At the height of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, PepsiCo decided to scrap the “r…” Aunt Jemima name for the pancake mix and syrup brand. In the months since that decision went viral, the marketing gurus at Pepsi have been working around the clock to figure out the best name to replace Aunt Jemima. And now they are unveiling their long-awaited decision: Pearl Milling Company.
You can expect to see the new packaging in a store near you in June 2021. Until then, products bearing the. name will continue to be sold – but with the image of the character stripped from the packaging.
The new pancake mix and syrup brand name is actually steeped in company history. Pearl Milling Company honors the name of the company that was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri. The company would create the self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be given the r@c!stname Aunt Jemima and employ Black women to go around the country trying to sell the pancake mix through traveling sales presentations.
Quaker Oats Company bought the rights to the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925. At the time, they revised the image of Aunt Jemima to one that was considered less . In the 1920s, people were concerned that the image of the Black woman used to sell pancake mix and syrup was based on rooted in the friendly Black “mammy” servant who worked for white families after slavery ended.
PepsiCo bought Quaker Oats Company in 2001.
PepsiCo and Quaker worked with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners to gather broad perspectives and ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind.”
The new packaging resembles the Aunt Jemima style. It keeps the same colors – red, yellow, and white – but changes the name and removes the image of Aunt Jemima that sparked outrage across the country.
The packaging features an illustration of an old-timey mill and also promises to offer a “New Name Same Great Taste – Aunt Jemima.”
However, critics have not been receptive to the new name. Some have even gone so far as to prophesize the downfall of the 140-year pancake company.
“Pearl Milling Company syrup?” one Twitter user whined. “My doesn’t that sound yummy, huh? The name Aunt Jemima made me hungry for pancakes. Pearl Milling Company sounds like something owned by a James Bond villain.”
Another critic wrote, “I think it sounds like a gravel mining company.”
However, many people felt it was time for a change.
“Whenever I see Aunt Jemima brand in the store or have to purchase it because it’s the only pancake mix available, it’s just. It should’ve been changed decades ago. It shouldn’t have existed in the first place.”
Although the Aunt Jemima image went through several redesigns over the years – including weight loss – it was not enough to move beyond the history.
“The reputation of that brand, now more than 130 years old, was built on a r…. and cultural stereotype that is widely regarded as ,” said James O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.
What do you think about the new name for Aunt Jemima?