LYNNFIELD, MA — HP Hood entered the debate over whether “jimmies,” the old New England term for chocolate sprinkles on ice cream, is racist by changing the name of one of its popular ice cream flavors.
Hood changed the name of Brigham’s “Just Jimmies” to “Just Sprinkles” in recent months.
“While the origins of the word ‘jimmies’ is unclear, Brigham’s made the decision to change the name to ensure the brand reflects our values and meets our consumers’ expectations,” Hood spokesperson Lynne Bohan said in an email. “Just Sprinkles remains the same flavor/recipe that Brigham’s fans know and love.”
Brigham’s was founded in 1914 in Newton. Lynnfield-based Hood purchased Brigham’s in 2008 and continues to sell quarts of the brand’s most popular flavors throughout New England. A separate company bought — and eventually closed — the restaurant side of the business at the time of the Hood acquisition. At one point there were more than 100 franchised Brigham’s restaurants in New England, but the last one in Arlington changed its name in 2015 before eventually closing.
There has been an ongoing debate over the term in recent years, and some smaller ice cream sellers have stopped using it.
Officially, the claim that the word jimmies is racist is “unproven,” according to Snopes, the fact-checking Website that tries to confirm or disprove rumors. “No valid reason exists to suppose that ‘jimmies’ carries a racist meaning or had a racially-charged origin. However, it’s difficult to definitively disprove the claim because the term’s entry into the English language is downright murky,” Snopes concluded.
The brown color and the perceived allusion to Jim Crow, the title character in a well-known minstrel song of the 1830s, gave rise to the argument that the term was racist. That debate may be even harder to end than the debate over who invented chocolate sprinkles as an ice cream topping and who gave it the potentially racist name.
Just Born, which today makes Peeps and Mike & Ike candies, claims they invented the product and gave it the name jimmies in 1923. But newspaper advertisements show a Nashua, NH company was selling jimmies as early as 1921. By 1928, a company in Pittsburgh was selling a laxative of “tasty Swiss-like milk chocolate sprinkles” and claiming it had given “Thousands of Pennsylvanians…the Glorious Complexion of a Regulated Body,” Snopes said.
Dave Copeland writes for Patch and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 617-433-7851. Follow him on Twitter (@CopeWrites) and Facebook (/copewrites).