Grocery shoppers may have recently noticed something — or someone — missing from the dairy aisle.
Mia, the Native American woman, whose cartoon image has been a fixture on Land O’Lakes products for nearly 100 years is gradually disappearing from the brand's packaging as the company rolls out a new logo on containers of butter, cheeses, heavy creams and more.
“As Land O’Lakes looks toward our 100th anniversary, we’ve recognized we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture — and nothing does that better than our farmer-owners whose milk is used to produce Land O’Lakes’ dairy products,” Beth Ford, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes, said in a company statement released earlier this year.
The new packaging reads: “Proud to be Farmer-Owned: As a farmer-owned co-op, we stand together to bring you the very best in dairy.” Instead of Mia, some products will feature photos of real farmers.
While the Minnesota-based dairy company unveiled the new logo in February, it is now gradually starting to replace the old one in stores. Land O'Lakes expects the transition to be completed by the end of this year. According to the original announcement, tubs of butter spreads and packages of cheese have already received the branding makeover treatment.
On its website, Land O'Lakes still features Mia on some product photos, while others have the new logo.
According to the Star Tribune, the female figure was first created by illustrator Arthur C. Hanson in the late 1920s. In the 1950s, Patrick DesJarlait, a member of the Ojibwe tribe, reimagined Mia. While DesJarlait's son said he understands the company's decision to change the logo, he told the paper that he was also "sad" to her go.
While Land O’Lakes has only publicly said the rebranding was motivated by a desire to focus on the farmers behind its products, the removal of the controversial figure has been garnering most of the attention.
On Wednesday, Minnesota Lt. Governor and White Earth Band of Ojibwe member Peggy Flanagan tweeted about the issue.
"Thank you to Land O’Lakes for making this important and needed change. Native people are not mascots or logos. We are very much still here," she said.
Other politicians and activists have applauded the move, too. In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald, Rep. Ruth Buffalo, D-Idaho, said it was “a good thing for the company to remove the image,” while pointing out that there is more to be done.
“It’s kinda like with land acknowledgements, it’s a good gesture and a step forward. But we can’t stop there. We as a whole need to keep pushing forward to address the underlying issues that directly impact an entire population that survived genocide,” Buffalo said.
Reactions on social media have been mixed. Some celebrated Land O'Lakes' move, while others accused the company of being too "politically correct." A few people even alluded to the fact that the illustrator behind the revamped Mia was Native American.
Meanwhile, others have questioned the company’s decision to not directly address why the the Native American woman was being phased out from all product packaging.
Speaking to the Minnesota Reformer, Brown University professor Adrienne Keene applauded the company for making a “great move.”
“It makes me really happy to think that there’s now going to be an entire generation of folks that are growing up without having to see that every time they walk in the grocery store,” Keene told the outlet. But she also highlighted the company’s decision not to include its reasoning behind the product makeover, which she described as a missed opportunity.
“It could have been a very strong and positive message to have publicly said, ‘We realized after a hundred years that our image was harmful and so we decided to remove it,’” Keene said. “In our current cultural moment, that’s something people would really respond to.”
A representative for Land O'Lakes was not immediately available for comment.