Following Quaker Foods’ wildly overdue decision to fully rebrand Aunt Jemima, a growing number of food companies are now reconsidering their own use of racist caricatures.
On Wednesday, after Quaker Foods announced it would be scrapping the branding on its pancake mixes and assorted flavored syrups, the companies behind Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s, and Cream of Wheat all released their own statements announcing their intention to swiftly review their racist branding. Mars, the company behind Uncle Ben’s rice, acknowledged that now “is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand,” which has faced criticism for its logo (an older Black man who wears a tie evocative of a servant) and the use of “uncle” (which white southerners historically used to patronizingly refer to Black men.) Conagra Brands, the maker of Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup, said the company has “begun a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth’s” — notably, its bottle, which has been criticized for resembling a racist mammy caricature. Most recently, B&G foods announced today that it will be launching an “immediate review” of the Cream of Wheat packaging, which features an image of a Black cook formerly named Rastus, named after a frequent minstrel-show character and who spoke in broken English in early Cream of Wheat ads. (The image has since been updated to depict a Chicago chef.)
The companies also took the opportunity to reiterate that they unequivocally condemn racism and aspire to be part of the solution. In its statement, B&G promised to “proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism,” and Conagra Brands acknowledged that the company’s “actions help play an important role in eliminating racial bias.”
The statements lack specifics regarding the extent of their rebranding or when to expect them. Here’s to hoping none of them try to demonstrate their commitment to fighting racism with any ill-advised symbolic gestures, like, say, promoting a fictional racist caricature to be chair of the company.