Some brands are beginning to alter their names and logos as they face increasing pressure to diversify and combat racism.
The smiling Black chef will soon come off the boxes of Cream of Wheat.
More than three months after Cream of Wheat’s parent company, B&G Foods, said it was “initiating an immediate review” of the brand’s packaging, a decision has been made – the chef will be removed.
In rapid succession back in mid-June, several companies announced they would retire racial imagery from their branding from Aunt Jemima to Mrs. Butterworth’s in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality.
Experts say the branding announcements are a ripple effect from the Black Lives Matters protests over the police killing of George Floyd and other African Americans.
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Mars Inc. also announced this week that its 70-year-old Uncle Ben’s rice brand will be renamed Ben’s Original and will drop the logo.
Packaging with the new rice name will hit stores next year and the new Cream of Wheat packaging is expected to be unveiled early next year.
New name for Uncle Ben’s: Popular rice brand will soon be known as Ben’s Original
“For years, the image of an African-American chef appeared on our Cream of Wheat packaging,” B&G Foods said in a statement to USA TODAY. “While research indicates the image may be based upon an actual Chicago chef named Frank White, it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive. Therefore, we are removing the chef image from all Cream of Wheat packaging.”
The breakfast cereal of enriched farina has long been criticized for the use of a smiling Black chef on its packaging, which has appeared there since the 1890s. The figure on early boxes was known as Rastus, a racial caricature of a Black man, which is considered derogatory.
“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,” B&G Foods said in a June news release. “B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”
The company said in its statement to USA TODAY that it has a “new philanthropic initiative in recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the culinary community” and “has begun developing relationships with several of the leading culinary schools to help support and aid in the development of African-American and Latinx candidates through various scholarship and other initiatives.”
Palmetto Cheese, which calls itself the top-selling pimento cheese in the U.S., also has begun rebranding to remove the image of Vertrella Brown, a Black cook who popularized the product, from the packaging.
News of the rebranding came after Brian Henry, the founder of the cheese brand and mayor of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, made a public Facebook post on Aug. 25 calling Black Lives Matter a “terror organization.”
Costco reportedly removed the pimento cheese from store shelves after Henry’s post but a representative for the wholesale club said they had no comment when USA TODAY reached out Tuesday.
Contributing: Associated Press
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
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