Darlie toothpaste – infamous for its racist branding and history – is to undergo a rebranding, 18 months after its manufacturer’s parent company Colgate promised change.

The current Chinese name, “Black Person Toothpaste,” will be replaced with “Haolai” around next March. The name adopts the manufacturer’s Chinese name – Hawley & Hazel.

Darkie and Darlie toothpaste. Photo: Wikicommons.

The firm said in a press release on Tuesday that the new name was chosen “to reflect the company’s purpose and values.”

The toothpaste was known as “Darkie” until 1989, when the owners apologised and replaced the name with “Darlie” in English. But local advertising assured customers that it would still be called “Black People Toothpaste” in Chinese, as it was for decades.

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality in the US last June, Colgate-Palmolive – which owns half of Darlie’s local manufacturer – told HKFP that it will make “substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging.”

“We are grateful for the unwavering support we have received from consumers over the years, which has helped us become one of the leading oral care players across markets,” said Eddie Niem, managing director of Hawley & Hazel, in a press statement. “As we grow our business and expand into new markets, we want to inspire more people to express themselves and spread positivity through a confident and genuine smile.”

BLM demos

Over the past year, “Uncle Ben’s” rice rebranded to become “Ben’s Original,” whilst “Aunt Jemima” breakfast products became “Pearl Milling Company.” Both brands previously played on racist stereotypes.

“Darkie” remains a discriminatory slur in many western countries and the image on the packaging is still reminiscent of racist minstrel shows that originated in the US. Last November, Innocent Mutanga, CEO of the Africa Center Hong Kong, urged Colgate to give a timetable for the brand’s withdrawal. “We are disappointed that [they] have not yet followed through on their promise to rebrand the toothpaste,” he told HKFP. “We demand a clear timeline on when they plan to make the changes so that we can hold them accountable.”

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.