Eskimo Pie will rebrand to be ‘part of the solution on racial equality’

Dive Brief:

  • Eskimo Pie, the almost 100-year-old chocolate-coated ice cream bar brand, announced it will change its name and branding. The treat, which is currently owned by Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the U.S. subsidiary of global ice cream maker Froneri, pledged to have a new name and remove the Eskimo child from its packaging by the end of the year, according to The New York Times.
  • “We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is inappropriate,” Elizabell Marquez, head of marketing for Dreyer’s, said in a statement. “This move is part of a larger review to ensure our company and brands reflect our people values.”
  • Eskimo Pie is the latest to re-examine the racial stereotypes associated with its branding. Last week, PepsiCo pledged a complete rebrand and new name for its pancake brand Aunt Jemima. Corporate owners of Uncle Ben’s rice, Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup also said they would be reviewing and evolving their branding.

Dive Insight:

While consumers have complained about racist imagery on some food brands for decades, it looks like 2020 is the year that these faces and names will be retired.

The trend started before the current moment of racial consciousness, when Land O’Lakes announced in April it would remove the Native American maiden on its packaging. The decision was not sparked by any particular protests, petitions or movements, but is a refresh for the brand’s centennial that places the words “Farmer-owned” and “Since 1921” where the maiden once sat. Beth Ford, president and CEO of the company, said in a statement in April that the brand needs “packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture — and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products.”

A few months later, all of America is taking a hard look institutionalized racism, including corporations. And while Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and the Cream of Wheat chef are all Black characters, Eskimo Pie also represents a racial stereotype of people native to the Arctic. The brand’s imagery has long featured a child with dark hair, a fur-lined parka and big boots.

Many native to the Arctic consider “Eskimo” a derogatory term — especially when it’s used by people from outside of that region — because it was used as a term by colonizers as a generic description of all of them, according to NPR. Its origin is unknown, though some of the hypotheses connote unflattering descriptions of the native people and their lifestyles. A 2009 editorial on a New Zealand news site complained about the widespread use of the term, including on marshmallow candies in that country.

Eskimo Pie was the first candy-coated ice cream bar. After creator Christian Nelson created the confection, he began marketing it as the I-Scream-Bar. Nelson then joined forces with chocolate maker Russell Stover, who changed the treat’s name to Eskimo Pie to inspire visions of the Arctic.

While objections to Eskimo Pie may not have been as loud as those to the Black branding that is getting an overhaul, it is likely that the companies that have owned the brand through the years have been aware of consumer discomfort. As many companies are responding to deeper awareness of institutionalized racism, this is a prime opportunity for the brand to make a big change.

An overhaul of the Eskimo Pie brand will be costly, and a brand that had deep recognition among consumers may find itself lost in the shuffle. However, rebranding could be extremely beneficial from a sales and positioning standpoint. While Eskimo Pie was the first candy-coated ice cream bar, the last 98 years have brought a lot of competition, which has translated to diminishing sales. According to Statista, Eskimo Pie ranked 19th on a 2019 listing of the ice cream novelty brands consumers purchased most often. The leader, Klondike Bars, were bought by 40.11 million Americans last year. Eskimo Pies were bought by less than a quarter of that total — 9.93 million consumers.

Eskimo Pie could move up the rankings with a new name and better branding. Whatever the brand becomes could play up its long history, and even be the vehicle through which Froneri introduces innovations into the space.

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