Controversial racial image to be dropped from liquorice wrapper
The end of an era came on Friday when the sweets manufacturing company Cloetta Fazer announced the new design of the wrapper of its liquorice sticks, which should appear on store shelves in April.
The company says that the aim of the new look is to maintain a humorous retro-style. The product itself will not change, but the wrapper will no longer have the long-standing caricature of a black person, which has been a basic theme on Fazers' liquorice packaging since 1927.
The figure had long been criticised as perpetuating a negative racial stereotype.
Reactions to the packaging went beyond Finland in the mid-1990s, when a British anti-racist organisation drew attention to the figure.
Last winter British MEP Claude Moraes criticised the figure, threatening to put a question to the European Commission, and the Council of Ministers on the propriety of the liquorice packaging.
In January 2007 the manufacturer announced that the offending figure would be removed from the wrapper.
Reacting to the objections, an Internet petition was launched in Finland to defend the Laku-Pekka character, as it was popularly called.
Before changing the packaging Fazer consulted with Finland's Consumer Agency and the Ombudsman for Minorities on the matter.
Both said that the racial presentation can be seen as violating the marketing rules of the consumer protection law, international regulations on advertising, and equality legislation.
Fazer's liquorice is not the only product of the Finnish sweets industry that has altered its marketing for reasons of racial sensitivity. In 2001 Brunberg changed its traditional creme-filled chocolate sweet formerly called Neekerinsuukko ("Negro Kiss") to simply "Suukko" ("Kiss").
Cloetta Fazer press release 29.2.2008: New plans and design for Fazer’s liquorice