As food companies begin to review their brands for racial stereotypes, in some cases launching complete overhauls, people are beginning to call for the beloved snack Eskimo Pies to not only be renamed but completely rebranded. Across social media, numerous people have demanded that the Nestle-marketed product make major changes, arguing that the imagery and name is based on harmful racial stereotypes of the native peoples of Alaska and other Arctic regions.
Should the Eskimo boy be taken off the Eskimo pie ice cream? pic.twitter.com/6TSpLTN2Qc— Az Mongo (@AzMongo) June 18, 2020
Along with concern over the stereotypical image adorning boxes of Eskimo Pies, much of the concern stems from the word "Eskimo" itself. According to NPR, "Eskimo" is commonly used in reference to both the Inuit and Yupik people, who reside in Alaska and other Arctic regions, including Siberia, Canada and Greenland. Although it comes from a Central Algonquian language called Ojibwe, and some linguists believe the word Eskimo actually came from the French word "esquimaux," meaning one who nets snowshoes, "the correction to the etymological record came too late to rehabilitate the word Eskimo." As a result, most people in Canada and Greenland still prefer other terms.
Throughout its controversial history, "Eskimo" was used as a derogatory term by racist, non-native colonizers. Some falsely believed that the term meant "eater of raw meat," which connoted native people with barbarism and violence. Mid-century anthropologists even suggested that the word "came from the Latin word "excommunicati," meaning the "excommunicated ones, because the native people of the Canadian Arctic were not Christian."
At this time, Nestle has not announced any plans to review the branding of Eskimo Pies, though the company did, it would be following the likes of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's, Mrs. Butterworth's, and Cream of Wheat, all of which are set to undergo rebrands. Quaker Oats was the first to announce Wednesday that after 131 years, it would retire Aunt Jemima from packaging on its brand of syrup and pancake mixes because it's "based on a racial stereotype." Just hours later, Mars the owner of Uncle Ben's rice, announced it "is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity." By Thursday morning, similar announcements had been made by Conagra Brands and B&G Foods for Mrs. Butterworth's and Cream of Wheat.