Just Mayo, Just Playing with the Truth?

Hampton Creek, the startup that sells Just Mayo, is having another dance in the news media about its truthfulness in pursuit of selling vegan mayo “guided by justice, reason, and fairness.” This time, Bloomberg is reporting that it conducted an undercover operation in 2014 to make its fake mayonnaise product seem like a hit.

Bloomberg reports that Hampton Creek hired contractors to buy up the product at the company’s expense. They instructed the contractors not to wear company gear so their actions would not be recognized. Hampton Creek disputes the report and says those activities were for “quality control.”

Bloomberg also reports that Hampton Creek instructed the contractors to call stores “as a customer to create buzz and increase demand,” thus “putting pressure” on buyers for those stores. Bloomberg raised questions about Hampton Creek’s accounting transparency and ethics in conducting these operations.

These questions follow a tussle with the FDA about calling their egg-free product “Just Mayo.” FDA contended that the label was misleading. Mayonnaise is defined as a product made with real eggs. Hampton Creek contended that the word “just” didn’t mean the product was simply mayonnaise. It was meant to convey an ethic of “justice, reason, and fairness.” FDA and the company settled their dispute with a compromise to make that meaning more explicit on the label.

When you have a cause – like sustainable, plant-based nutrition – it’s easy to think that the ends justify the means. But these shenanigans sound like they have very little to do with “justice, reason, and fairness.” It sounds a little more like rationalization and self-deception.

Click here to read more from Bloomberg.

Æggemadder, photograph © cyclonebill / flickr

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August 8, 2016