Ex-Labor MP Fiona Onasanya Slams Kellogg’s For Using a Monkey As the Mascot for ‘Brown’ Coco Pops But “Three White Boys” On Rice Krispies
Since the horrifying video of George Floyd’s murder hit the internet back in May, the world has seen protests against racism like never before. From Minneapolis to every state across the U.S. and subsequently countries in nearly every part of the world, millions of people from every race have taken to the street, to the media, and to the internet to express their concerns against racial prejudice.
Starting back in 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement has become more popular than ever before, especially because social media is a lot more influential now. However, it hasn’t changed the fact that racism is more systemic than we care to admit, and several powerful companies are now being accused by the public of encouraging discrimination with racist undertones in branding and advertisement.
The latest company under scrutiny is Kellogg’s, the American multinational food giant that produces some of the public’s favorite cereals and breakfast delights. On June 15, a tweet from former Labor Member of Parliament in the UK, Fiona Onasanya questioned the company’s choice of mascot for their chocolate-flavored Coco Pops.
Onasanya wrote to the company, inquiring why they had to use “three white boys” on the Rice Krispies’ box and a “brown monkey” on the chocolate-flavored Coco Pops box. Fiona explains on Twitter that she expressed her concerns directly to the company’s UK office, demanding to know why the rice Krispies’ was adorned by humans and the brown by an animal.
She wrote: “@KelloggsUK, as you are yet to reply to my email – Coco Pops and Rice Krispies have the same composition (except for the fact CP’s are brown and chocolate-flavored)… So I was wondering why Rice Krispies have three white boys representing the brand and Coco Pops have a monkey?”
@KelloggsUK, as you are yet to reply to my email – Coco Pops and Rice Krispies have the same compòsition (except for the fact CP’s are brown and chocolate flavoured)… so I was wondering why Rice Krispies have three white boys representing the brand and Coco Pops have a monkey?— Fiona Onasanya (@Fiona_Onasanya) June 15, 2020
Backlash and support
Ms. Onasanya is a former Labor Party Member of Parliament, later removed from that role as a result of a criminal conviction. In 2017, she was elected during the United Kingdom general election for the constituency of Peterborough, an office she held for two years before being arrested in 2019.  Ms. Onasanya was convicted for lying to the police about a speeding ticket in January 2019 and was jailed for three months, causing her to lose her prominent position.
Following her June 15 tweet calling out Kellogg’s, Ms. Onasanya sparked a major trend with the cereal’s hashtag. While some people accepted Ms. Onasanya’s observation and sided with her, others said she was being “unnecessarily offended” and that the so-called “three white boys” are supposedly gnomes.
One commenter wrote: “The monkey is called Coco. Remove the monkey and they are just called Pops.”
A user who sided with Ms. Onasanya wrote: “It is called subliminal messaging in advertising. I wrote a paper on this in advertising and marketing. Plenty of info on this available. Actually if researched some may find this is not ”dim” at all.”
Kellogg’s Coco Pops is one of the most popular varieties of cereal in the market and is eaten almost everywhere in the world. The U.S. version of the cereal debuted in 1958 with “Jose the Monkey” as the mascot. Coco became the mascot in 1991 and it reportedly boosted the company’s sales by 90 percent, increasing profits by five-fold between 1986 and 1992.
Kellogg’s responds to the allegation
In a statement to Daily Mail (Mail Online), a spokesperson for Kellogg’s said: “It’s important that we are all talking more about how we can build racial equality. Kellogg stands in support of the black community. We do not tolerate discrimination and believe that people of all races, genders, backgrounds, sexual orientations, religions, capabilities, and beliefs should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”
“The monkey mascot that appears on both white and milk chocolate Coco Pops, was created in the 1980s to highlight the playful personality of the brand. As part of our ambition to bring fun to the breakfast table, we have a range of characters that we show on our cereal boxes, including tigers, giraffes, crocodiles, elves, and a narwhal.”
Ms. Onasanya posted another tweet later: “Well, given John Harvey Kellogg co-founded the Race Betterment Foundation (the Foundation’s main purpose was to study the cause of and cure for ‘race degeneracy’), it would be remiss of me not to ask….”
The company had previously come under attack in 2017 for “encouraging racial discrimination” with a design on the Corn Pops box, which was later changed following the allegation.  Author Saladin Ahmed called the company out for the questionable design showing several yellow characters enjoying a shopping mall with a lone brown character cleaning the floors.
- “Kellogg vows to redo cereal box artwork accused of ‘teaching kids racism’. ABC News. Michael Rothman. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- “Fiona Onasanya: Peterborough MP jailed in speeding case.” BBC. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- “How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody. NY Times. Evan Hill. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- “Volkswagen made a racist ad and here’s why no one got fired.” CNN. Charles Riley and Hannah Ziady. Retrieved July 6, 2020.