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'Tomahawk Ribs': Grocer Apologizes for Offensive Labeling

Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain in the Midwest, is rebranding its food packaging in response to concerns that the current marketing is wildly insensitive.

Hy-Vee, a supermarket chain in the Midwest, is in the process of rebranding its food packaging in response to concerns that the current marketing is insensitive to Native Americans.

John O’Brien, executive director of the American Indian Enterprise and Business Council, approached Hy-Vee about the products – the Tomahawk Chop, the Tomahawk Ribs and the Big Chief Burger – and expressed concern over the trivializing imagery.

On November 4, Donna Tweeten, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Hy-Vee, Inc., issued a letter to O’Brien, apologizing for the advertising campaign.

“When we launched our sponsorship with the Kansas City Chiefs football team six years ago our local Hy-Vee stores were eager to show their support for the team,” Tweeten’s letter states. “The regrettable advertising of our pork chops was a misguided result of that effort. I sincerely apologize for this insensitive product promotion.”

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On the same day, O’Brien issued a statement on AIEBC’s website: “I want to thank you sincerely for your recognition of the issues that the American Indian community have to deal with. […] We at the AIEBC welcome you as a partner in our common goal of strengthening the community, supporting American Indians, veterans and families, and maintaining a strong economy.”

Hy-vee officials told ICTMN Tuesday that they worked swiftly to remove the offensive language from their packages.

“We wanted to remove the images as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” Tina Potthoff, Hy-Vee senior communications manager, said. Potthoff also asked that people let Hy-Vee know if they find any remaining insensitive imagery, and Hy-Vee will have it removed as soon as possible.

According to company’s website, the chain consists of more than 235 stories in Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.