The late Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote an estimated 3,300 fairy tales during his lifetime, and his stories have inspired everything from Disney’s Frozen to that mermaid statue that everyone Instagrams in Copenhagen to, now, a British supermarket’s racist-looking package of chocolate ducks.
Waitrose quietly stocked its shelves with a “Trio of Chocolate Easter Ducklings,” which it says were based on Andersen’s story The Ugly Duckling. The three ducks were arranged in a line, starting with a milk chocolate duck, then a white chocolate one, and a dark chocolate duck. The first one was labeled “Crispy,” the second “Fluffy," and the last one—the darkest one—was described as “Ugly.”
To some customers, those optics weren’t great. “Ugly is the dark one on the right,” a woman named Livia Alberti tweeted. “Overheard women saying ‘This is not right,’ I agree, doesn’t look good at all. Thousands of other options... why #ugly?????”
First, RIP to Alberti’s mentions, and next, it’s surprising that no one in Waitrose’s marketing department questioned the labeling before the ducks were shipped out to its stores. Waitrose’s assumptions that 21st-century shoppers are familiar with a mid-1800s fairy tale might be a stretch, especially when news outlets felt obligated to identify Mick Jagger as the “Rolling Stones frontman” before his heart surgery last week.
If you’ve forgotten The Ugly Duckling, or never read it in the first place, it’s the story of a dark gray duckling who is tormented by his conventionally attractive pale yellow siblings. He develops unshakable feelings of shame and self-loathing, until he ultimately discovers that he’s not a duck at all, but a fucking incredible swan, so suck on that, you flat-billed, corkscrew dicked, quack-happy assholes.
According to The Telegraph, the complaints prompted Waitrose to remove the ducklings from store shelves until it could redesign the packaging to remove those “Crispy,” “Fluffy,” and “Ugly” designations.
“We are very sorry for any upset caused by the name of this product, it was absolutely not our intention to cause any offense,” a Waitrose spokesperson told the outlet. “We removed the product from sale several weeks ago while we changed the labeling and our ducklings are now back on sale.” (Although, as of this writing, the Waitrose website still describes them as “Crispy Duckling, Fluffy Duckling, [and] Ugly Duckling.”)
Over the weekend, Dutch pastry chef and World Chocolate Masters winner Frank Haasnoot was caught in a similar controversy, after he shared a questionable chocolate Easter egg on Instagram.
The now-deleted post showed a sleepy-eyed, blunt smoking dark chocolate egg wearing a crown and thick gold chain. According to Eater, both chef Kwame Onwuachi and hospitality activist Ashtin Berry criticized Haasnoot for the “black caricature,” and accusing him of glorifying minstrelsy. (Some of Haasnoot’s supporters have suggested that the egg was meant to be the Notorious B.I.G.—although that doesn’t make it less of a caricature.)
Haasnoot has not addressed the controversy, nor apologized, although he has posted photos of two other pastry eggs, and a couple of stories about his trip to Scotland.
Easter is still almost two weeks away, so can everybody just stick to jelly beans and Cadbury eggs until then? And maybe lay off the Andersen stories… most of them are pretty fucked up.