HARRISON, NY – PepsiCo Inc., the parent company of Quaker Oats, announced on Tuesday that it is rebranding and relaunching the former Aunt Jemima line of pancake and syrup products after retiring the famous brand one year ago amid ongoing complaints that the product’s packaging and marketing utilized racist stereotypes.
The Aunt Jemima product line will now be called “Pearl Milling Company” and is expected to hit supermarket shelves in June of this year, reports say.
In a statement to NBC News last year, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America Kristin Kroepfl acknowledged that many people had considered the image of the Aunt Jemima brand to be inappropriate in this day and age.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” she said. “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.”
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Last summer, Aunt Jemima and several long-time brands utilizing similar imagery – such as Uncle Ben’s and Mrs. Butterworth’s – came under fire amid protests and rioting against police brutality; Quaker Oats finally bowed to public pressure and pulled the Aunt Jemima line from store shelves, vowing to revisit and eventually rerelease it under a different name.
According to a 2015 article for The New York Times, Cornell University professor of African American literature Riché Richardson, the pancake brand’s original marketing identity was inspired by a minstrel song about a “mammy” stereotype dating back to slavery called “Old Aunt Jemima.”
As far as the new product name goes, PepsiCo explained in a statement that “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.” The company also announced a “$1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women” and a “more than $400 million, five-year investment to uplift Black business and communities, and increase Black representation at PepsiCo.”