Mayo mess calls sandwich spread into question

Whether on a sandwich or mixed with chicken and walnuts, mayo can certainly make a mess. But now it's also making a mess in court.

Food giant Unilever is suing Hampton Creek, a start-up company making an eggless spread that tastes like mayonnaise, accusing it of false advertising and fraud.

Called "Just Mayo," the product is plant based and, as a result, a viable food option for people who either can't eat animal protein or don't want to.

Although the lawsuit is somewhat complex, at its core, Unilever, the maker of Hellmann's mayonnaise and Best Foods mayonnaise, argues because "Just Mayo" does not contain eggs it fails to meet the Food and Drug Administration's definition of mayonnaise.

On CNBC's "Closing Bell" Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick said he expected to win the suit. "We don't call our product just mayonnaise, we call it 'Just Mayo;' that's for a reason."

CEO Josh Tetrick holds a species of yellow pea used to make Just Mayo, a plant-based mayonnaise, at Hampton Creek Foods in San Francisco, Dec. 3, 2013.
Eric Risberg | AP Photo
CEO Josh Tetrick holds a species of yellow pea used to make Just Mayo, a plant-based mayonnaise, at Hampton Creek Foods in San Francisco, Dec. 3, 2013.

Earlier this year, Hampton Creek was identified by CNBC in the network's "Disruptor 50" series, because of its commitment to disrupting the food industry with new ways of utilizing plants to replace eggs in a variety of different products.

On June 20, Tetrick appeared on "Mad Money," to explain his products, which received a thumbs up from Jim Cramer. After trying the company's new egg-equivalent products, Cramer declared them to be "absolutely delicious."

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On Wednesday's "Closing Bell" Tetrick added the argument between mayonnaise and "Just Mayo" was somewhat off point. "We need to have a larger conversation about food and our food system," he said.

The mission of Hampton Creek is to make healthy food that's affordable. "And thanks to the attention coming from Unilever's lawsuit, more people know we're trying to do that," Tetrick said.