The Kewpie Logo Is Censored On US-Produced Mayo Bottles

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It seems like the phrase "everybody's a critic" takes on a new meaning in the food world. From "this dish is too hot" (sub "too cold," "too spicy," or "too ... fermented?") to some variation of "Here's how I would have done it," both home and professional kitchens can be a proverbial chopping block of unsolicited would-be constructive criticism. Not even food manufacturers are exempt from this unique brand of gastronomic critique – not even the globally beloved mayo brand Kewpie. Its signature egg-yolk-and-vinegar formula sets Kewpie mayo apart from the competition with a savory, umami-forward taste that fans know and love, per Food Network. (Celebrity chef and television personality Andrew Zimmern swears by the condiment.)

Aside from its unique flavor, one of the most iconic things about Kewpie mayo is its branding. The ultra-soft squeeze bottle topped by a semi-rounded red cap makes a perfectly inviting complement to Kewpie's mascot: the cartoon cherub baby logo printed on every Kewpie label. Although, perhaps not every label. On American-made bottles of Kewpie mayo, the label still depicts the iconic cartoon baby logo, but only from the neck up. Its arm is outstretched in a friendly wave, but its classic cherubic belly or subtle angel wings are nowhere to be found. Here's why the Kewpie logo is censored on U.S.-produced mayo bottles.

The Kewpie baby caused controversy

According to the news outlet Japan Today, the story goes that, when the company was renewing its Halal certification, somebody observed the cherubic baby's tiny angel wings and pointed out that the Islamic school of thought forbids idol worship – did the Kewpie baby count as an idol? Technically, said Kewpie, the baby was intended to be a sort of labelless entity that defies both gender and species. It wasn't intended as an angel, or even as a boy or a girl specifically. The Kewpie baby was created as more of the Platonic form of a cherubic baby figure. But, Kewpie is above all else a mayonnaise of the people. On the company's website, it states that it aims to continually honor its founder, Toichiro Nakashima, by "contributing to the food culture and health of the world through 'great taste, empathy, and uniqueness.'" So, Kewpie acquiesced and went with the from-the-neck-up baby logo. 

But, controversy arose again when it was time for U.S.-made products. The baby is naked, critics cleverly pointed out. Is that nudity? Is it weird? So, Kewpie again opted for the censored logo for American products. Still, Japanese-made bottles of Kewpie mayo are a common import to the U.S. and are sold at such popular retailers as Target. So, bottles bearing the classic trademark Kewpie baby logo are far from tough to track down. (If you think you can handle the taboo.)