The fallout from the protests against racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police officers has reached Barbados, leading a company with business ties here to take stock of how it brands its products.
France-based rum-maker Maison Ferrand, whose Plantation Rum uses Barbadian spirit in its blends, announced Monday that it is moving swiftly to drop the trademark, redolent of the economy that dominated the island for 300 years, based originally on the enslavement of African people for the production of sugar, molasses and rum.
In a statement, Maison Ferrand’s owner and master blender Alexandre Gabriel said: “As the dialogue on racial equality continues globally, we understand the hurtful connotation the word “plantation” can evoke to some people, especially in its association with much graver images and dark realities of the past. We look to grow in our understanding of these difficult issues, and while we do not currently have all the details of what our brand name evolution will involve, we want to let everyone know that we are working to make fitting changes.”
The company did not give a timeline on when it will be making the change nor did it allude to what the new name might be.
Global Brand Manager for Plantation Rum, Stephanie Simbo, said: “We pride ourselves on making rum for people to enjoy and never want any part of their experience to create feelings of discomfort. As you can imagine, evolving a brand name is a significant undertaking for a family business like ours. We humbly ask that everyone have patience as we move to make these changes as quickly as possible.”
Maison Ferrand has evolved from a small family-run enterprise in 1989 to a global player in the spirits industry today. Its portfolio includes Citadelle gin and Pierre Ferrand cognac.
Last week, Quaker Oats, the owners of the Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mixes dropped that trademark after more than 130 years after acknowledging that its origins are based on the racial stereotype of a “Mammy, a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own”. Mars, Inc. the owner of the Uncle Ben’s brand of rice, has also announced plans to revisit its branding. Introduced in 1943, the brand features a servile black man on its packaging – evincing another stereotypical character, “Pappy”.
Social historians have pointed to the racial stereotypes inherent in the iconic labels as part of the complex legacy of slavery and segregation in the US. They have pointed out that many white Americans relied on the description of elderly black people as “Uncle” or “Aunt” in a bid to avoid addressing them as “Mister”, “Sir” or “Ma’am”.