Big Mayo Blows It; Bullying Tactic Backfires


Unilever’s Bullying Backfires, Boosts Hampton Creek ‏

Fri 11/14/14

Negative media coverage of Big Mayo lawsuit goes viral in case study of PR blunder

 Business schools love a good case study, especially when a big corporation blows it. Now they can add Unilever’s colossal public relations mistake to their list. Wall Street Journal tech columnist Christopher Mims summed it up with this tweet: “Giant Corporation Generates Huge Quantities of Free Advertising and Brand Equity For Tiny Rival by Suing It”.

As I predicted earlier this week in my post about the maker of Hellmann’s suing start-up Hampton Creek over egg-free mayonnaise, the press and social media firestorm in just the past few days has already given Unilever a black eye, while the Just Mayo brand enjoys free positive PR. Almost all of the stories (of more than 200) I saw online were in Hampton Creek’s favor, framing the lawsuit as a classic David versus Goliath fight, at times mocking Unilever.

The Washington Post was perplexed, running the headline, “Big Food’s weird war over the meaning of mayonnaise” and calling the case “a strangely defensive stance for Unilever, a Big Food titan that made more than $64 billion last year selling foodstuffs in nearly 200 countries (including I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, a spread that is not butter”).

Here are a few more examples of media hits:

·         The subtitle of the Fortune coverage was “Owner of Hellmann’s lashes out at a startup that is taking market share from the giant”

·         Forbes reported that “A big guy is suing the little guy, and someone is going to end up with egg on their face”

·’s subhead read “In a David vs. Goliath battle over sandwich spread labeling, things could get messy”

·         The Politico headline read “Food Startup Battles ‘Big Mayo’ Amid Policy Push” and called Hampton Creek a “tiny Silicon Valley startup” (actually San Francisco)

·         The Los Angeles Times started its story with “Big Tobacco, Big Oil, now Big Mayo?”

·         The UK’s Daily Mail’s coverage began “It is a classic David and Goliath Fight”

Even business-friendly television outlets favored Hampton Creek over Unilever, including Morning Joe and CNBC’s Closing Bell, where the lawsuit was mocked by a host noting how the Mayo Clinic does not have egg in it either, so maybe Unilever will go after them next. While CEO Josh Tetick was explaining his company’s mission, the program ran background footage of cute children spreading Just Mayo on sandwiches.

Several stories also went out of their way to beat up on Unilever for poor economic performance. For example, the international business paper, Financial Times explained how Unilever’s food division “experienced a fall in sales in the first six months of the year.” The Wall Street Journal painted a contrast of the success of Hampton Creek with the decline of Unilever:

In less than a year, Just Mayo has landed shelf space in major retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Wal-Mart Stores, responding to consumer demand for foods perceived as healthier with simpler ingredients and better for animal welfare and the environment. The company expects Just Mayo to be sold in 39,000 locations by start of next year.

This paragraph was immediately followed by:

Unilever’s food business, which accounts for about 27% of its revenue, has struggled in recent years as it has focused on higher-margin personal-care products that appeal in emerging markets. In the last two years, the company has sold underperforming food brands including Skippy peanut butter and Ragu pasta source. In its most recent quarter, food was the only one of Unilever’s four divisions to have slower sales growth.

Just Mayo images splashed everywhere

Every story I saw also spoke glowingly of Hampton Creek’s financial backing and fast rise to success. Adding insult to injury for Unilever, almost every media outlet used pictures such as those above of the Just Mayo product or an image of the photogenic CEO Josh Tetrick alongside his Just Mayo brand, as did even the Wall Street Journal.

And this local San Francisco area TV news report shows lots of energetic activity at the startup’s facility. A story uses the subheads of “Horse and buggy definition” to describe FDA’s recipe for mayonnaise that Unilever relies on, and describes Hampton Creek’s response to the lawsuit: “Antiquated thinking won’t feed the world or strengthen the planet.” The article also shows this image from Hampton Creek’s website.


In more free advertising, Business Insider used this image for its story.


Further aiding Hampton Creek’s cause, many articles ended with a reference to the petition started by celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, and several included the petition’s title, “Stop Bullying Sustainable Food Companies”. (The number of signatures now tops 24,000.)

