The products will still bear a similar red label and font, but will no longer feature Aunt Jemima, a character originally based on the caricature of the enslaved “mammy” who raised her master’s White children.
PepsiCo, the owner of Aunt Jemima’s parent company Quaker Oats, worked with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners to gather broad perspectives and ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind,” it said in a news release on Tuesday.
“It is the start of a new day,” reads the announcement on the website where the Aunt Jemima brand recounts its 131-year history. Pearl Milling Company was the name of the producer in St. Joseph, Mo., that began making Aunt Jemima products in the late 1800s.
The impending change was first announced in June, after the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests over racial injustice. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of parent company Quaker Foods North America, said in a news release at the time.
On Tuesday, PepsiCo also said Pearl Milling Company will detail a $1 million effort “to empower and uplift Black girls and women.”
Other food companies have similarly re-examined their branding and mascots. Mars, the conglomerate behind the Uncle Ben’s rice line, which for decades bore the image of an older Black man, changed its name to “Ben’s Original” last year. And the parent of the Cream of Wheat brand of porridge last year said it was reviewing its packaging, which has for over a century featured a smiling Black man that brings to mind Jim Crow-era stereotypes of subservience.
The shift is about more than breakfast, and the news of Aunt Jemima’s retirement was met with mixed reviews. Some expressed nostalgia for the soon-to-be-extinct brand, some said the new name was dull — and others suggested that it was overdue.
“We don’t talk enough about how colonialism, white supremacy and antiblackness socialize us to experience racism as delicious, fun and enjoyable,” Crystal Marie Fleming, the author of “How to Be Less Stupid About Race,” tweeted. “You grow up eating racist pancakes, celebrating racist holidays, cheering racist mascots and rooting for racist heroes.”
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