In 2020 the food industry dealt not only with the COVID-19 pandemic but also with increasing demands to address issues of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The many companies that stepped up with monetary and diversity commitments include:

Albertsons donated $5 million to social justice organizations and those “on the front line of the fight for equality.”

Clif Bar donated $100,000 to two national organizations: Color of Change and African People’s Education and Defense Fund.

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Coca-Cola Foundation gave $2.5 million in grants to the Equal Justice Initiative, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Food Lion donated $500,000 to support racial equality and justice.

H-E-B created a $1 million fund to address racial inequalities and injustices.

Hormel Foods announced a up to a $300,000 donation to Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the UNCF.

Hy-Vee, Inc. announced a donation of $1 million and commitment of one million volunteer hours to organizations that support racial unity and equality primarily in the company’s eight-state region.

Kroger set up a $5 million fund through The Kroger Co. Foundation to support advancing racial equity and justice and improving diversity, equity, and inclusion. The company followed up in October with a Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion plan.

Mondelēz International detailed diversity and inclusion goals, including plans to double the representation of Black people in its U.S. management roles and to spend $1 billion annually with minority-owned and women-owned businesses by 2024.

PepsiCo announced more than $400 million for a set of initiatives over five years to “lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo.” In October the company announced a similar initiative to support Hispanic Americans. PepsiCo-owned Mountain Dew created a Real Change Opportunity Fund to support the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.

Publix Super Markets announced plans to contribute $1 million to National Urban League affiliates across the Southeast.

Purple Carrot donated $40,000 to Black Lives Matter.

Silk donated $75,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Target and the Target Foundation committed $10 million and ongoing resources to advance racial equity and social justice. The company followed up in September with a Workplace Diversity Report and announcement of new programs to advance and retain Black team members.

The Fresh Market announced a $250,000 donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and $50,000 to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum.

The Giant Co. announced $250,000 of funding to four organizations in support of racial equality, with plans for an additional $250,000.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation pledged $100 million over five years and created the Center on Racial Equity to address systematic racism and speed up change. The company also committed to increased transparency around its diversity efforts and published a mid-year Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Report.

Fast food brands also stepped up. A few examples: Yum! Brands pledged $3 million to advance equality and social justice. Wendy’s pledged $500,000 to support social justice and the youth and education in the Black community, while McDonald’s donated $1 million to National Urban League and the NAACP. Domino’s Pizza committed to contributing $3 million over the next three years, “both to organizations that make a difference in Black communities and internal programs that will change us.” 

Some brands also reevaluated packaging and names potentially considered racially offensive. For example, Mars changed the name of its rice brand UNCLE BEN’S® to Ben’s Original™. B&G Foods removed the image of the Black chef from the Cream of Wheat package. PepsiCo is in the process of renaming the Aunt Jemima brand and removing the image of the Black woman, while Conagra is reviewing its Mrs. Butterworth’s brand.

The past year created a lot of momentum for diversity and social justice. Keeping that momentum going is now the challenge for brands.