KRAFT Responds: “We did not mean to offend anyone” with our (Tragic Mulatto) Milkbite Ads

Kraft Responds to My MilkBite Petition

Today I got a Facebook message from Kraft asking that I contact them so we could speak directly. I was excited. “Maybe they’re going to listen,” I thought to myself. This didn’t last long. The message I received from them was nearly identical to the same pre-fabricated stuff they’ve been posting in response to the complaints on Facebook. Here it is in its entirety:

Dear Jane,

Thank you for your message. We want you to know that we have received and considered your comments regarding the KRAFT MILKBITE Brand advertising campaign, and have shared them with the appropriate contacts at our company. 

We truly value all of our consumers and take concerns like yours very seriously. We are sorry that the advertising upset you and want to assure you again that we did not mean to offend anyone, or in any way represent real human relationships. The sole purpose of the campaign is to demonstrate what makes KRAFT MILKBITE Bars (and therefore the fictional character of “Mel”) unique, which is the fact that they’re made with real milk and whole grain granola. Again, we want to assure you that any similarity to real life experiences was not intentional.

We respect your right to express your opinions about the campaign and we want you to know that your comments have been received. We sincerely hope you will consider our position.

Best Regards,Kraft Foods, Corporate Affairs Team

Kraft Milkbite Racist TragicMel Petition

So, they pulled out the “Sorry you were offended” stand-by, which–as I’m sure you know–is not even remotely close to “Sorry we were offensive.” They don’t accept agency for the message, and they fail to address the problem, which is not that I’m upset (I’m a big girl. I’ll get over it.), but that the messages they’re sending are damaging. So, I responded:

Dear Kraft, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me directly.  

I believe that you didn’t want to offend anyone with these ads, but the fact remains that they are offensive. It’s not enough to simply say that you didn’t mean them to be that way. Now that the offensive nature of this campaign has been brought to your attention, I feel that it is your responsibility to correct the problem. If you choose not to, that is of course your right, but it is my right as a consumer to continue to draw attention to the damaging messages you’re sending, and that is a right I will be exercising.

I do have two points from your letter that I want to address. You say that you did not mean to “in any way represent real human relationships.” But that’s the entire point of anthropomorphizing a food product, to make it relatable to human characteristics. Furthermore, your campaign shows Mel interacting with human beings (like when he’s on a date or part of a book club). I find it completely ridiculous to claim that he’s not supposed to represent human characteristics when he clearly does.

Secondly, you say that Mel is supposed to represent the “unique” qualities of his ingredient combination. Fine. I understand that’s the draw of the product, but why does Mel have to disparage his “mixed” identity? Why can’t he embrace these diverse components of his background? If Mel is supposed to represent diversity, he represents that it is damaged, and that’s the problem.

Maybe these problematic messages are not intentional. I certainly hope they are not. But they are present, and they are harmful. I insist that you drastically alter this campaign. Until you do, I will continue to work to draw attention to this problem. I believe that there are many, many people who will find this offensive once they see all of the ads put together into a cohesive narrative. That’s what I’m trying to do with my campaign: give people the opportunity to analyze the narrative as a whole. I’m sure some people will think these commercials are fine, but I do not, and I want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to critically analyze this message.

As you are aware, the petition asking you to stop sending these messages is growing quickly. In addition, the analysis I wrote of this review has received over 6000 page views. The longer you wait to truly address this problem instead of saying “we didn’t mean to offend,” the more this exposure will grow.

I hope that you will choose to do the right thing and stop using these stereotypes in your ad campaign.

Thank you for your time.

The silver lining?  This mean Kraft’s listening. They see that we’re motivated to make a change. They see that there is strength behind these complaints, and they want us to quietly go away.

And I’m not going to.

I truly believe that there are a lot of people out there who would rather see multiracial backgrounds portrayed in a positive light. I truly think that a lot of people will be offended when they see this campaign as a cohesive narrative. And I’m going to keep working to make sure that more people have a chance to see this campaign for what it is.



CLICK TO TWEET: Tell @kraftfoods that #TragicMel is an unacceptable exploitation of the tragic mulatto myth. #multiracial #racism

CLICK TO TWEET: RT @MFamMag: LIKE our Facebook page to tell @kraftfoods that you don’t approve of #TragicMel the #Milkbite!

CLICK TO TWEET: Thank you @MFamMag & @BalancingJane for bringing @kraftfoods #TragicMel to my attention! I will not be burying anymore of their products!