Colgate-Palmolive to review product’s name that translates to ‘Black people toothpaste’

Consumer products giant Colgate-Palmolive has promised to review the name of one of its co-owned products, which translates into “Black people toothpaste.”

The wording, “黑人牙膏,” can be found on “Darlie” toothpaste’s marketing and website branding, as well as the product’s packaging, NBC News has confirmed.

A popular brand across Asia, the product is manufactured and sold in convenience stores, health care shops and supermarkets in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, according to Euromonitor International — a market research firm based in London.

Colgate-Palmolive told NBC News that it was working to review and evolve the brand, following substantial changes it had already made to the logo, name and packaging in the past.

“Darlie is a Chinese brand owned by Colgate and our Joint Venture Partner, Hawley & Hazel,” a spokesperson for the company said in an emailed statement on Friday.

“For more than 35 years, we have been working together to evolve the brand, including substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging. We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name,” they added.

Colgate-Palmolive paid $50 million for 50 percent of Hong Kong-based Hawley & Hazel in 1985.

Prior to 1989, the toothpaste brand was known as “Darkie” and featured a minstrel singer in blackface as its logo, according to a report by the Associated Press at the time. It was changed to a racially ambiguous man in a top hat, following public backlash and pressure from shareholders and other groups.

A tube of ‘Darlie’ toothpaste on display at a supermarket in Hong Kong.Ed Flanagan / NBC News

The two joint venture partners “agreed” that the “Darkie” name, and package presentation represented “offensive racial stereotyping that should be changed,″ they said in a statement at the time.

“Darlie” currently controls 17 percent of the toothpaste market in China, 21 percent in Singapore, 28 percent in Malaysia and 45 percent in Taiwan, according to Euromonitor International.

News of the review comes as American corporations have faced renewed criticism for racial inequality or stereotyping amid protests across the nation and around the world sparked by the death of George Floyd under the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer.

On Wednesday PepsiCo Inc announced it was dropping its Aunt Jemima logo, prompting other American food brands featuring African American characters including Uncle Ben’s rice, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and Cream of Wheat, to initiate reviews of offensive branding.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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