The Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will get a new name and image, Quaker Oats, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, announced on Wednesday, saying the company recognizes that “Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype”.
What We Know:
- The 130-year old brand of Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix features a Black woman named Aunt Jemima, who was originally dressed as a minstrel character. Over time, the image of Aunt Jemima has been changed and updated to be “appropriate and respectful” according to Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, but they realized the changes were insufficient.
- Aunt Jemima is based on a real person named Nancy Green, who was born into slavery. The famous brand has long been criticized across academia and social media for capitalizing on nostalgia for slavery as Aunt Jemima is synonymous with the mammy stereotype.
- “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kroepfl said in a press release. “As we work 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.”
- The rebrand comes after “Aunt Jemima” was trending on Twitter Tuesday night, with many users criticizing the company for preserving the name and logo for so long.
The sad history behind the Aunt Jemima brand a thread pic.twitter.com/jbpVgVpTx5
— lil lex💕 (@lexikennedy35) June 16, 2020
There’s no way y’all looked at a Aunt Jemima box and had no inklings of racism. There’s no way. https://t.co/krciGNlldz
— KAYA NOVA (@thekayanova) June 16, 2020
What about Aunt Jemima ever felt not racist to yall 😭😭
— Fiona Applebum says block Shaun King! (@WrittenByHanna) June 17, 2020
- In 2017, Dan Gasby, partner of restaurateur, cookbook author and lifestyle guru B. Smith petitioned PepsiCo to eliminate the brand name and image saying in an April 2020 interview, “When you talk about stereotyping and profiling, you can take the bandana off her head, but the historical significance of Aunt Jemima is terrible… This is not 1820 or 1920, it’s 2020”. At the time, Pepsico said Aunt Jemima was a wholesome image and they did not feel a need to change their brand. This decision comes at a time of reckoning for many brands in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
- The family and descendants of Green, the original Aunt Jemima, filed a lawsuit a few years ago contending that they deserved some of the benefits and money Quakers Oats made off of her image. It is unclear whether the family is still demanding a payout.
- The news follows PepsiCo CEO and chairman Ramon Laguarta’s announcement the company is pledging $400 million for initiatives on racial justice and equality. The decision also follows dairy brand Land O’Lakes’ decision to eliminate another longtime mascot based on a racial stereotype earlier this year.
- Quaker Oats said the new packaging will begin to appear in the fall of 2020 and a new name for the foods will be announced at a later date.
The company also announced it will donate at least $5 million over the next five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”