1. Aunt Jemima
After months of anticipation, PepsiCo announced in February that the new name of this much-loved pancake and maple syrup brand would be Pearl Milling Company.
The original Aunt Jemima boxes and bottles featured a Black minstrel character based on Nancy Green, a woman hired to promote the self-rising pancake mix in the 1890s. Pearl Milling Company, a small Missouri mill, was responsible for creating the mix in 1889 using the pearl milling technique.
“While the name on the box has changed, the great tasting products — the ‘pearl’ inside the familiar red box — remains the same, with a mission to create joyful breakfast moments for everyone,” the brand says.
2. Mr. Potato Head
The iconic spud made popular all over again by the Disney/Pixar series Toy Story went gender-neutral this year in a surprisingly divisive announcement.
Toy titan Hasbro stated on its corporate website in late February 2021 that it was renaming the Mr. Potato Head brand to just “Potato Head” to “better reflect the whole line,” which includes Mrs. Potato Head and a baby as well.
Social media users and newspaper columnists were immediately at each other’s throats, arguing about whether the move was a PR stunt or indoctrinating children.
However, the change wasn’t as drastic as it first appeared, as Hasbro explained in a tweet packed with potato puns: “Hold that Tot — your main spud, MR. POTATO HEAD isn’t going anywhere! While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR,’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD.”
3. Eskimo Pie
After a century in America’s freezers, this ice cream bar finally ditched its name and controversial “Eskimo” character in early 2021.
"The name Edy’s Pie was chosen in honor of one of our company’s founders, candy maker Joseph Edy, as well as a form of tribute to the entrepreneurial origins of this treat,” Elizabell Marquez, head of marketing for parent company Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, told USA Today.
The chocolate-coated ice cream bar was initially marketed as the I-Scream Bar when Christian Kent Nelson invented it, inspired by a boy in his store who couldn't decide between ice cream and chocolate. However, it was patented as Eskimo Pie in 1922.
4. G Suite
Last year, Google rebranded its collection of office apps — including Gmail, Docs, Meet, Sheets, and Calendar — from G Suite to Google Workspace.
The company also included some helpful new features to enhance their integration with each other, a move Vice President Javier Soltero called “the end of the ‘office’ as we know it.” (Of course, everyone making bank in the online gig economy knows the office ended a long time ago.)
While the new features were welcome, users said the new icons actually made the whole system more difficult to use. Google decided to use similar geometric shapes and its red, blue, yellow and green color scheme for each app, leading to plenty of frustration as people keep clicking the wrong icons by mistake.
5. Uncle Ben’s
All those orange packages of microwavable rice will now bear the name Ben’s Original and drop the face of Frank Brown, a Chicago head waiter whose portrait was reused for the logo.
The rice products were named after a Black rice farmer from Texas — who may or may not have existed.
Neither men actually worked for the company, and critics have pointed out that Black men were often referred to as “boy” or “uncle” to avoid calling them “mister” during the Jim Crow era.
"For some, it clearly had overtones of servitude, and that is not the brand that we want to represent," Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, told CNN Business.
6. Mozilla Firefox
While public protests sparked many of the changes on this list, Mozilla suffered a barrage of criticism in February after changing its beloved logo.
Users were outraged to see a new icon that was far more fire than fox. The furor took form in Internet memes and tweets calling for justice.
Mozilla eventually needed to make a public service announcement to explain that the outcry was based on a misunderstanding: Its browser’s logo had never changed.
The truth is that the company’s designers had announced way back in 2018 that the overarching Firefox brand needed a new, basic image that could be altered to create icons for its full line of products.
“That fast fox with a flaming tail doesn’t offer enough design tools to represent this entire product family. Recoloring that logo or dissecting the fox could only take us so far,” the company wrote in a blog post at the time.
Meal-kit maker HelloFresh opted for a “fresher,” more modern look in 2020, trading its signature cartoon lime and handwritten font for a shaded lime and bold, black text.
The intention was to create a design that could work at any size, in any medium. Yet the app icon, which features the HelloFresh name on a grungy, green square, wasn’t a big hit with customers.
“Ugh. Those colors do not say ‘fresh food’ to me. That looks like something that's been in the fridge too long,” Redditor joeyGibson writes.
