Stories

The new generational victim: Big Mayo

Two jars of mayo in a shopping cart with produce
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Hold the mayo!" a new generation of Americans is collectively shouting, thereby threatening the nation's long-time favorite salad and sandwich smathering.

The bottom line: Snicker if you like but people like Sandy Hingston, a boomer from Philly, are in a condiment crisis over the obsolescence of her potato salad and deviled eggs in favor of foods containing mustard, ketchup, salsa, kimchi, wasabi — anything but mayo. She lives in fear that mayo is going the way of now-passé Jell-O.

What's happening: Ketchup and mustard have been staples of the all-American diet for over a century, but mayonnaise has been the most popular by far.

  • Now Hingston, a writer at Philadelphia Magazine, has uncovered a hidden dark side to the subject of sandwich spreads — her younger relatives are eschewing family tradition in favor of what they regard as hipper condiments, she recently wrote.
  • Little did she expect the raw nerve she would expose: hate mail poured in (though one defender also sent two quarts of Duke's Mayo). "It turns out people really, really identify with their condiments," Hingston tells Axios.

Hingston's essay also caught the attention of Zoe Leavitt of CB Insights, the market research firm. Leavitt decided to take a look at the numbers.

  • Mayonnaise sales have dropped 6.7% over the last five years. That's bad news for big-time brands like Heinz and Kraft that sell tons of mayo, Leavitt says.
  • Healthier condiment startups — like Brightland, the olive oil-based condiment seller, and JUST, the vegan mayo producer — are creeping in, jumping from a 3.1% market share in 2012 to 6.2% today, per the WSJ.

Some room for hope: The youths haven't written off mayonnaise, Leavitt says. Mayo-based aiolis are still wildly popular as dipping sauces for fries and toppings on burgers. And mayo that's got bold flavors, like sriracha and chipotle, is a hit as well. A rebranding play could be all it takes to update mayonnaise for younger Americans, she says.