Mrs. Butterworth's will undergo a brand review, Conagra Brands announced Wednesday. Although Mrs. Butterworth's packaging "is intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother," Conagra, in a statement, acknowledged that their packaging "may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values." The announcement follows decisions by the parent companies of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s to overhaul their imaging in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality, which have been sparked in following the police killing of George Floyd.
Hitting store shelves in 1961, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup bottle was reportedly modeled after Thelma "Butterfly" McQueen, the actress who played Scarlett O'Hara's maid in Gone With the Wind, according to Cleveland.com. However, in commercials, the talking syrup bottle was portrayed by a White actress. The bottle has long been perceived as a black stereotype, though, with many associating the shape of the brand’s bottles with the offensive "Mammy" racial caricature of stereotype for Black women. According to information from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, and as reported by the Columbia Daily Tribune, the "Mammy" caricature – often portrayed as a larger, dark-skinned woman with a scarf covering her head – has been used throughout history to benefit White people. Throughout the Jim Crow era, the character was used to portray proof that Black women "were content and happy working in white households."
"Historically, the mammy is the most potent stereotypical female icon," Pat Turner, vice provost of undergraduate education and a faculty member in the African American studies program at the University of California-Davis, told the outlet. "Older African Americans can remember when it was the only representation of black females in popular culture... All kinds of objects have been made to look like a mammy, from cookie jars to tea towels. While popular culture now reflects a range of images, some individuals are offended by evidence that it hasn't disappeared."
As a result, Conagra said that they "understand that our actions help play an important role in eliminating racial bias and as a result, we have begun a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth's." The company added that it is "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." Conagra did not give a timeline as to when a possible rebrand could be debuted.