A small company like Hampton Creek can’t pay for the positive press this lawsuit has generated. And according to their Twitter feed, they received 51,000 messages of support and most importantly, sales were higher than they’ve ever been. (Hampton Creek tweeted this picture of what looks like a Costco shelf showing Just Mayo almost sold out, right next to a full pallet of Best Foods mayonnaise.)

On my own blog post and on Twitter, several people responded by saying they had never heard of Just Mayo, but would now try it, some out of sheer spite. For example one said, “Because of a frivolous lawsuit I now have Just Mayo on my radar. Look forward to trying it.” And another, “Thanks Unilever. I had never heard of this Mayo, now I can’t wait to try it.”

Unilever’s media team MIA

Unilever compounded how much Hampton Creek owned the media by going radio silent. According to several news outlets and two reporters I spoke to, Unilever was non-responsive. See for example, the New York Times(“Unilever did not immediately respond Monday to requests for comment”), Forbes (“Officials at Unilever who were contacted by email did not respond to requests for comment”), and Fortune (“Unilever has not responded to requests for comment”).

On Monday, the Washington Post said “messages were not returned”, but then on Tuesday the paper added this emailed statement from a nameless and faceless Unilever spokesperson: “Our concern here is not about innovation, it is about misleading labelling. We simply wish to protect both consumers from being misled and also our brand.”

A pretty tepid response for the world’s second largest consumer packaged corporation. And it was too late.

The Washington Post also noted that “The suit comes at a touchy time for Unilever, which just launched an ad campaign promoting itself as devoted to sustainability.” Indeed, this week Unilever launched its “Project Sunlight”, which appears to be about child hunger, but I can’t tell what Unilever is doing about it except creating a nicewebsite and ad campaign touting its previous donations. Talk about bad timing. A Google news search for “Unilever” results in only eight articles about Project Sunlight, compared to 265 mostly unflattering articles about the Big Mayo lawsuit.

And on Unilever’s Facebook page, Project Sunlight’s warm and fuzzy posts about child hunger are getting drowned out by angry comments reacting to the lawsuit. One suggests a better use of resources:

Unilever is stifling innovation and competition by suing a small smart-up which has developed a more affordable, sustainable Mayo than Hellmann’s. If Unilever were truly committed to causes like ending child hunger, perhaps they would have redirected the costs of this lawsuit that way rather than in pursuit of this frivolous claim.

Numerous commenters say they will no longer buy Unilever products. Here is one example:

If this lawsuit story is indeed accurate, I will purge my entire household of any Unilever product, make it a priority to never buy anything made by Unilever again, and tell every single person I know why. Petty is a fitting word to describe such a lawsuit.

In another sign the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick shared an email with Fortune that he received from Unilever’s Global VP of marketing just days after the suit was filed. It read: “Love what you are doing…Very much in line with our Unilever Project Sunlight #brightfuture philosophy.”

Unilever’s future is not looking so bright right now.

Failure to communicate

How did this happen? How did a huge company that decided to go on the offensive and file a lawsuit get caught unprepared by the resulting media firestorm, while a startup being accused of alleged wrongdoing was happy to talk to the press, ran with it, and came out looking like a hero?

The first rule of public relations is get out in front of the story to control the message. Unilever didn’t even bother to try. Perhaps the legal department filed the lawsuit and figured it would stay quiet, or just never even thought to run it by communications. The company’s lawyers filed the case in New Jersey federal court on October 31. That’s when the press release should have gone out, to tell their story first. Instead, Unilever let their target, who they claim is in the wrong, garner all of the media sympathy. And when asked for comment, Unilever still couldn’t be found, and when they finally did respond, it was weak. That’s failing public relations in three different ways: not being proactive, the dreaded refusal to comment, and then offering an ineffective response.

Perhaps it’s a sign of a corporation so huge that the right people don’t even talk to each other anymore. That nobody at Unilever anticipated this media reaction is also a troubling sign of being out of touch. Unilever executives should take a hard look inward. Time will tell if the company is able to recover from this massive PR blunder. Meanwhile, Hampton Creek can enjoy the bump, courtesy of Unilever. Self-inflicted wounds hurt the most.


Western Australian feedlot vandalised and truck set alight by anti live export ‘radicals’


Open Letter To The Pope by Tom Regan

Open Letter To The Pope
By Tom Regan

As you move through the second year of your Papacy, all Christians pray fervently and hopefully for your good health and fortitude on behalf of justice, mercy and peace-both in the church and in the world.