While the redesign may be a mixed success, the company doubled its sales in 2020 as more Americans avoid grocery stores and order food to their doors instead. (If that sounds like you, make sure to use a cash-back app that rewards when you buy in-store or online.)
8. Coors Light
This beer brand decided to switch things up with a minimalist redesign in 2020, featuring a simple blue mountain paired with red and silver text.
The new look caught the eye of Evian, which has been using a remarkably similar style on its water bottles for years. It responded to the rebrand with a cutting tweet: “Beautiful!! Should we send you our graphical guidelines next time? 😘”
To add to the confusion, Coors Light has been renamed to just “Coors,” and the company is launching “Coors Original” this year 2021.
9. Cream of Wheat
Cream of Wheat, a smooth porridge mix made from finely ground wheat semolina, was created way back in 1893. A lot has changed since then.
Now the brand is dropping its Black chef character from its packaging. Rebranded products are set to hit shelves this year.
Parent company B&G Foods said its research suggests the chef character may have been based on Chicago chef Frank White. White was actually a replacement for the original mascot “Rastus,” a former slave who spoke broken English in early Cream of Wheat advertisements.
10. Mrs. Butterworth
Like its competitor Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth is also considering a rebrand, as critics say the matronly syrup bottle perpetuates an old stereotype.
While the shape was allegedly chosen to “evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” critics argue it more accurately evokes the “mammy” caricature of a Black servant in a white household.
Conagra Brands plans to undergo “a complete brand and packaging review,” communications manager Dan Skinner told Forbes in June 2020. However, the company has yet to announce what changes, if any, are on the horizon.
11. Red Skins, Chicos and Beso de Negra
In June 2020, Nestlé announced a full review of its brands and products, including three sweets sold internationally.
Allen’s raspberry-flavored Red Skins and brown jelly Chicos are being re-released as Red Ripper and Cheekies in Australia this year, and the Beso de Negra ("kiss from a Black woman") chocolate-covered marshmallows sold in Colombia are getting a rebrand as well.
Chris O'Donnell, general manager of confectionery, said the company would keep the packaging changes simple “to help lolly lovers find their favorites easily."
12. Land O’ Lakes
After nearly a century, Minnesota-based butter brand Land O’ Lakes quietly removed a Native American woman from its packaging in early 2020.
The company says it decided to remove the mascot — while retaining the lake and trees backdrop with the words "Land O Lakes, 1921" — to better reflect its origins as a farmer-owned business before its 100th anniversary this year.
New products would include photos of Land O' Lakes farmers and company members. More than 1,700 farmers are involved in the dairy co-op, which also sells eggs, milk, cheese and cocoa.
13. Fair & Lovely
The Indian subsidiary of Unilever renamed Fair & Lovely to “Glow & Lovely” for women and “Glow & Handsome” for men in 2020, following years of criticism directed toward the skin-lightening cream.
The product often used words such as “white,” “light” and “fair” when describing a desirable appearance. Advertisements showed gloomy, dark-skinned models transforming into beaming, light-skinned versions of themselves.
The company’s decision wasn’t enough for many critics who say the product still promotes harmful beauty standards.
“We also need to respect the fact that all over the world there are different views of what beauty is,” a Unilever spokesperson told Forbes. “Three-hundred-million people choose to buy Fair & Lovely every year. We want to meet the different desires of different consumers around the world safely and in a positive and inclusive way.”
14. Air Force Space Command
The U.S. Space Force rebrand debuted last year with a design many felt was suspiciously similar to Star Trek’s Starfleet symbol.
The Air Force Space Command was first established in 1982 to advance space exploration during the Cold War but was reorganized into the U.S. Space Force under the Donald Trump administration in 2016.
While the new logo triggered plenty of online mockery, the official U.S. Space Force Twitter account argues the delta symbol has been used in space organizations as early as 1961.
The U.S. military branch later added its members would be referred to as “Guardians,” based on the original motto of the Air Force Space Command in 1983, “Guardians of the High Frontier.” While the motto may be rooted in tradition, it’s hard not to think of another sci-fi property featuring a talking raccoon.