Following years-long controversy, Aunt Jemima pancake syrup is officially no more, with the company announcing the iconic brand will now be called ‘Pearl Milling Company’.
In an announcement on Tuesday, February 9, the brand’s parent company, PepsiCo, said that the beloved American pancake products was ‘starting a new day with Pearl Milling Company … rooted in the brand’s historic beginnings and its mission to create moments that matter at the breakfast table’.
Also gone is the logo featuring a stereotyped image of a Black woman previously seen on the bottle, which has been replaced with an image of the old Pearl Milling Company mill. The new packaging, which was officially trademarked on February 1 after the company confirmed in June that it would be moving away from the ‘Aunt Jemima’ branding that has come to be widely regarded as a racial stereotype, will hit stores in the coming months.
The decision to change the product’s name and logo was made in the wake of the George Floyd protests, which forced a national reckoning on racism and saw several brands pressured to acknowledge their racist past.
In a press release shared last year on June 17 that announced that the company would be ending the ‘Aunt Jemima’ branding, Quaker Oats Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Kroepfl said, ‘We recognise 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 realise those changes are not enough.’
Following that announcement, Quaker Oats pledged $5 million to support the Black community, while in a statement announcing the official rebranding this week, PepsiCo said it was donating $1 million to programs working to ’empower and uplift’ Black girls and women.
This isn’t the first time the brand has been updated in response to allegations of racism. In 1989, 100 years after the company’s founding, a logo depicting a Black maid wearing a headscarf serving a stack of pancakes was retired in favour of a modernised image. However, campaigners have long argued that the updated image and brand name remained rooted in the stereotype of the Black ‘mammy’ figure, a racist depiction of Black women that remained common for much of the 20th century.
The original ‘Aunt Jemima’ image was reportedly based on a real-life person named Nancy Green, who was herself born into slavery, while in 2014 the family of another Black woman, Anna Short Harrington, unsuccessfully attempted to sue Quaker Oats for $2 billion claiming the image was based on her likeness, and that several of her recipes had been stolen by the company.
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