Quaker Oats announced on Wednesday that it is going to rename and rebrand its pancake brand, Aunt Jemima, amid growing backlash online because the name was based on a “racial stereotype.”
“The brand, founded in 1889, is built on images of a black female character that have often been criticized as offensive,” The New York Times reported. “Even after going through several redesigns — pearl earrings and a lace collar were added in 1989 — Aunt Jemima was still seen by many as a symbol of slavery.”
In a statement, Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Quaker Foods North America, said:
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. We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.
We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today. We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry.
The Times later added that the name was based on a minstrel song called “Old Aunt Jemima” which some have said represented a “plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own.’”
NBC News reported that Quaker Oats said that “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 statement from Quaker Oats, which is owned by PepsiCo, Inc., added:
PepsiCo was built on the foundation that we thrive because of our diversity and, when we embrace the full spectrum of humanity, we succeed together. In that spirit, the Aunt Jemima brand will donate a minimum of $5 million over the next five years to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.
In addition to the changes on Aunt Jemima, PepsiCo is committed to making significant change for its people, its business and the communities in which we live and work.
Yesterday PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta announced the next step in PepsiCo’s journey for racial equality: a more than $400 million set of initiatives over five years to lift up Black communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo. These initiatives comprise a holistic effort for PepsiCo to walk the talk of a leading corporation and help address the need for systemic change. The activities focus on three pillars—People, Business, and Communities.
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