Hellmann's vs. Best Foods: Special Edition Battle of the Mayos

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I met my husband at Queens College in New York City in a Psychology of Personality class. I had my eye on him for a few weeks before I got up the nerve to approach him. We were scheduled for a test, so I invited him to study with me at my house. He might tell the story differently, but I'm the one telling the story right now so we'll go with my version.

My mother made us lunch on that fateful study day. Roast beef, left from dinner the night before, served on fluffy white bread smeared with Hellmann's Mayonnaise. And he was smitten.

But this isn't a story about young love. It's really a story about mayonnaise.

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Although I didn't know it at the time, my future husband had a distinct preference for the taste of Hellmann's Mayonnaise, a brand sold back east. So it seems that my mother cinched our future liaison by serving him his favorite mayonnaise. It was that easy.

Ten years from that first sandwich, we moved our growing family to Phoenix. In those days (37 years ago), most of the food brands that we had come to love in New York City were not sold here, so we had to learn to love what was here. And we did. Except for mayonnaise. My husband had to have his Hellmann's.

For some time after we moved here, visiting friends and relatives brought jars of his beloved spread from home. But the number of guests dwindled as summer approached and he was beginning to get nervous, guarding his stash closely.

Good wife that I am, I contacted the company that produces Hellmann's Mayonnaise, Best Foods, to find out if its product would ever be sold here in Arizona. I was informed by several different representatives that it was already here but labeled as Best Foods Mayonnaise. I was promised that it was the identical product with the identical formulation. From the first taste, my husband declared that Best Foods and Hellmann's were not the same. No matter how many times I spoke with someone at Best Foods, he remained unconvinced.

My husband will proudly share with you that many local chefs have told him that he has an incredibly sensitive palate. He can detect a smidgen of this and a dash of that. To me, Hellmann's and Best Foods are absolutely identical. But if Mr. Sensitive Palate says that Hellmann's and Best Foods are not the same, it's possible that he's right.

To that end, we decided to conduct a test using three different samples of mayonnaise: One Hellmann's purchased in New York City in June and lovingly brought back in our suitcase; one Best Foods mayonnaise purchased about the same time in the Safeway store on Glendale and Seventh Street; and one container of Hellmann's Mayonnaise that Mr. Sensitive Palate bought online.

I lined up three small dishes, filling each with the same amount of mayonnaise. I asked him which were the Hellmann's and which was the Best Foods. He has always insisted that they don't even look the alike. Indeed, he was able to distinguish among the three and picked out the Hellman's purchased in New York City without a problem. The Internet sample, however, stumped him. It did not look like either of the other two. Was it really Hellmann's or an imposter? We'll never know.

I then spread the samples, sans roast beef, on three slices of fluffy white bread in an attempt to stimulate his taste memory. He was able to determine which was the Hellmann's sample from New York but again was stumped by his Internet purchase.

So what does this prove? I know he thinks it proves that he's right and that Best Foods and Hellmann's are not the same. I think it proves that there might be a quality control issue or that he purchased an imposter Hellmann's online.

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