As someone who shares your commitment to justice to all of God’s creatures, I was delighted by your choice of name: Francis.

Of all the many virtues your Namesake possessed, none is more synonymous with his name than his love of animals. He called them his “brothers” and “sisters,” and was famous for preaching to the birds – and even to the fish! On one occasion, he persuaded a wolf to stop attacking local farmers if the farmers agreed to feed the wolf. To turn a carnivore into a vegan? Nothing better represents the power of Saint Francis.

How did Saint Francis think his brothers and sisters in fur, feather and fin should be treated? He must have believed that what happens to them matters to them apart from any human interest. Why would he think in those terms? Because what happens to them makes a difference to the quality and duration of their life. Either they live a long and fruitful life, which Saint Francis preferred, or they suffered and died prematurely.

Of course, Pope Francis, like the rest of us, surely believes that ill-treatment to any of God’s creatures surely is against God’s will. Whether animals have rights or not, surely they deserve to be treated with mercy and kindness, gratitude and sympathy, respect and admiration. Who in their right mind can be against humane care and treatment of creatures

Well, evidently it depends.

Consider some examples of what happens to animals in research laboratories.

Cats, dogs, nonhuman primates, and other animals are drowned, suffocated, and starved to death.
They are burned, subjected to radiation, and used as “guinea pigs” in military research.
Their eyes are surgically removed and their hearing is destroyed.
They have their limbs severed and organs crushed.
Invasive means are used to give them heart attacks, ulcers, and seizures.
They are deprived of sleep, subjected to electric shock, and exposed to extremes of heat and cold.

Every one of these procedures and outcomes complies with every federal law everywhere. Each conforms with what federal inspectors count as “humane care and treatment.”

This same ideology applies to how farmed animals are treated.

It is standard procedure to have “veal” calves spend their entire life individually confined to narrow stalls too narrow for them to turn around in.
Laying hens live a year or more in cages the size of a filing drawer, seven or more per cage, after which they routinely are starved for two weeks to encourage another laying cycle.
Female hogs are housed for four or five years in individual barred enclosures (“gestation stalls”), barely wider than their bodies, where they are forced to birth litter after litter.
Until comparatively recently, due to the “Mad Cow” scare, beef and dairy cattle too weak to stand (“downers”) were dragged or pushed to their slaughter.
Geese and ducks are force-fed the human equivalent of thirty pounds of food per day to enlarge their liver, the better to meet the demand for foie gras.

All these conditions and procedures demonstrate the relevant industry’s commitment to mercy and kindness, compassion and sympathy.

And what might “humane” fur farming or trapping permit? Here are some examples.

On fur mills, mink, chinchilla, raccoon, lynx, foxes and other fur bearing animals are confined in wire-mesh cages for the duration of their life.
Waking hours are spent pacing back and forth, or rolling their heads, or jumping up the sides of their cages, or mutilating themselves, or cannibalizing their cage mates.
Death is caused by breaking their necks, or by asphyxiation (using carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide), or by shoving electric rods up their anus to “fry” them from the inside out.
Animals trapped in the wild take fifteen hours on average to die.
Trapped fur-bearers frequently chew themselves apart in their futile attempts to regain their freedom.
Despite it’s obvious cruelty, this is all perfectly legal.

Holy Father, all Christians implore you: Speak out about cruelty to God’s creatures, Billions annually are denied all that God intended for them, and they are treated neither with Christ’s mercy nor with God’s compassion. Among your other troubles and concerns, please honor St. Francis of Assisi and the call of the Catechism by raising your voice on behalf of God’s other animals.

Tom Regan is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, North Carolina State University. Among his major works is The Case for Animal Rights. The editors of Utne Reader have described Professor Regan as “the philosophical leader of the of animal rights movement” and named him, along with the Dalai Lama, as “one of fifty people who are changing the world.”


The ‘Cost of Doing Business?’


