In the wake of Black Lives Matter, and in celebration of Black History Month, some leading – and key – FMCG companies have made commitments, launched initiatives and implemented change to bring greater equality for black people in the UK and beyond. Here’s a round-up of what some of them have done and why we think others should take note.
1. Mars has rebranded Uncle Ben’s rice, renaming it Ben’s Original and removing the image of the brand’s black ‘Uncle Ben’ figurehead. In a statement, Mars said it understood the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the Uncle Ben’s brand, adding that the move signalled its …“ambition to create a more inclusive future…”
Why it matters: Racial stereotyping is a key issue which needs fixing in order to change the status quo. And for one of the world’s biggest food brands to take action, sends a positive signal to the FMCG industry, no doubt influencing others.
2. The Black Farmer food brand has launched a range of sausages in packs that bear the faces of pioneering black men and women from history, such as the British-Jamaican wartime nurse, Mary Seacole. Brand owner, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, told The Observer: “I’m the only person of colour around that is in a position to challenge all the big retailers in the food industry. When I go into a head office, I can guarantee you that I’m going to be the only person of colour. That is unacceptable. People in my industry need to be made accountable, not just about profits for shareholders but also the people of colour who are buying their products.” In celebration of Black History month, The Black Farmer website lists 30 black people of African and Caribbean decent.
Why it matters: The initiative demonstrates positive use of black people on product packaging, in contrast to the historic portrayal of black people by some brands. And it helps build awareness of black pioneers amongst potentially millions of consumers.
3. John Lewis Partnership (JLP) has announced a Black Partner Advisory Group, which aims to “…look at our products in fashion, food and beyond to make sure they’re inclusive and representative.”
Why it matters: It recognises that there are deep-rooted nuances to racial history and lived experiences which might unwittingly form a blind spot for buyers and product developers in their day-to-day decision making.
4. Sainsbury’s published a video in which it asked colleagues about Black History Month and what it means to them. The Sainsbury’s colleagues also reflect on their experiences of being black people living in the UK today.
Why it matters: As ever, communication is everything – that’s why it’s so important to talk about race: giving people a voice and a platform to talk about their experiences is key to changing the status quo.
*Image is of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm announcing her candidacy for presidential nomination.
Film negative by photographer Thomas J. O’Halloran, 1972.
From the U.S. News & World Report Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.