The Black chef will no longer appear on Cream of Wheat packaging where he was the face of the brand for more than a century, the product's parent company announced in a decision that comes three months after it vowed to reevaluate its marketing to ensure it did not "inadvertently contribute to systemic racism."
"For years, the image of an African American chef appeared on our Cream of Wheat packaging," B&G Foods said last week. Although research suggests the image may be based on an actual chef from Chicago, "it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive," the company said.
It is not clear when the change will take effect.
Cream of Wheat, which depicts a smiling Black man in a white uniform worn by chefs, has not changed much since its debut in the late 19th century. The character was named "Rastus," a pejorative term for Black men, and he was once depicted as a barely literate cook who did not know what vitamins were.
The chef's face changed in the mid-1920s when a Chicago waiter was asked to pose in a chef's hat, said Gregory Smithers, a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He said the waiter, identified by some scholars as Frank White, was paid $5 and no royalties.
"In that the Cream of Wheat 'chef' exploited a racist caricature that perpetuated stereotypes of African American people in subservient forms of employment, and in the service of white people, the imagery needs to be confined to the dustbin of history," Smithers said.
B&G Foods was one of several food companies to announce in June that it would reevaluate the racial undertones of its brands after widespread protests set off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis renewed the focus on images that the companies had used for decades to sell their products.
Mars Inc. announced Wednesday that it would change the name of its Uncle Ben's rice products to Ben's Original and remove the image of its once namesake. The image of Uncle Ben, an older, smiling Black man wearing a bow tie, has long drawn criticism for perpetuating a stereotype of Black subservience.
In June, Quaker Oats said it's renaming its Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup line.