Commentary

Dreyer's Removing 'Derogatory' Term Eskimo From Ice Cream Treat

Dreyer’s will be changing the name and marketing for Eskimo Pie, its chocolate-coated ice cream delicacy that’s nearing its 100th anniversary. 

“We are committed to being a part of the solution on racial equality, and recognize the term is derogatory,”  Elizabell Marquez, head of marketing for its parent Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the U.S. subsidiary for Froneri, in a statement. “This move is part of a larger review to ensure our company and brands reflect our people values,” the AP’s Anne D’Innocenzio writes  for The Seattle Times

“The chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar got its name from the indigenous people of the Arctic regions, including northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Siberia. The ice cream's packaging features a young boy dressed for snowy weather,” Sophie Lewis writes  for CBS News. 

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“Many indigenous people consider Eskimo a derogatory term because non-native colonizers used it to mean ‘eater of raw meat,’ connoting barbarism,” Lewis adds.

“Along with the name change, the company will alter the treat’s marketing scheme,” Ben Feuerherd writes  for the New York Post.

The ice cream bar was patented by Christian Kent Nelson and his business partner Russell C. Stover on January 24, 1922, Kat Eschner writes  for Smithsonian Magazine.

“Nelson’s intent: to make an ice cream dainty that allowed for ‘ready handling.’ The idea came as a response to an experience that he had while working the counter in the sweet shop he owned near the [Ohio] high school where he also worked as a teacher, writes archivist Maurita Baldock: ‘The inspiration for the invention of Eskimo Pie was a boy’s indecision in Nelson’s confectionery store in 1920. A boy started to buy ice cream, then changed his mind and bought a chocolate bar. Nelson inquired as to why he did not buy both. The boy replied, 'Sure I know -- I want ’em both, but I only got a nickel,’” Eschner continues.

They were initially named ‘I-Scream’ Bars’ but Stover, the confectioner who manufactured the treats, suggested the name change. 

“In the 1950s, Mr. Nelson also patented an ‘Eskimo Machine’ that squeezed out ice cream in the correct dimensions to be cut into bars -- a faster process than the previous method of using molds,” Jennifer Maloney writes for The Wall Street Journal.

“The ice cream business was acquired by United States Foil Company, which made its wrapper and later became Reynolds Metals. In 1992, it was spun off in a public offering and was acquired by Dreyer’s in 2007,” she adds.

Nestle bought a controlling stake in Dreyer’s in 2003 and acquired full ownership in 2006. It sold its U.S. ice cream business, including Dreyer’s, to Froneri in a deal valued at $4 billion, on Feb. 1, moving control of the brands to a joint venture the Swiss group set up in 2016, Reuters reports.

Other brands have been challenged for using the term. 

“In 2009, a young Inuit woman publicly denounced Pascall, a candy manufacturer in Australia and New Zealand, for appropriating her culture to sell its ‘Eskimo’ marshmallows and other sweets. The woman, a Canadian tourist, described how shocked she was to find the candies while visiting New Zealand and described to reporters how as a child other children mocked her by calling her an Eskimo. The company refused  change the name,” Maria Cramer writes for The New York Times.

“In Canada, an organization that represents the Inuit has called on the Edmonton Eskimos, a professional football team, to change its name,” Cramer adds.

Meanwhile, family members of two women who have portrayed Aunt Jemima oppose Quaker Oats’ plans to rebrand the syrup and pancake mixes. 

“The first Aunt Jemima image was based on Kentucky native Nancy Green, a Civil War-era slave from Mount Sterling. Anna Short Harrington is believed to be the model after Green. Larnell Evans Sr., Harrington's great-grandson, told  Patch that he was hurt and offended by the brand’s decision,” Kelly Tyko writes  for USA Today.

“This is an injustice for me and my family. This is part of my history,” Evans told Patch. “The racism they talk about, using images from slavery, that comes from the other side – white people. This company profits off images of our slavery. And their answer is to erase my great-grandmother’s history.”

The family of Lillian Richard, the face of Aunt Jemima from 1925 to 1940, also spoke out against the rebranding decision, Tyko reports.

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