A year after announcing they would be rebranding their Aunt Jemima products, PepsiCo Inc., the parent company of Quaker Oats, has unveiled the new look of the brand. Aunt Jemima will now be known as the Pearl Milling Company, and will no longer feature the image of Aunt Jemima on its products.
The Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was where the self-rising pancake mix originated, prior to taking the name and image of Aunt Jemima for its product. Quaker Oats Company purchased the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925, and the company gave the character updates over the years, yet decided to finally remove her image last year.
While The Pearl Milling Company actually has some basis in history for the pancake brand, Aunt Jemima has more of a questionable past, one that doesn’t have anything to do with pancakes. Old Aunt Jemima was a song that was sung in the fields by slaves, and was later sang at minstrel shows. The original portrayal of Aunt Jemima was provided by Nancy Green, who herself was born into slavery. Quaker Oats used to pay Green to travel and promote the products in the character’s costume.
In a similar situation to Aunt Jemima, Mars Incorporated also announced last year that they would be rebranding Uncle Ben’s. The name was changed to Ben’s Original, and removed the image of “Ben” from their packaging. It was also announced that Cream of Wheat would be removing the image of a smiling Black man in a chef’s outfit as well. Historically, the terms aunt and uncle were used by people who refused to give Black people the Mr. or Mrs. title.
The new image for Pearl Milling Company shows a photo of the mill instead of Aunt Jemima. The new boxes of pancake mix and syrup state “New Name, Same Great Taste,” reminding that this product is the new Aunt Jemima. These products maintain the same style and red and yellow packaging, simply with an image of the factory instead of the questionable mascot.
In addition to this change in logo, Pearl Milling Company has announced they will be making a $1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black women in the next few weeks. PepsiCo also states they are making a $400 million, five-year investment to uplift Black businesses and communities, as well as increase Black representation at PepsiCo. After the years of using the archetype of Aunt Jemima, this seems like a good start.
But the change from Aunt Jemima to Pearl Milling Company wasn’t just a reactionary decision based on last year’s protests, the change was a long time coming. For decades, many have called out the company’s use of the “Mammy” stereotype in their products. The character has been seen as perpetuating the image of the “happy slave,” and while the character received updates in 1968, and in 1989 on the product’s 100th anniversary, it has still remained problematic. At least The Pearl Milling Company actually makes sense for a pancake company, and thankfully, PepsiCo Inc. is moving away from this stereotype.