Don’t expect to find Best Foods mayonnaise in supermarkets east of the Rocky Mountains.
That’s not to say the people of the East Coast refuse to eat mayonnaise, or hold some kind of grudge against the condiment. It’s because Best Foods mayonnaise, one of the more recognizable brands in California and other western states, is known as something else entirely out east.
Take a gander at this jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise:
Hellmann’s — a brand owned by Unilever, like Best Foods — is essentially the Best Foods of the eastern United States. More specifically, Best Foods and Hellmann’s are brand names for the very same line of mayonnaise products. They’ve simply retained separate branding since 1932, when Best Foods Inc. of California purchased Richard Hellmann Inc. of New York, according to Unilever.
Best Foods and Hellmann’s have been offered (almost) exclusively in their respective regions ever since.
But it goes beyond that. Fans of Best Foods and Hellmann’s have been exposed to nearly identical advertising campaigns for the better part of a century — including this pair of animated commercials from the 1950s, and these early-‘90s commercials featuring the same jingle and slogan. (“Bring out the Best Foods and bring out the best,” one commercial cheerily suggests, while the other asks consumers to “Bring out the Hellmann’s and bring out the best.”)
Still, despite their shared histories and marketing, there may be a difference of opinion when it comes to the tastes of both brands. A representative for Unilever did not respond to questions about their specific recipes, but an FAQ page on the former Hellmann’s website indicated that both products were not identical, but rather “basically” the same.
“Taste preferences vary; some people find Best Foods Mayonnaise is slightly more tangy,” according to the site’s archived FAQ page from 2002.
A comparison of both products’ nutrition facts shows they have the same ingredients and relative ingredient quantities. Best Foods, however, has five more milligrams of sodium per teaspoon than Hellmann’s, according to Unilever.
In any case, the differences are slight enough that Unilever’s official Hellmann’s webpage claims that Hellmann’s is simply “known as Best Foods west of the Rockies.” Those who want to taste for themselves, meanwhile, can sometimes find both brands at outlets within the same city or state, as Reddit users in several places have previously claimed.
“I did a side-by-side taste test once and there is slightly more [tanginess] in Best Foods than Hellmann’s,” one user from Colorado wrote.