The European Race and Imagery Foundation’s (ERIF) annual Brand & Product report charts the evolution and relevance of the (Zwarte) Piet character, alongside the development of discussions on race, racism and inclusion, specific to the Netherlands.
The project began in 2015, when ERIF launched the study in order to advise concerned parents which products they could purchase for the Sinterklaas season without the distress of encountering blackface imagery. It was also ERIF’s intention at the time to monitor certain brands and companies that were promising to remove blackface imagery from their packaging and advertising campaigns. Our study has developed over time to explore how each store and brand featured navigates the changing attitudes and discussions on Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, through how they display, package and market their various products. This offers a proxy on general attitudes of culture, tradition, power and race relations in the Netherlands. Since the first edition, published in January 2016, ERIF has released a further five reports, including the report published this year.
The 2021 ERIF Sinterklaas Brand & Product report is more concise than last year’s five-year-anniversary edition, which featured reflections and analyses from numerous contributors. Rather, our sixth and most recent report focuses purely on the data gathered towards the end of 2020, with some succinct social commentary in order to contextualise our eventual conclusions.
We found that grade 1 continues to grow significantly, while grades 7 and 8 are squeezed even further than in previous years. These are continuing trends that appeared more pronounced in 2020, which is somewhat unsurprising since multiple Dutch and international firms deliberately removed the Zwarte Piet caricature from 2020 onwards, in response to anti-racist discourse(s) that swept through the world in the second half of last year. Therefore, in this edition we dive deeper into the results of Bol.com, one of the regular stores in our research, as it was one of the companies vocally banning blackface from their platforms.In this light, we also take a closer look at Sinterklaas movies on streaming services and in the cinema.
In terms of other general trends, there was less data available online. We have observed this previously and intend to monitor this more closely during our 2021 fieldwork period. Additionally, due to certain in-store observations, we have noted there is a need to establish whether or not Halloween, Christmas and Easter products are being marketed more to children and families than Sinterklaas products.
Find out more and download the 2021 report here.