Australia's controversial Coon Cheese rebranded as Cheer Cheese

Australia's controversial Coon Cheese rebranded as Cheer Cheese
Photo credit: Saputo Dairy Australia

Australia's 'Coon Cheese' has been renamed after critics called the brand name racist.

Saputo Dairy Australia announced the brand's new name on Wednesday, and from July, the dairy products will be known as Cheer Cheese.

The change follows a "careful and diligent" review to ensure the brand is "aligning with current attitudes and perspectives", the company says.

"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," CEO Lino A. Saputo says.

"Our decision to change the name of Australia's much-loved cheese reinforces this commitment to build a culture of acceptance, inclusion and respect where everyone feels a sense of belonging."

It was originally named 'Coon' after American cheese pioneer Edward William Coon, who died in 1934, ABC reports. The brand name is also a racial slur for people with dark skin.

Saputo announced in July last year it was changing the name after academic and anti-racism campaigner Dr Stephen Hagan called for a rebranding.

He said at the time it was "unacceptable" as a brand name in 2020.

"I said that the cheese brand was offensive, I said that it demeans people of colour," he told ABC.

The cheese used to be wrapped in black and was given the name "Coon" as a joke, he said.

Australia's controversial Coon Cheese rebranded as Cheer Cheese
Photo credit: Saputo Dairy Australia

The United States' Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Michigan says the use of "coon" is "one of the most insulting of all anti-black caricatures".

"The name itself, an abbreviation of raccoon, is dehumanising," sociology professor David Pilgrim says on the museum's website.

Saputo Dairy Australia commercial director Cam Bruce says Cheer Cheese's new name was chosen because it reflects happiness. He hopes their customers will embrace the new name.

"Cheer Cheese is the same recipe that millions have come to love, and will continue to grow up with, for generations to come," he said.

This comes after Nestlé changed the name of Redskins in November last year after complaints it is a derogatory term used to describe Native Americans.

The name of Pascall's Eskimos was also changed last year since the label is considered disrespectful in some places.