Walmart Is Pulling Its Juneteenth-Themed Ice Cream Flavor — Here’s What You Need to Know

published May 26, 2022
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Walmart has responded to the backlash surrounding its proposed Juneteenth-themed Great Value ice cream by agreeing to review its product offering “and [removing] items as appropriate.”

The international retailer made the announcement in a statement released on May 25 after photos of the “Celebration Edition” pint began making their rounds on social media, sparking concern from Black consumers. “Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” the company said in a statement. “However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize.”

Juneteenth — which will be an official federal holiday this year — marks the anniversary of the date in 1865 on which the last remaining enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas were finally told of the Emancipation Proclamation. This even took place more than two years after President Lincoln declared an end to slavery on January 1, 1863.

The date, which is also widely known as either Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day — has been celebrated on June 19 by African-American communities across the South since 1866. Awareness of the holiday, however, grew across the country in 2020, as much of the country engaged in protests surrounding racial justice.

For many of the Black consumers who commented on the new offering online, the issue was both the way in which the new flavor was packaged and the fact that the megastore seemed to be attempting to profit from what many view as a solemn holiday. The packaging included a call to action to “share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope,” while also including a trademark symbol next to the word “Juneteenth.”

“This ice cream was created by Balchem Company,” shared activist and author Eunique Jones Gibson on Twitter. “But they didn’t just make the ice cream. They also trademarked ‘Juneteenth.’ The application was filed September 2021. The same year Juneteenth was made an official federal holiday.

“I understand wanting to show support as a brand or being concerned about how your stakeholders might feel if you are quiet on June 19th,” she added. “I’m having these same convos with my clients. But if you lack commitment/investment etc, being quiet is best.”

The question for many was also why Walmart would have chosen to partner with Balchem to release a Juneteenth-branded ice cream rather than partnering with and elevating one the many Black-owned ice cream brands currently on the market. One brand specifically, Creamalicious, found itself in the spotlight less than a day after the Walmart ice cream went viral. In fact, one of its seven available flavors happens to be a red velvet cheesecake treat called Right As Rain.

If the hubbub surrounding Walmart’s faux pas has encouraged you to support Black-owned creameries, here are a few other brands you can try.

Mikey Likes It Ice Cream (@mikeylikesiticecream)

Since 2013, Michael “Mikey” Cole has been serving pop culture-inspired flavors like “Pink Floyd” (double strawberry cheesecake) and “Foxy Brown” (mocha, crushed chocolate wafer cookies, and a sea salt caramel swirl) in New York City. Its locations in Harlem, the East Village, and Midtown Manhattan have welcomed the likes of Jay-Z and Hilary Clinton, and have been lauded in the media and on TV. If you can’t make it to NYC, Mikey Likes It’s homemade artisan ice cream is also available for national delivery via Goldbelly.

Whipped Urban Dessert Lab (@urbandessertlab)

Also located in New York City, Whipped claims the distinction of being the “world’s first oat-milk ice crème shoppe.” The brand offers more than just dessert, with an apparel line that completes the lifestyle brands “UrbanLuxe” vibes, which their website says embodies food, culture, and elevated experience. Whipped is scheduled to open a West Hollywood location soon and also delivers nationwide via Goldbelly.

JD’s Vegan Ice Cream (@jdsvegan)

Despite running afoul of African-American ice cream lovers this week, Walmart happens to be the exclusive retail partner for hip-hop mogul Jermaine Dupri’s newest venture — JD’s Vegan Ice Cream. The dairy-free frozen dessert is available in six flavors, including (404) Cookies & Cream, which can be purchased in stores across the country or on Walmart’s website.

Looking for more Black-owned companies to support? This list includes a number of wine, spirits, and mixers to try, while these candle companies will set the mood.