What Does Aunt Jemima’s New Name, Pearl Milling Company, Mean?

by Evan Reier

Quaker Oats is changing the name of pancake and syrup brand from “Aunt Jemima” to “Pearl Milling Company”. There are understandable questions.

For anyone still catching up, the company elected to move on from “Aunt Jemima“. This is due to complaints and points that the logo and branding is a racist stereotype. That being said, a spokesperson for PepsiCo says this will not change the ingredients and formula.

“We are starting a new day with Pearl Milling Company. A new day rooted in the brand’s historic beginnings and its mission to create moments that matter at the breakfast table… Pearl Milling Company will offer people all their favorite pancake mix and syrup varieties in the same familiar red packaging previously found under the Aunt Jemima logo. Cornmeal and grits products will also transition to the new name.”

While the switch is understandable given the progress of time and connotations that can come from the old brand, where or what exactly is Pearl Milling Company?

What is the “Pearl” in the Name?

There are no plans to change the classic red and yellow branding that many will associate with the brand. That’s clear as day when you open up the brand’s official site.

One of the first things mentioned on the site is a “pearl milling” technique, which is how the original company got its name.

“It is the start of a new day: Aunt Jemima is now Pearl Milling Company. Though the Brand is new to store shelves, the name itself has been a part of our story for over 130 years. Pearl Milling Company was a small mill in the bustling town of St. Joseph, Missouri. Using a pearl milling technique, they produced flour, cornmeal, and, beginning in 1889, the famous self-rising pancake mix that would go on to be known as Aunt Jemima.”

While “milling” as a concept isn’t foreign to most people, the specifics of “pearl milling” is likely lost on the average person. Don’t worry, that was us too before we came across a report on Science Direct.

As writers Zhi Hui Loh, Asim Kumar Samanta, Paul WanSia Heng write in their report, pearl-milling is actually somewhat self-explanatory.

“Pearl balls and beads are commonly used as well in which case the techniques are termed pearl and bead milling, respectively. Unlike ball milling where the whole vessel rotates or oscillate/vibrates whilst in operation, the vessel remains stationary in media milling.”

Story Behind Pearl Milling Company and Aunt Jemima

The site also gives context to the decision to switch to Pearl Milling Company.

“Last June, PepsiCo and The Quaker Oats Company made a commitment to change the name and image of Aunt Jemima, recognizing that they do not reflect our core values. While the name on the box has changed, the great tasting products – the “pearl” inside the familiar red box – remains the same, with a mission to create joyful breakfast moments for everyone. We will have future announcements regarding our community impact initiative.”

According to the timeline set by the site, Pearl Milling Company was first started in 1888. The business produced a variety of products out of St. Joseph, Missouri. A year on in 1889, the company apparently first created the legendary pancake mix at Pearl Milling Co.

Fast forward to 1925 when Quaker Oats bought the brand “Aunt Jemima”. The timeline goes on to detail various innovations in the pancake and syrup game. This builds up to PepsiCo buying The Quaker Oats Company in 2001.