BERLIN (AP) – One of Germany’s best-known food companies has said it will rename a popular spicy dressing because of the racist overtones of its name.
Food company Knorr will change the name of its “Zigeunersauce” or “gypsy sauce” to “Hungarian paprika sauce”, German weekly Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday.
“Since ‘gypsy sauce’ can be interpreted negatively, we decided to give our Knorr sauce a new name,” said Unilever, the international consumer goods group that owns Knorr. Unilever could not be reached independently for comment on Sunday.
The popular spicy sauce, a staple in many German households, will appear in supermarkets across the country within weeks with the new name, Bild am Sonntag reported.
Civil rights groups have been asking for the brand’s name change for years, but in 2013 the company rejected the request, German news agency dpa reported.
The brand name change follows recent international debates on racism, particularly in the United States, where large national companies have also renamed traditional brands in response to concerns about racial stereotypes.
“Zigeuner” is a derogatory German expression for the Roma and Sinti minority groups who have lived in many European countries for centuries. Roma and Sinti are still victims of discrimination in Europe. They often live below the poverty line and on the margins of society with no equal access to education, employment or the possibility of upward mobility.
The term “Zigeunersauce” has been used in Germany for over 100 years to describe a tangy tomato-based sauce with small pieces of bell pepper, onions, vinegar and spices like paprika. It is mainly served with meat.
A popular dish with the sauce that is often served in traditional German restaurants is called “Zigeunerschnitzel” or “gypsy schnitzel”. This name is also still used on many menus across the country today – despite much criticism.
The Roma and Sinti organizations in Germany have long emphasized that the sauce is not even part of their traditional cuisine, and they have also demanded for years that the name be abolished.
The head of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma welcomed Knorr’s decision to no longer use the term.
“It’s good that Knorr is responding to complaints from a lot of people,” Romani Rose told Bild am Sonntag. However, he added that more than the discriminatory nature of the sauce’s name, he was concerned about the growing racism against minorities in Germany.
He noted how some football fans in Germany chant the words “Zigeuner” or “Jude” – Jew – to insult players or fans of opposing teams during matches.
In June, Germany’s official anti-discrimination watchdog said it received many more complaints of racism in 2019 than the year before. The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency said it received 1,176 complaints of racism last year, a 10% increase from 2018.
The number of complaints of racism has more than doubled since 2015, the agency said.
There have also been a growing number of racist attacks in Germany recently, including the murder of nine immigrants in Hanau in February and the attack on a synagogue in Halle last year by far-right extremists.