B&G Foods to review Cream of Wheat brand packaging amid racial justice movement
Cream of Wheat became the fourth major food marketer to announce a review of its brand imagery on Wednesday, saying it understands there are concerns regarding the image of a Black chef that has appeared on its packaging for decades.
“B&G Foods, Inc. today announced that we are initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging,” Cream of Wheat’s parent company said in a statement. “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.”
Cream of Wheat was introduced in 1893 and has long been marketed using a Black chef character. In the early 1900s, ads showed the chef to be named Rastus, though the name does not appear to have been used more recently. B&G Foods bought the Cream of Wheat and Cream of Rice brands from Kraft Foods in 2007.
The announcement marks the latest in a flurry of reviews by packaged food makers of products that depict or appear to depict Black chefs, which have been put in the spotlight during the growing racial justice movement.
PepsiCo Inc. said it would do away with the Aunt Jemima image of a Black woman and its brand name. Aunt Jemima was named in 1889 after a tune that one of its company founders heard sung by a Black-faced performer wearing an apron and bandana headband at a vaudeville show.
Mars Inc. said it is “evaluating all possibilities” for the Uncle Ben’s brand. Mars created the rice brand in 1946, naming it for a Black Texan farmer known as Uncle Ben and portrayed by an image of a Black chef and waiter from Chicago named Frank Brown.
Then Conagra Brands Inc. said that it has begun a brand and packaging review for Mrs. Butterworth's, a syrup brand that’s been around since 1961.
Each of the moves come months after Land O'Lakes began removing the image of a Native American woman from its packaging. In February, the farmer-owned co-op announced plans to begin showing its farmers on its packaging as it approaches its 100-year anniversary in 2021—without specifically calling attention to the removal of the Native American woman, who has been featured on packaging for almost the brand's entire history. In April, the New York Times reported that Native American representatives were pleased to see the change, which has begun to hit grocery store shelves. Some Land O'Lakes packaging continues to show the image of the Native American woman, but all of its products are expected to show the new design by the end of 2020.
Another B&G Foods brand got a makeover earlier this year: Seasoning blend Mrs. Dash is now simply known as Dash.