After a lot of controversies, Quaker Oats has released a new name for what used to be known as the “Aunt Jemima” products. The new name is now Pearl Milling Company.
The company has long been criticized for both the name and the images on its products. Many said that the brand perpetuated a racist stereotype of a Black woman.
“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,” Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Quaker Foods North America, Kristin Kroepfl said, according to Today.
A 2015 New York Times article, written by Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, first called for the change.
According to Richardson, the brand was inspired by a song called “Old Aunt Jemima.” It was often performed at minstrel shows, which featured white actors in blackface and portrayed Black people in racist stereotypes.
A History of Pearl Milling Company
The change to Pearl Milling Company also comes with history.
Pearl Milling Company, according to the Aunt Jemima website, was a small mill in St. Joseph, Missouri. The mill produced products like flour, cornmeal, and self-rising pancake mix.
The company has been around for over 130 years It started in 1888 when Pearl Milling Company began creating those products. Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood started the company. Anna Robinson portrayed the woman on the brand in 1933. It would later be actress Aylene Lewis in the ’50s and ’60s.
Then, it was branded as the old name “Aunt Jemima.” In 1925, Quaker Oats purchased the pancake brand. In 2001, PepsiCo purchased The Quaker Oats Company.
Over the years the company has launched its own pancake syrup, pancake and waffle mix, a lighter syrup, a butter syrup, and several other products.
In 1989, the brand’s icon was updated, however, it did not remove the brand name and imagery. Instead, according to ABC News, the look was made more “contemporary” by just adding pearl earrings and a lace collar. Now in 2021, the new packaging will begin to hit shelves starting this summer.
A Call for Change
Many people called for the company to change the name of the pancake brand after the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed. Mrs. Butterworth’s was also targeted for its brand portrayal.
Part of the backlash against Mrs. Butterworth’s and Aunt Jemima is that some on social media say the character is based on the “Mammy” archetype.
The Pearl Milling Company was not alone in changing its name. The musical group formerly known as The Dixie Chicks changed their name to The Chicks. The group changed due to the connotations that come with the word “Dixie.”
Another country group formerly known as Lady Antebellum made the change to Lady A. Country music isn’t alone in these changes, however.
The Washington Football Team is the new (temporary) name for what used to be the Washington Redskins. Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream also dropped their brand known as “Eskimo Pie.” The new name will be Edy’s Pie.