Coon cheese’s biggest rival has hit out at the length of time it took the company to rebrand, with Bega Cheese executive chairman Barry Irvin saying the name had always made him “uncomfortable”.
Parent company of Coon cheese, Saputo Dairy Australia, had signalled a name change was underway last year following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement around the globe.
There was growing criticism that the 85-year-old brand name had racist connotations.
Recently, the company unveiled the new name as Cheer, with rebranded packaging set to be rolled out onto Aussie shelves from July 2021.
But Mr Irvin questioned why the longstanding brand hadn’t made the decision to dump the name years ago, although he understood the history of Coon cheese was “not one of racism”.
“Fortunately it had never been my decision to make, but if it had have been … I would have been thinking a long time ago that a brand transition would be a good idea,” Mr Irvin told the Herald Sun.
“I had been thinking for a long time that it wasn’t a good brand name for the era that we live in and hasn’t been for some time, so I understand why they made that decision.”
Mr Irvin also confessed he wasn’t a fan of the new name, but said he wasn’t a marketing expert.
“I’m not sure if it would have been the name I’d have chosen, but then again, I’m just the average consumer,” he said.
When revealing the change, Saputo chief Lino A. Saputo said the name Cheer had the significance of pleasure and joy.
“We took some time to think about this,” he said. “We wanted to do the proper due diligence and consulted with different focus groups, and we narrowed it down to three to five names, and resoundingly consumers thought this was the right reflection of what we’re bringing for families.”
He added that the move was a “commitment to build a culture of acceptance, inclusion and respect where everyone feels a sense of belonging”.
But the cheese brand was slammed by critics who described the decision as “political correctness gone mad”.
Meanwhile, Indigenous activist Dr Stephen Hagan, who had led a campaign to change the name, said he copped obscene abuse from “rednecks” after the rebranding announcement was made.