The retirement of the Aunt Jemima brand by Quaker Oats for being based on a racial stereotype has seemingly sparked other companies to reevaluate the products in their portfolio, with B&G Foods and Conagra Brands being two of the latest.
This influx of brand reviews—including Mars’ announcement to overhaul its Uncle Ben’s rice logo and packaging—comes as society is demanding racial equality and social justice. And for CPG brands, it means making sure their portfolios reflect the values the country has today.
“It all comes down to market research and whether or not the companies feel like their brands reflect on the messaging that they want to push out,” Ryan Gellis, founding partner of RMG, a New York-based agency specializing in building brands, told WGB.
He also it’s important to be “consistent with what’s going on in the world today.”
“The updates to brands that are happening right now are bigger than just changing a logo,” Gellis added. “This has more of a contextual impact to the people that are actually shopping these brands. It’s not just, ‘Do I think this brand is modern? Do I want to shop it because it fits in a certain low, medium, high [price point].’ … That’s a less important conversation than whether or not you are going to have social stigma around the brands that you are trying to push.”
Two brands currently having those conversations are Parsippany, N.J.-based B&G Foods and Chicago-based Conagra Brands. B&G is reviewing its Cream of Wheat packaging, specifically the image of a smiling black chef, which has been the logo since 1893. “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 release. “B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind.”
Conagra Brands, meanwhile, is reviewing its Mrs. Butterworth’s food brand, which it said in a release is “intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother.” The company added, however: “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. … 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.”
Going forward, the key for CPG companies will be listening to their consumers, whether it’s through social media or market studies.
“Big difference for companies today vs. 100 years ago is we’ve got the tools to not only have people talk openly and publicly about what they think about brands, but then tools to actually sniff out that data, aggregate it, do artificial intelligence against it to look at sentiment and attitude and figure out what do people really think about this brand and is this something we need to look at?” Gellis said.