It’s taken nine months for him to get to this moment. He’s bewildered, weak, and — like many newborns, completely vulnerable. The industry he was born into considers him a ‘waste product’, and soon he will be discarded. He is one of hundreds of thousands of dairy calves born every year to keep their mothers producing milk. They’re taken from their mums, and within days, will be on a truck on the way to slaughter. This is considered to be the ‘cost of doing business’ when it comes to the production of milk, cheese and yoghurt — but is that cost too high? Check out the Sydney Morning Herald’s article ‘The Downside of Dairy’ at — and discover how you can help calves today at

Comment from a friend off Facebook, where this originated: “I have met day-old calves at the (small, “family”) dairy farm less than five miles from my house. I fantasize about driving a semi in there and rescuing them ALL in the middle of the night. If they were women and their children, I’d be a HERO. However, since they are “only” animals (keeping in mind that of course humans are animals too) I’d be arrested for theft of “property”. :’(“


Please Don’t Read this Blog

If you have ever been personally hurt by anything I’ve written here, I’m sorry, but please don’t read this blog.

Even if I’ve invited you or shared a post with you in the past, please don’t read this blog.

Unless you’re seeking information about the injustices of hunting or animal exploitation in general, please don’t read this blog.

If you’re so set in your ways that the things I write about animal rights seem like a personal attack on you, please don’t read this blog. It’ll just make you feel bad.

I have never set out to hurt or attack anyone personally (that’s why I don’t tend to name names). But like people who defend human rights, those who speak in defense of the rights of non-human animals and seek to expose the ongoing atrocities committed against them by human societies, I often have a hard time playing the diplomat.

It’s not that we’re un-American, but once you know what kind of animal suffering is behind the making of an all-meat hot dog, you can’t un-know it.

This blog is not for everyone. Those who are like-minded seem to enjoy it here; those who feel out of place might do better not reading it. (That’s why I don’t spend my time reading hunters’ or cattlemen’s blogs.) I’ve been accused of preaching to the choir. Fair enough, but even a choir of angels needs a pep talk once in a while to remind them that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.

A blog can be likened to a writer’s personal diary made public. Those close to the writer sometimes recognize themselves between the pages. My advice to folks who don’t like what they read here is, simply, stop reading. Speaking for myself, I never start off writing things with the intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. The only intention I ever have is adding my voice to the call to end animal suffering and abuse of the innocents.

Writing can be cathartic and when the words are flowing, I don’t have much control over their direction. They’re often a meditation on an issue that is really important to me. I find it works better than trying to debate with people over these emotional issues, because when things get heated, I tend to get overheated. My circuits fry, and my thoughts don’t flow; they go on overload. Afterward, I end up feeling like “I should have said this,” or “I should have answered to that. “

Unless you really care to know how I think or feel, please don’t read this blog.


Everything You Do Leaves an Impact, so You Might as Well Be an Ass-teroid

One of hunters’ favorite fallacies these days is some form of the (il)logic that everything you do affects something in some way so you might just as well hunt down big “game.” It’s the same school of thought as, you can never be completely vegan so what’s the point in choosing not to eat animals?

Apparently some folks, with nothing better to do, have been staying up nights wracking their brains to come up with as many ways imaginable that non-hunters, or even vegans, might inadvertently kill animals. Not because these spin-doctors really care about anything except themselves, but because it’s easier to try to break down someone else’s resolve than to look at ones’ own intentional acts of—or collaboration in—cruelty.

After all, nature’s cruel, so you might as well be the cruelest, right? And as long as someone eats who you kill, it’s almost sacred, or something, isn’t it? (But, as PETA put it, “Did the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims justify his crimes? What is done with the corpse after a murder doesn’t lessen the victim’s suffering.”)

It’s like saying, you’ll never be Jesus so what’s the point of trying to live the best life you can? Sort of a variation of Lucifer’s “…better to lead in Hell…” credo.

How’s that working out, Satan? Hot enough for you down there?


Soaring Meat Production Threatens Global Environment, Warns Report

By August 27, 2014

The world is eating too much meat, and that’s bad news for the earth’s forests, arable land, and scarce water. That’s the conclusion of a report released yesterday by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute.

Global production of meat hit a new high of 308.5 million tons last year, up 1.4 percent, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the report notes. “In response to growing purchasing power, urbanization, and changing diets, meat production has expanded more than fourfold over just the last five decades. Even more startlingly, meat production has grown 25-fold since 1800,” says a news release accompanying the report, entitled “Peak Meat Production Strains Land and Water Resources.”

While average consumption of meat in 2013 reached 42.9 kilograms per capita, many people still consume far less, which means production growth is unlikely to stall soon. People in developing countries are eating less than half the quantity of meat consumed by those in developed nations—33.7 kg. as compared to 75.9 kg., the report points out.

