Eskimo-branded ice cream may get name change in Finland

According to the Alaska Native Language Center, the name “Eskimo” is used in the US state of Alaska which refers to all Inuit and Yupik people, but is considered derogatory “because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean ‘eater of raw meat.'” (Yle News)
The Eskimo-branded chocolate-covered ice cream on a stick will soon be re-branded in the US in an effort to fight discrimination, but such a decision has not yet been reached by holders of the brand in Finland, where the treats have been sold for more than half a century.

The firm that owns the Eskimo trademark in the US, Dryer’s Grand Ice Cream, said it was committed to combating racial and cultural discrimination and that it recognised its current brand was inappropriate, according to many news outlets, including the New York Times.

According to the Alaska Native Language Center, the name “Eskimo” is used in the US state of Alaska which refers to all Inuit and Yupik people, but is considered derogatory “because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean ‘eater of raw meat.'”

Mass demonstrations on racial equality and policing have continued across the US for weeks and, according to newspaper USA Today, owners of a number of other iconic brands that feature racial stereotypes have also announced plans to change their branding.

The owners of Aunt Jemima pancake products, Uncle Ben’s rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and Cream of Wheat – all featuring African American stereotype characters or themes – recently announced changes to packaging.

Name change being considered in Finland

Eskimo-branded ice cream snacks have been sold in Finland since 1968, according to Froneri Finland’s marketing manager Minna Brunnberg, who said the company is keeping a close eye on the situation and that the use of the brand name is being examined.

“We are very aware of this matter and work on it is ongoing.”Froneri Finland's marketing manager, Minna Brunnberg

However, because the issue had only recently arisen, the company had not yet decided whether or how the name would be changed.

“Equality is an extremely important issue to us and we do not want people to feel discriminated against due to our trademark. Because of that we want to explore this.”Minna Brunnberg
Controversial brands in Finnish history

In March, Finnish chocolate maker Brunberg announced it was changing the packaging on its chocolate-covered Kisses product, removing stereotypical images of two seemingly African figures kissing, one with a drum slung over his shoulder.

The company launched its popular crème-filled chocolates in 1951 as “Negro Kisses”, changing the name of the candies to “Brunberg’s Kisses” in 2001.

At the time, Brunberg’s move was welcomed by cultural sensitivity and anti-racism expert Sophia Wekesa of the Brown Girls collective.

“You can compare the images to the n-word. Although it’s been normalised in our society, in that people say they’ve been used forever, but they’ve always been made by white people.”Sophia Wekesa, the Brown Girls collective

In 2007, another Finnish confectioner, Fazer, announced plans to retire one product’s controversial mascot, which featured a black figure with outsized red lips and cornrows similar to the blackface images that are now widely denounced as racist.

Earlier this month, the contentious name of an island in Eastern Finland called Neekerisaari (roughly translated in English as N-word Island) would be changed, according to the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus).

The institute and the National Land Survey of Finland originally objected to the name change proposal submitted in September last year by the holiday island’s owner, the North Karelian Journalists’ Association. Kotus previously said it objected to the change because the “unpleasantness” of the name was not reason enough for it to be officially changed.

With files from Yle, New York Times, CNN, USA Today
Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Quebec Inuit org. calls lack of police, justice reform “ticking catastrophe in modern times”, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Police response times up to an hour slower in Arctic Finland, Yle News

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

United States: COVID-19 pandemic raises hard questions about health disparities, says Int’l Inuit org, Eye on the Arctic

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