Although we now think of it mostly as a sandwich spread, mayonnaise, during the 1800’s was more often used as a sauce or a salad dressing. It is, after all, one of the French Mother sauces. Mayonnaise recipes appearing in early cookbooks were of many varieties and flavors, and were usually intended specifically for use on salads or other food items, including meat, poultry, fish, or vegetables. Readily available mayonnaise, that would not spoil quickly or easily separate, helped to change this, and caused mayonnaise to become more of a generic and uniform food in the US, to be used more often, including on sandwiches and burgers.
The first commercial mayonnaise brand was started by a Philadelphia delicatessen owner named Schlorer. Taking his wife’s mayonnaise recipe, Schlorer added preservatives and made up large batches in the back room of his store, for sale to the public. He called it Mrs. Schlorer’s, trademarking the name in 1911. Schlorer’s was not only the first commercially prepared and sold mayonnaise, but also the first to be packed into glass jars.
Mrs. Schlorer’s Mayonnaise was so successful that Schlorer began producing other products, such a Olive-Naise and salad dressings. Schlorer also made a relish spread. Since the company made its own pickles for its relish spread, they fell into the pickle business as well. The Schlorer Delicatessen Company was created to produce and market the various products. In the 1920’s, the company also produced cookbooklets with recipes using mayonnaise, as a means of advertising. Today, Mrs Schorer’s brand is owned by Good Foods, Inc.
A very close second was a familiar brand that many readers will probably have on hand, Hellmann’s, which also came from a delicatessen, this one in New York City. Richard Hellman opened his delicatessen there in 1905, and in 1912 he began making mayonnaise, also claimed to be based on his wife’s recipe, to sell commercially. Before this, he had served his mayo on salads to his customers. At first, the mayonnaise was packaged in wooden boxes or “boats,” but later Hellmann’s switched to glass jars. There were two versions, and Hellmann placed a blue ribbon around one to differentiate it from the other. Soon, Hellmann designed a special Blue Ribbon label, which, according to the company, was trademarked in 1913. Hellmann’s is now the best selling mayonnaise in the United States.
At around the same time that Hellmann’s and Schlorer’s were beginning to thrive, in 1912, a company called Gold Medal Mayonnaise Company started making mayonnaise in California. This company merged with another company to form Best Foods, which sold Best Foods Mayonnaise. In 1932, Best Foods merged with Hellmann’s, and Best Foods Mayo was sold east of the Rockies while Hellmann’s was sold in the east. Today, they are both owned by Unilever.