Not surprisingly, Asia, home to the fast-growing, populous countries of China and India, has already become the world’s largest meat-producing region. In 2013, it produced 131.5 million tons of meat, about 43 percent of world output. Europe, by contrast, accounted for 58.5 million tons, North America, 47.2 million, and South America, 39.9 million. “China single-handedly accounted for nearly half of global pig meat production,” the report says.

Raising all that livestock requires lots of land and water. More than two-thirds of all agricultural land is used for animal pasture, with an additional 10 percent used to grow feed grains consumed by meat- and dairy-producing animals. Agriculture overall consumes about 70 percent of the world’s fresh water; a third of it goes to grow feed grain. Particularly resource-intensive is beef production: Raising cattle requires up to five times as much land as that needing to produce pigs or chickens—for the same amount of protein.

“Industrial methods in the livestock sector cut down forests to expand grazing lands and use large quantities of water. Production uses grains (such as corn or soybeans) for animal feed and relies on heavy doses of antibiotics in animals,” writes Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher Michael Renner. “Limiting these environmental and health impacts requires not only a look at how much meat people eat, but also at the kind of meat that they consume worldwide.”

“Humane Meat” Legitimizes Factory Farming

Somewhere out there someone must be raising ‘food’ animals ‘humanely,’ therefore I’m justified in eating this steak, chicken, egg, pig part, turkey leg, hamburger, sausage, etc., etc., without feeling guilty–there’s always a chance that meat meal was humanely raised and compassionately killed, right?


It’s amazing how many people use some version of this feeble argument in rationalizing their culpability to cruelty, as if ‘humane’ animal farming gives them a license to ‘kill’ (so to speak).

I understand there are some who think the ‘humane meat’ movement will lead to a more compassionate future for factory farmed animals. But the fact is, advocating any form of animal agriculture that results in the breeding and premature death of an animal just legitimizes factory farming to the masses who may not see the subtle difference between a hot dog made with body parts scraped off Farmer John’s bloody-red kill floor or off Farmer Joe’s slightly greener kill floor. Yes, Farmer Joe may be able to keep his slaughterhouse a little tidier, but that’s only because he may ‘process’ fewer animals at a time, not because he truly thinks he’s being ‘compassionate.’

What would it take to provide ‘humane meat’ to everyone who won’t consider giving up their flesh? Robert Grillo answers that question, in this quote from an article entitled, Pasture Raised Eggs: The Humane, Sustainable Fiction:

“As for the scale of such an operation, where does all the land needed to give animals a “natural” farm life come from?, asks author and program director of United Poultry Concerns, Hope Bohanec. “At any given time, there are 100 million head of cattle and 70 million pigs alive in the U.S. Currently, only about 9 percent of all livestock is pasture raised. How would we ever have the land to pasture raise them all? To give all farmed animals the space they need to have even a semblance of a natural life, we would have to destroy millions more acres of wild areas, forests, prairies, and wetlands to accommodate them.”

[This mirrors the situation with open range cattle grazing. Although less than 5% of cows raised and killed for meat are put on the open range, when people see cows out there on National Forest or DNR land, they think their hamburger must have led a nice life out on the range somewhere. Truth is, most cows are raised in overcrowded feed  lots.]
“There is not enough land on the planet, or even two planets, to free-range all the billions of pigs, sheep, turkeys, ducks, and chickens. We would need closer to five planet Earths. It simply cannot be done. Free-ranging animals for food can never be more than a specialty market for a few elite buyers.”
And United Poultry Concerns’ president Karen Davis PhD addresses the notion of Hurting Animals Humanely in her article featured in the Dodo:

No one who truly respects animals, respects their dignity, feels with and for them, and wishes them joy in life supports “farming” them, because animal farming is about degrading animals meanly to the level of their genitals and their genes, mutilating their body parts, destroying their family life, controlling every aspect of their lives including culling (killing) them as one pleases when they are deemed not “productive” enough to keep feeding, and ultimately murdering them. 

“How can anyone claiming to respect animals promote a view of them as ‘dinner’?”


This quote from a Facebook friend sums the situation up succinctly: “‘Humane’ animal farming is nothing more than the devil putting on a fancy suit. Vegan is the only way”

And, PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk put out a U-tube on the folly of ‘Humane meat’: