- Justin Tallis/ Getty
- Marketing hasn’t always been spot-on when it comes to food branding, especially in today’s changing social climate.
- Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Cream of Wheat have all received backlash for their usage of black mascots.
- Frito-Lays and Chiquita bananas have both been accused of using racist mascots.
The same can be said for marketing choices, especially in food branding. From mascots that have been called racist to controversial ad campaigns, the marketing world has made some questionable decisions over the years.
These are some branding decisions food companies have come under fire for.
The Aunt Jemima mascot has changed over the years, but some still believe it has has racist connotations.
- Roberto Machado Noa / Getty
The Aunt Jemima mascot was created in the late 1800s and based off a minstrel song called “Aunt Jemima.” A former slave named Nancy Green was hired to portray the character on the company’s branding. Since then, the mascot has been compared to “mammy,” a racist stereotype, portraying a black woman who is content with slavery. The company’s mascot has since changed its appearance.
Uncle Ben’s rice is another company with history of a controversial black mascot.
- Roberto Machado Noa / Getty
Uncle Ben was first introduced in 1946 as the black face of a white company. Dressed in a bow tie and addressed as “uncle,” the character evoked a servant. As the civil rights movement progressed, the company received pressure and criticism for using what seemed like a black servant to make sales. In 2007, the company rolled out a new marketing campaign which made the new mascot, Ben, the chairman of the board.
Cream of Wheat was criticized for using a specific black character.
- Evelyn Dominguez / YouTube
In 1901, Cream of Wheat introduced its mascot, Rastus, a smiling, black chef. However, the terms “Rastus” has been considered an offensive term for black men, inciting backlash for the brand. In 1925, Rastus was finally taken off the Cream of Wheat packaging and replaced with Frank L. White, a black chef who can still be found on the boxes today.
Frito-Lay ran into some trouble in 1967 when Frito Bandito was introduced.
Frito Bandito was introduced in the late 1960s to help sell Frito-Lays chips. He was a stout, mustache-sporting, sombrero-wearing bandit that stole corn chips. Frito Bandito was criticized and said to perpetuate Mexican stereotypes. In 1971, the company ended the campaign after people threatened to boycott the brand.
Chiquita bananas is considered by some to be offensive towards Hispanic people.
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In 1944, Chiquita used a banana dressed as a sultry woman as its mascot. However, today the logo is a woman wearing a fruit hat, channeling Carmen Miranda. Some say the logo exoticizes and even sexualizes Latin America and the tropics. The logo and mascot are still used today to market the bananas.
Eskimo Pie’s name is sometimes thought to be problematic for its usage of the word “Eskimo.”
- D Heine/ YouTube
Although Eskimo Pies are a delicious ice cream snack, they are steeped in controversy. In Alaska and some parts of Canada, the word “Eskimo” is a derogatory term for Inuit and Yupik people. The company’s branding remains the same.
Land O’ Lakes butter has faced backlash for its depiction of Native Americans.
- Mike Mozart/ Flickr
The Native American on the box of every Land O’ Lakes butter box is iconic. As she kneels on green grass in front of bright blue water, she holds a box that also has the same image, so it repeats into infinity. Although it’s an interesting branding graphic, the company has come under fire for using Native Americans as the face of a white-owned brand. The branding remains the same today.