Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth confront race in packaging
The soul-searching comes in the wake of PepsiCo’s announcement Wednesday that it’s renaming its Aunt Jemima syrup brand. Mars Inc. says it’s also reviewing its Uncle Ben’s rice brand.
B&G Foods Inc., which makes Cream of Wheat hot cereal, 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, according to the company’s website.
“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, which makes Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, said its bottles — which are shaped like a matronly woman — are intended to evoke a “loving grandmother.” But 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 $5 million at black-owned businesses through July 4. Yelp said it’s adding a free search function for consumers to easily find businesses that identify themselves as black owned.
Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press