Aunt Jemima, the131year-old popular pancake mix and syrup brand that marketed itself with imagery of the slavery-era South, will get a new name and image after Quaker Oats, its parent company recpgnizes that its origins were “based on a racial stereotype.”
The company said it would retire the brand as it worked “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.” Quaker Oats which is owned by PepsiCo, said it was taking “a hard look at our portfolio of brands” as it worked “to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives.” Packaging changes will come back toward the end of the year, with the name change coming soon after.
The Aunt Jemima brand, founded in 1889, was built on images of a black female character that promoted a false and nostalgic view of slavery in the country. A former slave portrayed the character at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, and a white actress known for performing in blackface played Aunt Jemima on a radio series in the 1930s.
“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,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker’s chief marketing officer, in a statement.
PepsiCo bought Quaker Oats in 2001, inheriting the Aunt Jemima brand. The Aunt Jemima image has evolved over the years to meet socially acceptable standards of the times, but the brand could not shake its history of racial stereotypes and connections to slavery. By 1989, Aunt Jemima had lost weight, abandoned her kerchief and looked more like a typical modern housewife. But the image and brand tweaks over the years were apparently not enough.
PepsiCo also announced a five-year, $400 million initiative “to lift up black communities and increase black representation at PepsiCo.”
Earlier this week, the singer Kirby described the history of the brand in a TikTok video that has been viewed more than 1.8 million times. The video, titled “How to Make a Non Racist Breakfast,” ends with her pouring a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix into a sink.
Right steps in the right direction, What do you think?