The owners of the Eskimo Pie brand have vowed to retire the 99-year-old name as companies rethink stereotypically racist images of well-known brands.
“We have been reviewing our Eskimo Pie business for some time and will be changing the brand name and marketing,” Elizabell Marquez, head of marketing for the brand’s parent company Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, tells Rolling Stone. “We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory. This move is part of a larger review to ensure our company and brands reflect our people values.” The word “Eskimo” has long been a polarizing term, with critics calling it a racist nomenclature first used by colonizers to Arctic regions to refer to Inuit and Yupik people.
As part of its rebranding efforts, the company will discontinue all uses of the character and be in the market with a new brand name by the end of the year.
The confection — a chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar on a stick — came into existence in 1921 via store owner Christian Kent Nelson. “The inspiration for the invention of Eskimo Pie was a boy’s indecision in Nelson’s confectionery store in 1920,” archivist Maurita Baldock wrote (via Smithsonian.) “A boy started to buy ice cream, then changed his mind and bought a chocolate bar. Nelson inquired as to why he did not buy both. The boy replied, ‘Sure I know — I want ’em both, but I only got a nickel.’”
Nelson began selling his “I-Scream bars” before partnering with chocolatier Russell Stover, who renamed the bar “Eskimo Pie” at a time when there was no controversy over the name. In 2009, Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons, an Inuit Canadian traveling in New Zealand, brought attention to the country’s popular candy Eskimo Lolly, calling it racist and inappropriate.
“Calling someone an Eskimo is no longer responsible,” she said at the time (via The Star.) “When I was a kid, they used to call me a dirty Eskimo girl and it’s a term that shouldn’t be used anymore especially on a candy. Is it right that people go around eating shapes of people of another culture?” (The candy’s owner, Cadbury Australia and New Zealand, declined to change its name.)
The name change is the latest in a slew of alterations to longtime brand names in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. In a statement earlier this week, Quaker Oats announced it would discontinue the Aunt Jemima brand and admitted its racial history. The brand was named after the minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima” and has drawn controversy for its racial insensitivity and stereotyping. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” a Quaker Oats rep said in a statement. “As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”
Soon after Aunt Jemima’s announcement, Uncle Ben’s Rice — another food brand built off a racial stereotype — revealed plans to change their image. “As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that one way we can do this is by evolving the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity,” the Mars Incorporated-owned rice brand said in a statement.
Conagra Brands, Inc., the purveyors of Mrs. Butterworth, announced a review of its packaging, which it said was originally “intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” in a statement. “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. It’s heartbreaking and unacceptable that racism and racial injustices exist around the world. We will be part of the solution. Let’s work together to progress toward change.”
On Wednesday, B&G Foods — the owner of the Cream of Wheat brand whose image of a smiling African-Ameican chef named Rastus has long been criticized as racist — announced an “immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand 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,” a rep for B&G said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”