advertisement
advertisement

First it was Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, now Cream of Wheat is reviewing its mascot

Parent company B&G Foods says it’s initiated a review of its packaging featuring an illustration of a Black cook.

First it was Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, now Cream of Wheat is reviewing its mascot
[Photo: W. V. Cahill/Wikimedia Commons]

As a rule, brands and marketers rarely choose to take risks. Typically this is limited to types of goofy humor, or the variety of music used in ads, or—as we’ve seen during the pandemic—just the sheer amount of soft piano that can fit in a 30-second spot. But this low-risk tolerance is particularly evident when it comes to social issues. Yes, there are the companies that do lead out front, whether it’s supporting Pride, Black Lives Matter, or staying home during a global health crisis. And it’s these few that set the tone for the rest to feel comfortable following.

advertisement
advertisement

Which brings us to Cream of Wheat.

Yesterday, PepsiCo announced it was retiring Aunt Jemima due to the brand’s long association with racist imagery. Within hours, Mars came out with a statement that it would be reevaluating the future of Uncle Ben’s rice packaging. Then it was Mrs. Butterworth’s parent Conagra Foods, announcing it had launched its own “complete brand and packaging review,” on the syrup brand.

And last night it was B&G Foods, which issued a statement that it has initiated an immediate review of Cream of Wheat packaging.

“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 unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind,” the company said.

The quick turnaround on this trend is encouraging because, let’s face it, all of these brands have faced criticism and complaints for decades in some cases, which individually were much easier to ignore or politely acknowledge with no action. Today, the calls have reached a critical mass, and these companies must recognize that the images they have been pumping out into the culture are a part of the systemic discrimination and devaluation of Black Americans. What many see as nostalgic logos are actually daily reminders of a subservient past.

Why would any company want their brand image to be a part of that? Exactly.

advertisement

Here’s hoping these announced “reviews” and “evaluations” actually lead to real change.

advertisement
advertisement

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

More