The German company Haribo, which invented gummy bears, its most popular product, over 90 years ago, has decided to alter its all-licorice “Skipper Mix” due to criticism that its depictions are racist.
The Skipper Mix includes faces that appear to be stereotypical caricatures of African and Asian people, and masks of African or Polynesian origin. (A Haribo vendor that still has a product description posted says that the images recall “afrikanische, asiatische und indianische Kunst”—or African, Asian and Native American art.) One piece even bears a resemblance to a Sambo or pickaninny image from the late 19th-early 20th century.
The company took the action after receiving complaints from the public. “I understand the criticism and think it’s important to listen to the customers,” said Ola Dagliden, the director of Haribo in Sweden, according to Swedish news site TheLocal.
The imagery of the Skipper Mix, which also includes fish, lobsters and palm trees, is meant to be inspired by things a sailor might see in his travels around the world, according to the company. But the faces and masks could also accurately be described as people who were subjugated and cultural artifacts that were stolen through European imperialism. And one must question the choice to use this imagery on all-black candy.
Haribo says it will continue to make and sell the product, but without the objectionable items.