Cream of Wheat is joining a growing list of companies that are removing or revamping their logos in order to be more racially sensitive. The iconic hot cereal brand has announced that they will remove the smiling Black chef from their packages, where he has served as their logo for more than 100 years.
In June, B&G Foods, which produces Cream of Wheat, announced that they would be reviewing the packaging on their Cream of Wheat products.
“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,” the company said in a press release on June 17.
After the company review, executives came to the conclusion that the logo needed to be axed.
“For years, the image of an African American chef appeared on our Cream of Wheat packaging,” B&G Foods said in a statement in September, according to NBC News. “While research indicates the image may be based upon an actual Chicago chef named Frank White, it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive.”
Since 1901, Cream of Wheat has featured the Black chef on their packaging. From 1901 to 1925, the company used an image of a Black man named Frank White, who was originally from Barbados and became a resident of Michigan. The company dubbed him “Rastus,” a pejorative term for Black men. Over the years, the branding played into racist stereotypes, portraying the character as uneducated and even unaware of what vitamins are in one ad campaign.
Although Cream of Wheat later moved away from the “Rastus” packaging, the image of the smiling Black chef on the hot cereal products has continued to be a sticking point for consumers who have also asked brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s to stop using Black caricatures — as well as “aunt” and “uncle,” which critics say reflected a time when Southern white people refused to use the honorifics “Mr.” and “Mrs.” for older Black people — to sell their products.
That same month, Mars, Inc., which owns Uncle Ben’s, said they’d revamp the rice brand, which has featured a Black man on the packaging since 1946. The renamed Ben’s Original tweeted on Sept. 23, “We listened. And we learned,” along with a link to a statement about the change.
“We will change our name to Ben’s Original as well as remove the image on our packaging to create more equitable iconography,” the statement reads. “This change signals our ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining our commitment to producing the world’s best rice.”
We listened. And we learned. Moving forward, Uncle Ben's will be known as Ben’s Original™. Read our full statement to find out more about our brand's new purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table: https://t.co/0tSE0lnMa1 pic.twitter.com/741JQU1qTI
— Ben's Original (@BensOriginal) September 23, 2020
“These images are from another era,” Todd Boyd, a professor of cinema and media studies at USC School of Cinematic Arts, told the New York Times. “They were always problematic but until recently there wouldn’t have been the pushback to these images that has evolved over time.”