The co-founder of a brewery accused of 'insulting Indians' over a product label depicting Hindu gods claims community members have not responded to a recent offer to redesign the label together.
The co-founder of a NSW brewery accused of 'insulting Indians and Hindus' with a product label depicting two Hindu gods says the company has gone to great lengths to work with the community and find a solution.
Jaron Mitchell, co-founder of Four Pines Brewing Company, spoke to SBS following the launch of an online petition calling for his company to change the label on its Brookvale Union Ginger Beer product.
The label features a figure with what appears to be the body of the goddess Lakshmi and the head of the god Ganesha.
The petition, launched by Melbourne man Amit Singh, said the label was "insulting to Indians and Hindus" and called for the company to withdraw it.
"There are a lot of people who worship these gods and this is just not acceptable," Mr Singh told SBS.
But Mr Mitchell said the company had been engaged in community consultation for the past two years and redesigned the label once already. He claimed a recent offer to redesign the label for a second time with members of the Hindu community had not been taken up.
"I think it’s important that everyone understands the context," he said.
Mr Mitchell said the company first received complaints about the label in 2013 and worked to identify the problems.
"We had no idea that they were significant cultural symbols to the Hindu community and we subsequently found that out," he said.
The label was redesigned and certain symbols, including a lotus flower, were removed.
Mr Mitchell told SBS that roughly a year went by before the company once again received complaints, this time about the new label. He said the complaints came as a shock because it had been so long since the new label was released.
"[We thought], If this was a really insulting thing, should they not have been along for the journey and asked, 'OK, what are the amended changes?'"
The company then received a letter from the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW with formal complaint from Yadu Singh, president of the Indian Australian Association of NSW.
Mr Mitchell said they engaged in face-to-face and written correspondence after that.
"We had a very constructive four-hour meeting one day and Dr Singh also brought a Hindu priest," he said.
"The solution we came up with – the offer – was that we would facilitate a meeting at our site with five chosen Hindu priests from the Hindu community to sit down with us and our design team to work towards a label that removes the remainder of the offensive or insulting components."
But Mr Mitchell claimed that the company had not heard from Dr Singh since that time, despite repeated attempts to contact him.
He said the company was still eager to engage in consultation and urged community members who would like to contribute to a redesign to come forward.
"Just come and talk to us and let’s work toward something that’s going to work," he said.
"We need someone like Amit (the petition creator) to spearhead a working group with us."
The petition now has more than 200 signatures.