon at a time. And I’m okay with that. At least on occasion. You know, when I don’t think about it too hard.
I guess it’s easier to make a vegan mayo from the ground up. Which I suppose makes a certain amount of sense. Bravo to Hampton Creek, and best wishes for continued success.