In an attempt to demonstrate concerns over “racial stereotypes” Quaker Oats set out to remove the image of the beloved Black woman on Aunt Jemima pancake products. “In June 2020, the company announced it was transitioning from the Aunt Jemima name and likeness on the packaging and pledged a $5 million commitment to support the Black community” stated a press release from PepsiCo, the parent company of Quaker Oats.
“The Quaker Oats Company signed the contract to purchase the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925. It updated its image over the years in a manner intended to remove racial stereotypes that dated back to the brand origins” the press release continued. When the announcement was initially made, the company received tremendous backlash, primarily from those close to the woman behind the iconic figure.
As if there weren’t enough pushback at the original announcement, people are enraged at the name of the newly branded product. On Tuesday, PepsiCo released the decision to re-brand Aunt Jemima products as the “Pearl Milling Company,” to begin in June of this year.
PepsiCo explained the name in its press release, “Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima.”
Social media lambasted the new name given by PepsiCo who has a white male CEO. Critics said the new name is worse as it sounds “like a plantation” a “slavery company” or even as though Pearl could be Aunt Jemima’s slave last name was given to her by her “owner” at the milling company.
In an attempt to be racially sensitive, PepsiCo has taken a deep dive in the wrong direction. Speaking to ABC News last year, Marcus Hayes, a descendant of Nancy Green, the original Aunt Jemima, expressed his discontent with the change. “She’s just not a character…I really want her legacy to be told. That this is a real person. And this was her recipe. And she fed the world from her flapjacks” said Hayes.
“No time ever have I heard anyone in my community say that this image was one that was derogatory. So I don’t know where that sentiment is coming from” added Hayes. Another individual who was the descendant of Lillian Richard, one of the Black models who represented Aunt Jemima said, “I was, I was taken aback. I was really shocked. I knew people didn’t realize that those were real people and, you know, to phase them out, would kind of erase their history.”