Last June, Quaker Oats and their owners, PepsiCo, announced that they would finally retire the Aunt Jemima brand. The move came in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police and the public outcry that followed, resulting in countless BLM protests fighting systemic racism, racial injustice, and police brutality. Brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s were no longer immune to their problematic beginnings, despite years of criticism and outrage about their use of racist stereotypes.
After many months of silence, Aunt Jemima has finally rebranded. Now, the pancake mix and syrup brand will be known as the Pearl Milling Company.
Packaging images presented through a press release show that the brand looks nearly identical to what came before, likely so that consumers could still identify the range. However, given the lightning-rod nature of the story, that probably wouldn’t have been an issue. Now, the original name is gone, and instead of a logo bearing Aunt Jemima’s likeness, you’ll find an illustration of a mill in what looks mostly like a drag and drop deal.
As for the new name, it was the Pearl Milling Company that originally appropriated the image of Aunt Jemima in the first place, when founders Christ Rutt and Charles Underwood sold their excess flour as pancake mix in the late 19th century. The brand owners are trying to reconnect the company with its original heritage and pivot to that of a nearly artisanal food brand (just with Aunt Jemima camouflage).
According to the press release, the brand says they consulted with employees, consumers, experts, and diverse partners throughout the process to make sure the new branding would feel inclusive. Additionally, Pearl Milling Company announced an initiative to empower Black girls and women with a $1 million commitment where consumers can nominate deserving non-profits in their community for grants.
It’s safe to say that perhaps no matter what PepsiCo did, folks were not going to like this. It’s also safe to say that it was the Pearl Milling Company that landed on the Aunt Jemima character found in minstrel shows in the first place.
The new Pearl Milling Company-branded products will make their way to stores this June.