Aunt Jemima brand looks to shed its racist roots with vow to change name and logo

June 17, 2020, 2:59 PM UTC

Quaker Oats, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, announced this morning that it will rename and remove the logo from its more than 130-year-old Aunt Jemima breakfast brand. The decision comes amid a social media backlash that called out Aunt Jemima’s branding, which has overt ties to American slavery, as racist.

The company said that the image of Aunt Jemima will be removed in the fourth quarter and that the name change will follow; Quaker Oats has not yet announced any details of the new branding.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, in a statement. “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.” In 1989, for example, the brand removed the kerchief from the Aunt Jemima figure.

“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,” added Kroepfl in the statement. “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.”

Yesterday singer Kirby posted a TikTok video captioned “How To Make A Non Racist Breakfast,” which criticized the brand’s links to the plantation South and minstrel shows. The video, which has been viewed more than a half-million times, ends with Kirby dumping Aunt Jemima pancake mix out into her sink and saying, “Black lives matter, people. Even over breakfast.”

A PepsiCo spokesperson said that the announcement had been planned for today in order to follow yesterday’s corporate announcement from CEO Ramon Laguarta that the company will invest $400 million over five years in black communities and in increasing black representation at PepsiCo. Laguarta’s letter to employees, which was also published as an op-ed in Fortune, made no mention of the Aunt Jemima changes. The spokesperson said the timing of the rebrand was unrelated to yesterday’s social media outcry.

In addition to the name change, the company said the Aunt Jemima brand will donate at least $5 million over the next five years “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”

This is not the first time the company has been called on to change the Aunt Jemima brand. A 2015 New York Times op-ed titled can “Can We Please, Finally, Get Rid of ‘Aunt Jemima’?” described the logo as an “outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance grounded in an idea about the ‘mammy,’ a devoted and submissive servant.” In 2017, a petition was launched by the husband of restaurateur B. Smith to change the Aunt Jemima branding to that of the lifestyle icon.

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