Ghandour wants us to eat “Tarboush” instead of “Ras El Abed”

I think everyone knows Tarboush… or should I say “Ras el Abed”?

8 years ago, Ghandour, the leading producer of Cocoa based products, Bakery, Confectionery, as well as Food and Beverage items, launched a school contest in Lebanon asking students to propose a new name and a new design for one of their best selling products, the famous “Rass el abed” (“Nigger’s Head” for the English translation). The main challenge was to erase the “racist” overtone of the “abed” part, so people had to propose something significant, catchy and new. And that’s what I did. Actually, me and 5 other random people had the great idea to propose the name “Tarboush”.

Why? First, because of the “approximate” resemblance there is between the tarboush and “Ras el bed” shapes. And second, because of the strong relationship between the word tarboush and what Ras El Abed represents as part of the “Lebanese heritage”. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, everyone who grew up in Lebanon has tasted this local “delicacy”, or is just addicted to it (yeah I know some people who are and actually, 38,903 people like this on Facebook).

Let’s go back to my story: 2 years after sending my proposition, I received a phone call from someone at Ghandour telling me that my project was selected. They had organized a small gathering, in order to give away the rewards, during which they made it clear that the new product identity will not be adopted directly, but that it would take some time to completely change the identity and that this refurbishment will occur step by step. Fair enough. They didn’t want their customers to get confused with a brand new product, and they didn’t want them to think that Ghandour had abandoned the famous Ras El Abed.

The changes first appeared on the packaging on which they started adding a tarboush, and then, only five years later, they launched a big (?) communication campaign around the new name.

Too slow?   I think that indeed, they could have established a communication plan on a shorter period of time, because I personally can’t wait for the new packaging to be launched.

How much time will it take you to start calling it Tarboush? 🙂


20 responses to “Ghandour wants us to eat “Tarboush” instead of “Ras El Abed”

  1. No matter which way they rebrand it and how slow or fast they are in communicating about it, it will take forever for consumers to start calling it tarboush

    • @krikor, a good PR campaign should do it… they’re not the first to rebrand a product… they just have to start thinking about doing something more than advertising and street guerilla marketing… 🙂

  2. Yes I remember that the name tarboush is not new and they launched it years ago, but when I saw it this month it confused me, I thought they were re-doing the campaign again since well let’s face it, everyone still calls is ras-el-abed…

    To be honest, I don’t know if we will ever be able to stop calling it ras-el-abed, even though Tarboush is really a cute name. Time will tell.

  3. Finally I had thought they would never change the bloody name!!!!!!

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  5. Je viens de decouvrir ca! Etant donne que je ne suis plus au liban depuis un moment, je ne savais pas qu’il y avait tout un changement d’identite qui se concoctait!
    Mais j’aime beaucoup le nouveau nom!!
    @ Krikor : je ne pense pas que ca prendra beaucoup de temps pour que les libanais utilisent le nouveau nom. Il suffit de Ghandour developpe une bonne strategie de communication/marketing qui cible principalement les jeunes et un peu de bonne volonte de notre part.
    Moi perso, la connotation raciale commencait a me frustrer! Donc je suis bien contente que ca soit maintenant associe a 1000% a notre identite et notre culture!

    … Hate de voir les nouveaux Tarbouch debarquer a Montreal 🙂
    En attendant, je transmets l’info de mon cote sur FB etc.


  6. waiting for the Sherwel…
    how lame.

  7. it’s oki for lebanese heritage but the people accustomed at RAS EL-ABED , I hope to agree for tarboush

  8. I never gave a second thought about the real name (Ras-el-Abd) until Ghandour renamed it to Tarboush (i hate the name, by the way, and now i have the person responsible for it!!)
    I honestly much prefer the old branding, call me retro or even regressive, but Ras-el-Abd was a wholesome name, without the political correctness/racial undertones of today’s world!
    That said, whenever i’m in Leb, the first thing i do on the second morning i’m there is to get me a pack of those wonderful, tiny indulgences! mmmmm…

  9. I used to eat it as a kid all the time and missed it for years while living in the US; I am glad it is back in vogue, in my mind the old name will stick, but the new name is definitely an improvement!

  10. Yes, the name is cute, and yes, they had to do it. Yet, You cannot re-brand something that was not clearly name – branded in the first place.

    Let me rephrase, nowhere can you read on this chocolate the name ras-el-abed, yet the association is clear in the consumer’s head. The shape, color and packaging are associated with the name; and the quickest and most efficient way to re-brand would have been to offer a new package.

    By keeping the same, they need to erase an already established association in order to create a new one… It’s like trying to remove a generic name, like convincing Lebanese to stop calling tissues Kleenex. Ras el abed is indeed a generic brand name.

  11. I’ve been calling it Tarboush for quite a few years now 😀 it didn’t take me long to get used to the name, maybe because I was young when they changed it. However, my mum still calls it ‘Ras el Abed’ everywhere we go and I’m like “mum! that’s so wrong and racist!”

  12. I call it Tarbouch, and i think it’s better, but you cannot ask Lebanese not to be Racists its in their blood. Here in Switzerland it use to be called ‘ Tête de nègres` which means Rass el 3abed, they also changed it to Tête de Choco, and everyone use the new name, i wish Lebanese can do it in a couple of years !

  13. old name is better then the new one


  14. I live in orlando and i have been craving for tarboush or ros al abed . Does anyone know where i can purchase it!

  15. best tarbouch ever i love it i eat my hands after it

  16. I never knew it was called rass el 3abed I always call it tarboush I wish all lebanese won’t say rass el 3abed anymore.

  17. With time we will get used to the new name, but do you think it is worth the time , the money & the effort to change the name?

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