Last year, Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday by President Joe Biden, and corporations since have jumped on the bandwagon to use Juneteenth to promote their brands. Unfortunately for Walmart, its Juneteenth branding backfired earlier this week as a firestorm broke out over its Juneteenth-themed ice cream. The retail giant has issued an apology.
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black people in the U.S. It originated in 1865, when slaves in Texas, the last rebel state during the civil war, were informed about the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863.
Under its own Great Value label, Walmart debuted the Juneteenth Ice Cream, a red velvet and cheesecake-flavored dessert. Just days after loading the product on its shelves nationwide, many noticed the ice cream was very similar to a flavor produced by growing Black-owned ice cream company Creamalicious. The label on the Walmart ice cream pint read: “Share and celebrate African American culture, emancipation, and enduring hope,” The Guardian reported.
Many of social media accused Walmart of stealing the red-velvet flavor from Creamalicious, which had previously launched red velvet ice cream for Juneteenth. Meanwhile, Creamalicious, which was founded by Black female entreprenuer Chef Liz Rogers in 2021, sells “Right As Rain Red Velvet Cheesecake Ice Cream.” The Creamalicious brand is sold in Target and Walmart, among other major retailers.
Many also took to social media to call out Walmart for profiting from a holiday meant to memorialize the end of slavery.
“This is what happens when you commercialize federal holidays,” said comedian Kevin Fredericks, on TikTok. “It just became a federal holiday. Now you can celebrate with this ice cream.”
Walmart now has pulled its Juneteenth ice cream and issued an apology.
“Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence. However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers, and we sincerely apologize. We are reviewing our assortment and will remove items as appropriate,” Walmart said in a statement.
Walmart also put out an assortment of other Juneteenth-themed items, including shirts and party decorations.