The owner of 80-year-old cheese brand Coon has explained the meaning behind the company’s new name, after racism claims sparked a rethink.
Lino A Saputo, the Chair and CEO of Saputo Inc, the Canadian dairy company that owns Coon Cheese said it was a “challenging” decision because Coon was such a well known brand in Australia.
“Although we’ve only owned it since 2015 it was important for us to understand that name did not please other consumers,” Mr Saputo told Sunrise on Wednesday.
He said the name being disliked by some created a “competition that was not favourable” and led them to “embark on a journey of changing the name”.
Responding to criticism the company was named after a cheese processor named Edward William Coon, and therefore shouldn’t change its name, Mr Saputo said some of the company’s consumers were “activists”.
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“You want to have a culture that is fully inclusive, where everyone feels like they’re accepted, where everyone feels like they’re respected.
“We thought there was no harm in changing the name. In fact, a real plus, a real benefit to our consumers.”
The rebrand comes six months after their initial announcement in 2020, in the midst of global Black Lives Matter protests. Calls came from Australian actor Josh Thomas on Twitter, and Aboriginal activist Stephen Hagan, who said the name was “racist”.
“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,” Mr Saputo said in a statement on Wednesday.
Cam Bruce, the company’s Commercial Director, said the new name, Cheer Cheese, “is a cheese for everyone, and we trust our valued consumers and those who are new to our products will embrace this new name”.
“We want to stay true to the brand values,” Mr Bruce said. “CHEER Cheese is the same recipe that millions have come to love, and will continue to grow up with, for generations to come.
“We remain committed to our Australian farmers who continue to produce the high-quality milk that goes into all of our products, including CHEER Cheese.”
Cheer Cheese will be available on Aussie shelves from July 2021.
But the announcement has sparked a furious backlash from critics who said it was a sign of “political correctness gone totally mad”.
“Won’t be buying it … should never have changed the name — family name nothing to do with racism … gone mad,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
“FFS political correctness has gone totally mad,” one woman wrote on Twitter. “Coon cheese will always be Coon cheese, not this stupid Cheer cheese name change.”
“Its old name was in no way racist given the context,” another man wrote on Facebook. “There’s still many people out there with the last name Coon, should they be forced/asked to change their name?
Others simply couldn’t get used to the iconic brand’s new name.
“Not a fan of being forced to change the name but surely someone could have came up with a better name?? Cheer?? Really,” another wrote.
“What an absolutely ridiculous name. I’ll never buy this brand again,” another said.
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