February 11, 2021
It has been a go-to pancake mix and syrup in American households for more than a century—but also has long faced criticism that its Aunt Jemima name and likeness are rooted in racist imagery.
Now, all that has changed: The brand has a new name—The Pearl Milling Company—The New York Times reports.
In an announcement on Tuesday, February 10, by PepsiCo—which owns the former Aunt Jemima’s parent company, Quaker Oats— the line formally began rebranding itself and moved one step closer to permanently abandoning its 131-year-old moniker.
The new name comes from the milling company in St. Joseph, Missouri, that pioneered the self-rising pancake mix that became known as Aunt Jemima, according to PepsiCo, which said the rebranded products would arrive in stores in June.
The change has been in the works since last June—after the killing of George Floyd on May 25 by Minneapolis cops catalyzed widespread protests over racial injustice, The New York Times notes. Several large food companies came under fire for using racial stereotypes, including Quaker Oats, which said it would drop the Aunt Jemima name, redesign its packaging, and pledge $5 million to support the Black community.
The company unveiled a redesigned website for its line of Aunt Jemima products on Tuesday, saying “it was the start of a new day.”
Products with the Aunt Jemima name will continue to be available until June—but without the picture of the Aunt Jemima character’s face, according to PepsiCo, which said in a news release that the company sought input on the new name.
“Throughout the effort that led to the new Pearl Milling Company name, Quaker 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,” PepsiCo said.
In addition to the rebranding, the newly established Pearl Milling Company also said on Tuesday that it was making a $1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women. The money is in addition to a $400 million, five-year investment to support Black business and communities, and increase Black representation at PepsiCo, the company said.
The Aunt Jemima character has roots in a 19th-century minstrel song that expressed nostalgia for the antebellum South. Quaker Oats replaced the kerchief on the Aunt Jemima character’s head with a plaid headband in 1968 and added pearl earrings and a lace collar in 1989.
Research contact: @nytimes