‘Uncomfortable’: Coon cheese rival takes aim at name change

Exclusive: The chairman of Bega Cheese has come out swinging at rival brand Coon and its controversial name change that has divided Australian shoppers.

Coon cheese's parent company, Saputo Dairy Australia, announced last year that it would be rebranded and recently revealed the new name Cheer would appear on packaging from July this year.

Saputo took control of Coon cheese after it acquired a Japanese-owned Lion's "everyday cheese business" in 2015.

But Bega Cheese executive chairman Barry Irvin said the 85-year-old brand should have axed years ago.

 

Bega Cheese executive chairman, Barry Irvin, said rival brand Coon cheese should have changed its name years ago. Picture: supplied
Bega Cheese executive chairman, Barry Irvin, said rival brand Coon cheese should have changed its name years ago. Picture: supplied

 

Mr Irvin said he understood the history of the Coon cheese was "not one of racism" and was based on the last name of the man who created it. But he always felt "uncomfortable" with the brand given the word is also a racist slur against people of colour.

"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 said.

"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."

He also said while he was not a marketing expert, he was unsure about Saputo's choice to rebrand Coon cheese as Cheer.

"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.

Saputo recently said the new name was the result of a "careful and diligent review to honour the brand-affinity felt by our consumers while aligning with current attitudes and perspectives".

 

Coon cheese will appear in stores as Cheer cheese from July this year. Picture: Supplied
Coon cheese will appear in stores as Cheer cheese from July this year. Picture: Supplied

 

The company's chair and CEO Lino Saputo said the move reflected a "commitment to build a culture of acceptance, inclusion and respect where everyone feels a sense of belonging".

"Treating people with respect and without discrimination is one of our basic principles and it is imperative that we continue to uphold this in everything we do," Mr Saputo said.

Previous companies who owned the Coon cheese brand had resisted changing the name, and it also survived a complaint by Indigenous activist Dr Stephen Hagan to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 1999.

The rebrand sparked furore among Australians who regularly bought the product, with the company's Facebook page inundated with criticism of it's new name, Cheer.

"Political correctness gone mad - it was named after the man who originally made it," one person wrote.

Another said: "I've been a loyal customer for 30 years. Once the new branding comes out, I'll be ceasing buying this product. Just out of CHEER principle. Enjoy!"

Originally published as 'Uncomfortable': Coon cheese rival takes aim at name change


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