Colgate, Cream of Wheat and Mrs Butterworth are the latest brands reckoning with racially charged logos.
The soul-searching comes in the wake of PepsiCo Inc’s announcement on Wednesday that it is renaming its Aunt Jemima syrup brand. Mars Inc says it is also reviewing its Uncle Ben’s rice brand.
Colgate-Palmolive Co, based in New York, on Thursday said it is working with its Chinese partner, Hawley & Hazel Chemical Co (好來化工), on changes to its Darlie brand toothpaste.
The toothpaste, which is popular in Asia, was called Darkie when it was first introduced in the 1930s. Packages featured a drawing of a minstrel singer in blackface with a wide smile; a Hawey & Hazel executive came up with the logo after visiting the US and seeing Al Jolson perform.
The Chinese name on the box translated to “black man toothpaste.”
Colgate-Palmolive acquired a 50 percent stake in Hawley in 1985. In 1989, the name of the toothpaste was changed to Darlie and the logo was changed to a racially ambiguous figure in a top hat, but Colgate said the product is under further review.
“We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name,” the company said in a statement.
B&G Foods Inc, which makes Cream of Wheat hot cereal, on Wednesday said it is initiating “an immediate review” of its packaging.
A smiling black chef holding a bowl of cereal has appeared on Cream of Wheat packaging and in ads since at least 1918, the company’s Web site says.
“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,” Parsippany, New Jersey-based B&G said in a statement.
Chicago-based Conagra Brands Inc, which makes Mrs Butterworth’s syrup, said its bottles — which are shaped like a matronly woman — are intended to evoke a “loving grandmother.”
The company said it can understand that the packaging could be misinterpreted. Critics have long claimed that the bottle’s design is rooted in the “mammy” stereotype.
“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,” Conagra said in a statement.
The changes are the latest signal of the powerful cultural moment unleashed by the Black Lives Matter protests, which have spread around the world and prompted companies to rethink their policies and products.
On Thursday, Yelp announced it was partnering with My Black Receipt, a group that is encouraging people to spend US$5 million at black-owned businesses through July 4.
Yelp said it is adding a free search function for consumers to easily find businesses that identify themselves as black owned.
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