GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A lawsuit filed in federal court Friday pits the new owners of Duke’s Mayonnaise against Greenville-based company Duke Brands and Duke Foods.
Both companies can trace their roots back to Greenville.
The big plant along Laurens Road in Mauldin still manufactures the famous mayonnaise.
In fact, the bridge near Wyche Pavilion is named for Eugenia Duke.
More than 100 years ago Duke started making and selling her famous pimento cheese and chicken salad sandwiches out of a store along Main Street.
Now the lawsuit has placed the beloved brand that’s become a Southern tradition in the middle of a legal battle.
Colleen Horan told 7 News Monday evening while walking in the area near the Eugenia Duke Bridge that she considers herself a loyal user of Duke’s.
“I do use Duke’s Mayonnaise. It just seems to blend much nicer,” she said.
The two companies with Duke in their names are not blending so well after years of co-existing with no issues.
Duke Sandwich Company was sold by Eugenia Duke in the 1920s to a Greenville family.
The story goes she then shifted her focus solely to mayonnaise, thus the beginning of Duke’s Mayonnaise.
Both companies have been operated by separate owners.
The longtime owner of Duke’s Mayonnaise, Sauer Brands, was just acquired by Charlotte-based private equity firm Falfurrias Capital Partners this past summer.
The company is suing Duke Foods and Duke Brands over alleged trademark infringement.
The company claims Duke Foods branding on its prepackaged dips and spreads sold in stores nationwide has progressively become similar to the labels on Duke’s Mayonnaise jars.
A side by side comparison is included in the federal lawsuit filed Friday in Charlotte.
Duke Brands said it was blindsided by the lawsuit and vowed to fight to keep its name and brand.
Here’s the full statement:
“The name “Duke” is more than the name of our company and its products, it is our history and our people. Duke Brands and Duke Foods employs more than 300 people in South Carolina, North Carolina and the Caribbean. In 2017, we opened our corporate headquarters on Main Street in Greenville, S.C., where Eugenia Duke began selling her famous sandwiches made with her pimento cheese, chicken salad and egg salad recipe to drug stores, textile mills, and soldiers fighting in World War I.
Duke Brands and Duke Foods has been owned and operated by the Smart family for three generations. Leading back to the current CEO Andrew Smart’s great uncle Alan Hart, who came back from World War I and became Eugenia Duke’s bookkeeper. Since that time, the Smart family has been the custodians of Eugenia’s historic and iconic original sandwich and salad recipes. Allowing people throughout the country to experience and enjoy how a woman with humble beginnings could create such a staple of products that have become a southern tradition, when she didn’t even have the right to vote.
That is why we were blindsided Friday evening when Falfurrias Capital Partners, the new private equity owners of the company manufacturing Duke’s Mayonnaise, filed suit against us in federal court in North Carolina demanding we no longer use the name Duke.
Our company and Duke’s Mayonnaise have a shared history in pioneer entrepreneur Eugenia Duke, who sold both businesses in the 1920s. Both of our companies and their respective brands have coexisted until the recent sale of the C.F. Sauer Company, which was the long-time parent company of Duke’s Mayonnaise, this summer to Falfurrias Capital Partners.
We plan to fight to keep our name and our brand.”
Sauer Brands sent 7News this statement on the lawsuit:
“Sauer Brands is the sole owner of the Duke’s brand, trademarks, logos and trade names used on Duke’s mayonnaise and the full line of Duke’s products. As the steward of this iconic and beloved brand, it is our responsibility to ensure that loyal Duke’s customers receive the unmatched quality and flavor they have come to expect in the 90 years since we purchased the Duke’s brand from Eugenia Duke in 1929. While it had been our desire to reach an amicable resolution, we will take all necessary steps to protect the interests of our customers and the integrity of the Duke’s brand.”
7 News asked Duke Brands if the company uses Duke’s mayonnaise in the recipes for their spreads.
A spokesperson sent us this statement:
“The ingredients in Duke Foods and Duke Brands products are a trade secret and we protect that information.”