Nfld. & Labrador

In wake of Aunt Jemima rebrand, NLC puts Old Sam Rum logo under review

The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. is taking a second look at the logo, which features an illustration commonly perceived to be a laughing, elderly Black man on the bottle.

Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. says there is a 'potential issue' with branding

Old Sam Rum is blended and bottled in St. John's by the NLC's spirits division. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. says it is reviewing the logo for its Old Sam Rum brand, which features an illustration commonly perceived to be a laughing, elderly Black man. 

In a statement to the CBC, the Crown corporation said, "it had been identified proactively by staff as part of our review processes and in the context of being an organization where diversity and inclusion are fostered and employees are valued, respected and safe."

The statement went on: "In light of this objective and the broader public awareness and debate of these issues, NLC identified a potential issue with the Old Sam branding."

The statement comes in the wake of PepsiCo pulling the logo and brand of its Aunt Jemima pancake mixes and syrup, which portrays a stereotype of a Black woman working as a servant or nanny to a white family.

Mars Inc. has also announced it is reviewing its Uncle Ben's rice brand, which portrays an elderly African American man, named after a Texan farmer.

Critics have long campaigned against representations that enforce hurtful stereotypes of servants that are rooted in the days of slavery. 

As for Old Sam, the NLC stated it is "exploring the history of the product and whether changes are needed," and said it would also be looking at other products it distributed that may hold "similar concerns."

Old Sam Rum is one of the NLC's 15 spirit brands. While the rum originates in Guyana, Old Sam is blended and bottled in St. John's, and sold across Canada. The NLC's other rum brands include London Dock, Cabot Tower and, most famously, Screech. 

According to the NLC's website, Old Sam has been part of the NLC's spirits division since 1999, with the original recipe dating to 1797. Old Sam's history includes the British company of Edward Young & Co., which still remains on the label, despite it now being an NLC brand. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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