Australia’s Coon cheese to change name in effort to help ‘eliminate racism'

<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

The Australian cheese brand Coon will change its name to help “eliminate racism” following a campaign stating the product name was offensive to Indigenous Australians.

Friday’s announcement by Saputo, the dairy company that owns Coon, “to retire the Coon brand name”, comes after a decades-long effort to rename the cheese, including an unsuccessful 1999 complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission from Indigenous activist Dr Stephen Hagan.

Coon, along with other businesses, artists and cultural symbols, has come under fresh scrutiny over racial connotations in recent months as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in Australia.

The brand, which was first sold in 1935, has long resisted calls to change its name, defending its historical decision to name the cheese after American cheesemaker Edward William Coon, who, according to the brand’s website, “patented a unique ripening process” used to make the dairy product.

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A new name for Coon has not yet been decided, but Saputo on Friday said it was “working to develop a new brand name that will honour the brand-affinity felt by our valued consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives”.

“At Saputo, one of our basic principles as an organisation is to treat people with respect and without discrimination and we will not condone behaviour that goes against this,” the company said in a statement.

“As such, we performed a careful and diligent review of a sensitive situation involving one of our brands. We wanted to ensure we listened to all the concerns surrounding the Coon brand name, while also considering comments from consumers who cherish the brand and recognise the origin of its founder Edward William Coon, which they feel connected to.

“We believe we all share in the responsibility to eliminate racism in all its forms and we feel this is an important step we must take to uphold this commitment.”