Can a box of pancake mix be racist?
The Quaker Oats Company, a PepsiCo subsidiary, and Mars have each announced plans to do away with long-established brands that display imagery many see as racist.
Quaker is planning to discontinue its Aunt Jemima brand and replace the line with a new name. The switch is expected to take place by the fourth quarter.
“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer, Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
The Aunt Jemima brand has been around for 131 years. While it could be argued that the brand has always been insensitive, the current environment with nationwide peaceful protests against racial inequality seems to have made the inappropriateness of its image clear beyond the point of debate.
“The brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today,” said Ms. Kroepfl. “We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry.”
Mars also issued a statement that unspecified changes would be coming to the company’s Uncle Ben’s brand.
“We know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices” the company said in a statement. “As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and to the voices of our associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”
Mars has not specified a timeline for its rebranding of Uncle Ben’s.
Conagra is another company that has announced a review of a brand — Mrs. Butterworth’s — that some see as inappropriate at a time when Americans of all races are showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We understand that our actions help play an important role in eliminating racial bias and as a result, we have begun a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth’s,” said Conagra in a statement.
B&G Foods’ also announced that it was initiating a review of its Cream of Wheat brand with its image of a black man on the box.
“We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” said the company in a statement.
- Aunt Jemima Brand To Remove Image From Packaging And Change Brand Name – PepsiCo/PRNewswire
- Uncle Ben’s Brand Evolution – Mars
- Conagra Brands Announces Mrs. Butterworth’s Brand Review – Conagra Brands, Inc.
- B&G Foods Statement on Cream of Wheat – B&G Foods, Inc.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is your take on the decision by brands to reevaluate how they go to market with imagery deemed to be racially insensitive? Are there brands that stand out in your mind for making a similar mistake and what is your recommendation for what they should do?