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Australian cheese company changes its racially offensive brand name

The 80-year-old brand is now called "Cheer Cheese."
Saputo Dairy Australia announced the cheese brand's new name on Wednesday.
Saputo Dairy Australia announced the cheese brand's new name on Wednesday. TODAY Illustration / cooncheeseaus
/ Source: TODAY

An Australian cheese brand just became the latest company to change its name following concerns that its moniker was racially offensive.

Saputo Dairy Australia, which calls itself the country's "top dairy processor," announced on Wednesday that its cheese brand, formerly called "Coon Cheese," will now be called "Cheer Cheese."

The brand, which has been around for more than 80 years, has faced criticism for decades because its name contains a racist slur. In the past, Saputo Dairy Australia has responded by explaining that the brand name pays tribute to its founder, Edward William Coon.

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In a press release posted to the company's website on Wednesday, Saputo Inc. Chair and Chief Executive Officer Lino A. Saputo explained the decision to change the brand's name.

“Treating people with respect and without discrimination is one of our basic principles and it is imperative that we continue to uphold this in everything we do," he wrote. "Our decision to change the name of Australia’s much-loved cheese reinforces this commitment to build a culture of acceptance, inclusion and respect where everyone feels a sense of belonging.”

The Cheer Cheese brand will retain the same recipe, and the rebranded product will begin to hit Australian supermarket shelves in July.

In an Instagram post, the company called Cheer "a cheese for everyone," giving customers a first look at the product's new packaging.

Saputo Dairy Australia first announced its intention to create a new name for the brand back in July, after conducting a thorough review of the name following a series of customer complaints. According to CNN, Indigenous activist Stephen Hagan has been campaigning for the brand to change its name for over two decades.

"We wanted to ensure we listened to all the concerns surrounding the COON® brand name, while also considering comments from consumers who cherish the brand and recognise the origin of its founder Edward William Coon, which they feel connected to," the brand wrote in a statement on its website at the time.

Saputo Dairy Australia is just the latest in a string of food companies who have recently made the decision to change one of their brand names following public pressure.

In April, Land O'Lakes dropped its controversial Native American logo from products. Two months later, the breakfast brand Aunt Jemima removed its logo and announced that it would be renamed after many consumers claimed the branding perpetuates a racist stereotype. Rice brand Uncle Ben's also ditched its logo and got a new name — Ben's Original — in September, following a similar public outcry.

The same month, Cream of Wheat porridge mix maker B&G Foods Inc said it would remove an image of a Black chef on the product's packaging.

"For years, the image of an African-American chef appeared on our Cream of Wheat packaging. While research indicates the image may be based upon an actual Chicago chef named Frank White, it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive," the company said in a statement at the time.