KANSAS CITY — Conagra Brands, Inc., Mars, Inc. and B&G Foods, Inc. are following PepsiCo, Inc. in plans to eliminate racist imagery from packaging. On the heels of PepsiCo’s announcement to retire its Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mixes, syrups and other products, similar plans are underway for Mrs. Butterworth’s and Uncle Ben’s.
Conagra Brands, Chicago, said it has initiated a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup and baking mix products. Introduced in 1961, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottles are shaped in the form of an apron-clad matronly woman. The packaging is intended to “evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” according to the company, which acquired the brand as part of its $8.1 billion acquisition of Pinnacle Foods in 2018.
“We stand in solidarity with our black and brown communities, and we can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values,” Conagra Brands said in a June 17 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.”
Mars, McLean, Va., said it will evolve the Uncle Ben’s rice visual brand identity after a push from its consumers and associates to do so. Introduced in 1943, the brand’s products feature the likeness of Gordon L. Harwell, a black rice grower who supplied to the armed forces during World War II and claimed his rice to be “as good as Uncle Ben’s,” according to the brand’s website (The brand’s origin story no longer appears on the updated site).
“We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities,” Mars said. “Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the black community, our associates and our partners in the fight for social justice. We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us — individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world.”
B&G Foods, Parsippany, NJ, said it was initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand and packaging, which features a black chef. The breakfast porridge mix debuted in 1893 at the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago.
“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 said. “B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”
The actions by Conagra Brands, Mars and B&G Foods were announced on the same day as PepsiCo’s pledge to replace the name and imagery for Aunt Jemima, which were based on a racial stereotype. A new name will be announced following the first phase of packaging changes, which will begin appearing throughout the fourth quarter.