A Vermont-based baking company, King Arthur Baking, is facing criticism for its hosting of the 2024 Baking Pitchfest, a competition that explicitly excluded white contestants. The event aimed to “foster greater inclusivity” in the baking world by providing “equitable opportunities for People of Color entrepreneurs.” The competition, described as an “accelerator program,” had two parts: a product edition and a bakery edition, exclusively limited to “person of color led business” and “person of color led bakery,” respectively.
Winners of the baking edition were promised a grand prize of $10,000, brand exposure through King Arthur Baking marketing, one-on-one business consulting, and a free membership to the Bread Bakers Guild of America. The company specified the term “POC” or “people of color” to include Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Indigenous or Native American, and Middle Eastern or North African individuals. However, following an inquiry from The Daily Wire, King Arthur Baking appeared to take down the page advertising the contest.
The competition’s collaboration with Project Potluck, a community for People of Color in Consumer Packaged Goods, was part of its effort to uplift minorities in the predominantly white consumer goods and food industry. The organization lamented the industry’s lack of diversity on its website, emphasizing its commitment to bringing about change. Molly Lawerence, King Arthur Baking’s corporate social responsibility manager, stated that Pitchfest 2024 reflects the company’s dedication to creating a more inclusive baking community and empowering creative POC leaders.
Despite these intentions, the company faced backlash online, with customers expressing disappointment. Some criticized the discriminatory nature of the competition, arguing that it goes against principles of equal opportunity. The controversy prompted one former customer to announce on social media that she would no longer purchase flour from King Arthur Baking.
As institutions adopt diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, this incident adds to the ongoing debate about the ethics of implementing discriminatory practices in the name of anti-racism. The clash between efforts to promote inclusivity and concerns about fairness and meritocracy continues to be a topic of discussion in various sectors.