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Valio to re-brand 'Turkish' yogurts following controversy

Dairy company Valio is the latest Finnish firm to come under scrutiny for cultural stereotypes in its branding.

jogurtteja rivissä
Valio yogurts. Image: Valio

Valio has said it will retire stereotypical graphics on its 'Turkish' yogurt containers and that it plans to review images on its 'Greek' and 'Bulgarian' branded sister products.

The company announced intentions to update its yogurt containers on 25 June following a twitter debate about a stereotypical image of a fez-wearing man on its packaging. The person behind the initial tweets, Anter Yaşa, later took to Twitter to say his comments to Valio on the matter were intended as a joke.

Valio told Yle it updated its policies a year ago to ensure marketing did not promote discrimination. Hanna Hiekkamies, a senior VP, said Valio had planned to re-brand the yogurts in question before the debate erupted, but conceded that the company had not moved quickly enough on the matter.

Hiekkamies said customers could expect to find the yet-to-be re-branded yogurts on store shelves later this fall. She underlined that change would not be immediate as the company did not want to create unnecessary packaging waste.

Valio announced it was also re-branding its 'Black Pete' dairy cream, which would fade into history along with a cheese carrying the same name that the company retired years ago.

Earlier this week news emerged that Eskimo-branded ice cream may get name change in Finland as the treats are being re-named in the US in an aim to combat discrimination.

History of controversial brands

This spring Finnish chocolate maker Brunberg announced it was changing the packaging on its chocolate-covered Kisses product, removing stereotypical images of two seemingly African figures kissing, one with a drum slung over his shoulder.

In 2007, another Finnish confectioner, Fazer, announced plans to retire one product’s controversial mascot, which featured a black figure with outsized red lips and cornrows similar to the blackface images that are now widely denounced as racist.

Meanwhile earlier this month, the contentious name of an island in Eastern Finland called Neekerisaari (roughly translated in English as N-word Island) would be changed, according to the Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotus).

EDITED at 5:52pm on 28 June to reflect that Yaşa claimed he was making a joke when initially tweeting at Valio.

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