JOHANNESBURG – Reaction from foodie fans has been explosive to news that one of America’s signature foods is being withdrawn from South African shelves. Hellmann’s Original Mayonnaise, which has cult status in cities like Johannesburg because of its rich and creamy texture, is not going to be sold there anymore.
It is easy to think this is a just a dressing to put on top of salad or fries, but it is clear this American product is far more than that to many South Africans. Social media has exploded. Tweets ranged from, “What fresh hell is this,” “this is going to change everything” and “I’m having a meltdown,” to “We in the very last days,” “I’m mortified” and “this is now personal.”
“It’s the best, what are we going to do, where am I going to get my fix, where am I going to get that taste?,” one unhappy shopper, faced with empty shelves in her local supermarket, told Fox News Digital.
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The furore started when Hellmann’s, represented and imported in South Africa by the multinational product group Unilever, tweeted: “It’s hard to say goodbye to delicious Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. But due to high inflationary import costs, we will be discontinuing Hellman’s in South Africa.”
The manager of one Spar supermarket with no stock of the mayonnaise, who would not give his name because he is not authorized to speak to media, told Fox News Digital: “We can’t get Hellmann’s from our central warehouse anymore. It’s strange, because it has been selling – but there is locally produced competition.”
A quick check of retailers online sites shows Hellman’s has generally been priced at about a third more than local brands of mayonnaise.
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Most of Johannesburg’s grocery outlets have sold out of Hellmann’s already. When Fox News Digital checked out Checkers supermarket in the central Emmerentia area of Johannesburg, only a few jars were left on a solitary shelf – but they were going fast, with one shopper seen taking four jars.
It has even been suggested that the mayonnaise is another victim of Russia’s war with Ukraine. Analysts say Hellman’s is shipped to South Africa on a long sea journey from the U.S., and the cost of oil burned by container ships bringing it here has dramatically increased since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict.
There might though be a little light at the end of the tunnel, observers say, particularly if oil prices go down. In their media statement, Hellmann’s do not say this is the end of the road, simply that the product is to be discontinued “until further notice”.
Fox News Digital reached out to Unilever South Africa for comment, but they did not respond.
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