Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, a New York-based branding consulting firm, suggests maintaining brand identity is both a priority and a problem for most of these companies. Each of their mascots, Adamson says, has spent decades developing valuable name recognition, which he estimates is worth millions of dollars.
The biggest challenge for these companies is that “the only thing differentiating their brand from the store brand was Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben,” Adamson told CNN Business. “When you take those characters away, you’re left with a commodity. You pay less for a commodity than you do for a brand. It’s an expensive change and these companies paid a lot of money for these brand equities.”
Here’s where each company stands with its brand overhaul:
Pepsi says it’s been working to come up with a Jemima replacement that maintains the company’s valuable brand recognition. Supply chain issues have delayed the process as well.
“Our consumers are still looking for the Aunt Jemima products they know and love, especially during a time when we’ve seen empty store shelves due to the pandemic,” Joan Cetera, vice president of communications for PepsiCo Foods North America told CNN Business. “It will take time for the changes to fully move through our complex supply chain, but consumers will see changes yet this year and early next [year].”
Cream of Wheat
“While research indicates the [Black chef] image may be based upon an actual Chicago chef named Frank White, it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive,” B&G told CNN Business. “Therefore, we are removing the chef image from all Cream of Wheat packaging.”
Parent company Conagra declined to say when it plans to unveil the new likeness of Mrs. Butterworth, whose famous humanoid bottle shape reminds some of an elderly woman of color when it’s filled with brown maple syrup.
The company noted that it, “can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values,” at the time, but acknowledged Monday that same packaging is still available on grocery store shelves today.
“Our brand and packaging review is underway,” a Conagra spokesperson said via email, declining to comment further.
Ben’s Original, aka Uncle Ben’s
“For some, it clearly had overtones of servitude, and that is not the brand that we want to represent,” Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, told CNN Business. “There’s no place for anything in this world that hints at social injustice.”
Mars said its new Ben’s Original name and packaging is still in development and replacing Uncle Ben’s on store shelves globally involves production and distribution-related changes that take “considerable time.”
“We have a responsibility to all of our stakeholders to do this right,” the company said Wednesday. “We remain committed to do it as quickly as possible.”