What the Hellmann’s?
Rumors about the Unilever-owned
brand’s mayonnaise being discontinued have been spreading online this week, with Google seeing a tremendous spike (growing more than 5,000%) in searches along the lines of “Hellmann’s mayonnaise discontinued” over the past several days.
Concerns about the condiment appear to have been whipped up around a couple of social media posts from Hellmann’s South Africa, where indeed, the country is going off the creamy sauce for the time being, because of inflation.
“It’s hard to say goodbye to delicious Hellmann’s Mayonnaise,” reads a post on the verified Instagram account for Hellmann’s South Africa, which was posted on Monday. “But, due to high inflationary import costs, we will regretfully be discontinuing Hellmann’s in South Africa until further notice.”
This led dismayed customers to tweet at the company’s U.S. Twitter account, however, and to also pepper the company’s U.S. Instagram and Facebook feeds with questions about whether or not Hellmann’s mayonnaise is being discontinued.
But a Hellmann’s rep told MarketWatch over email that the company’s mayonnaise will remain on shelves everywhere else. “There’s no change to Hellmann’s mayonnaise in the U.S., Canada and other countries across the globe,” the Hellmann’s spokesperson said. “It is true, however, that Hellmann’s will not be available for sale in South Africa until further notice due to increased import costs.”
“‘There’s no change to Hellmann’s mayonnaise in the U.S., Canada and other countries across the globe.’ ”
Many Americans squeezed by inflation have likely noticed that they’re paying more for this sandwich and salad staple. Indeed, the Consumer Price Index category of “other fats and oils including peanut butter,” which would include mayo, rose 18.2% year-on-year, as noted by Bloomberg — which has been tracking what it calls “the great mayonnaise inflation mystery” over the past couple of years.
And a Winston-Salem, N.C., restaurant owner went viral last summer for saying mayo was costing him $200 more per week, which the North Carolina Republican Party blamed on President Biden.
But in fact, the pricing problem comes from mayo’s primary ingredients, eggs and soybean oil, which have seen their prices surge throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, Bloomberg notes that mayo has the misfortune of being hit by three pandemics:
COVID, which initially raised the demand for sandwich spreads as people ate more at home. The pandemic also set off a series of labor and supply chain issues.
African swine fever, which has created volatility in the price of soybeans. (The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also impacted global soybean production.)
Avian flu, which helped push the price of eggs to peak above $5 a dozen in December. While prices have dipped a bit this month, the monthly average for egg prices is still tracking more than three times what it was a year ago.
Read more: Why retail egg prices may soon start to decline
Mayonnaise price volatility can also be seen on Keepa.com, which tracks the price of items listed on Amazon
and other major sites. Keepa shows that a three-pack of 30-ounce jars of Hellmann’s mayonnaise was going for $11.71 on Amazon on Nov. 8, 2022. It then jumped to $16.44 a week later, and peaked at $17.07 in mid-December. But this bundle has dropped to $14.64 as of last week, suggesting shoppers may be seeing some relief at last. (And it was $11.71 again on Amazon on Wednesday.)
Related: Inflation is easing, but some grocery prices are expected to soar in 2023 — including one whose price rose nearly 60% over the past year
Similarly, Keepa finds that a single 30-ounce jar of the Reily Foods Company’s Blue Plate mayonnaise was $3.98 on Nov. 8 last year, but jumped to $4.50 in mid-December, and the price has remained volatile — dropping back to $3.98 in early January before jumping back up to $4.50 last week. Meanwhile, a 48-ounce jar of Kraft
Mayo has been hovering at $6.28 for the past three months on Amazon.