NEW YORK – Geechie Boy Mill, a family-owned operation in South Carolina that makes locally-grown and milled grits, says it will change its name amid backlash from customers.
The company said Wednesday it will reveal the new name once the legal requirements are met and the paperwork is complete. It joins a growing a list of brands from Eskimo Pie to Aunt Jemima that are reckoning with racist logos and marketing.
“We appreciate all of the concern we have received recently, and we have taken it to heart,” said owners Betsy and Greg Johnsman, in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. “What we will not change is our commitment to providing the highest quality products to our customers.”
Geechie is a dialect spoken mainly by the descendants of African American slaves who settled on the Ogeechee River in Georgia, according to Merriam-Webster.com.
When the Johnsman family acquired the business in 2003 they kept the name intact, the owners said in a statement. They sold fresh produce and other products and eventually added a mill to grind grits. Now the company sells heirloom grains nationwide, according to their statement.
The move follows a statement by the company in mid-June that it was “listening and reviewing our overall branding.”
Many brands are rethinking their marketing in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in recent weeks triggered by the death of George Floyd. The owner of Eskimo Pie said late last month that it is changing its name and marketing of the nearly century-old chocolate-covered ice cream bar.
Quaker Oats announced earlier last month that it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognizes the character´s origins are “based on a racial stereotype.”
Other companies are reviewing their name or logo. B&G Foods Inc., which makes Cream of Wheat hot cereal, said last month it’s initiating an “immediate review” of its packaging. A smiling Black chef holding a bowl of cereal has appeared on Cream of Wheat packaging and in ads since at least 1918, according to the company´s website.
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Corrects spelling of the last name of the family who owns Geechie Boy Mill. It is Johnsman, not Johnson.