PepsiCo renames racially insensitive Aunt Jemima brand as Pearl Milling Company - Just Food
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PepsiCo renames racially insensitive Aunt Jemima brand as Pearl Milling Company

10 Feb 2021

PepsiCo has renamed its Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mixes and syrups after the US food and beverages major announced the plan in June amid concerns about racial stereotyping.

PepsiCo renames racially insensitive Aunt Jemima brand as Pearl Milling Company

PepsiCo has renamed its Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mixes and syrups after the US food and beverages major announced the plan in June amid concerns about racial stereotyping.

The products, which also include flour and cornmeal, will now carry the Pearl Milling Company banner and are due to roll out this June. Meanwhile, the Aunt Jemima name will continue to be used until that time with the same red packaging but, without the “character image”, PepsiCo said in a statement.

“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,” the company added.

Aunt Jemima’s old packaging displayed the image of a black lady. The brand was created in 1888-89, and the website states it was “brought to life by Nancy Green, a storyteller, cook and missionary worker”. Green is said to have been born into slavery. 

Quaker Oats brand owner PepsiCo said it is reverting to the original name with the Pearl Milling designation, “the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima”. The Quaker Oats Company signed the contract to purchase the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925, PepsiCo said, adding it had updated the image “over the years in a manner intended to remove racial stereotypes that dated back to the brand’s origins”. 

Since last year’s death of US black citizen George Floyd during his arrest by police, and the subsequent increased attention given to racial justice, a number of food companies have taken action to change what might be deemed as offensive brand and packaging imagery.

Earlier this year, Canadian dairy giant Saputo changed the name of its Australian cheese brand Coon to Cheer, and US group B&G Foods said last year it plans to drop an image of a black chef from the packaging of its Cream of Wheat porridge mix. And US confectionery major Mars has rebranded The Uncle Ben’s brand as Ben’s Original.

From PepsiCo’s corner, the Frito-Lay and Walkers crisps owner announced last year an initiative to increase the representation of the Hispanic community across its US business over five years, building on an existing project to support Hispanic suppliers.

It now plans to extend that initiative, with a new US$1bn project “to empower and uplift black girls and women, inviting the community to visit its website and nominate non-profit organisations for an opportunity to receive grants to further that mission”, PepsiCo said in the same statement confirming the image change. More details will be announced in the “coming weeks”.