After announcing in June 2020 that it would be retiring the Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix, PepsiCo (A DiversityInc Noteworthy company and owner of the Quaker Oats brand) revealed today that the products will soon be relaunched under a new name: Pearl Milling Company.
In a press release issued in June of 2020 following months of racial uprising and unrest throughout the country, Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America released a statement saying, in part: “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
She went on to add: “We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today. We are starting by removing the image and changing the name.”
In a statement announcing the rebranded product’s new name, PepsiCo also explained its origin: “Though new to store shelves, Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima.”
“For years, the 130-year-old brand featured a Black woman named Aunt Jemima, who was originally dressed as a minstrel character, on its products,” reported NBC’s Samantha Kubota. “The image changed over time, and in recent years, Quaker removed the ‘mammy’ kerchief from the character in an attempt to address criticism that it perpetuated a racist stereotype dating to the days of slavery. In announcing plans to remove the image and name, Quaker last summer said it wanted ‘to make progress toward racial equality.’”
In addition to its name change announcement, PepsiCo also announced that it would be spending more than $400 million in new initiatives over the next five years to “lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo.”
The newly rebranded line of products is expected to hit store shelves in summer of 2021. Similarly, Mars. Inc announced that they would be retiring “Uncle Ben” from their line of prepared rice products and have also announced plans of their rebranding. Cream of Wheat, which features a “smiling black man that brings to mind Jim Crow-era stereotypes of subservience” is also still under company review by its manufacturer, B & G, according to The Washington Post.