International News Jun 17, 2020 2:59 PM EST

Aunt Jemima brand to be discontinued after complaints of racism

PepsiCo has announced that it will be dropping its Aunt Jemima image and rebranding the syrup and pancake mix which has held the same name since 1889.

Aunt Jemima brand to be discontinued after complaints of racism
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta
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Aunt Jemima has got to go according to PepsiCo, who announced that it will be dropping the image and rebranding the syrup and pancake mix. The name and face of Aunt Jemima has been part of the branding and packaging of those products under the same name since 1889, according to Adweek.

“We are starting by removing the image and changing the name,” said Quaker Foods North America vice president and chief marketing officer, Kristin Kroepfl in a statement.

“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.”

The company—which has owned Quaker Oats Company since 1926—did not release specifics about the new name or packaging. PepsiCo said it will announce the new name at a later date and the changes to the packaging will be evident in the fourth quarter.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kroepfl said. “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.”

The news follows the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis in May as well as the protests against racial injustice and police brutality that came afterwards.

PepsiCo said the goal of the rebranding move is to “[evolve] over time with the goal of representing loving moms from diverse backgrounds who want the best for their families.”

Kroepfl added, “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.”

Author Marilyn Kern-Foxworth notes that the Aunt Jemima image comes from the mammy stereotype that was made popular by minstrel shows following the Civil War. Foxworth is the author of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Calls have been made in the past for the company to change the name and mascot of the brand and PepsiCo has been reluctant until now.

A petition to make the change called Set Her Free was made by cookbook author and restaurateur partner, Dan Gasby in 2017. At the time PepsiCo responded by saying they believed the company to be wholesome and didn’t see a reason to change the name.

“I will debate anyone at that company about the value of something called Aunt Jemima in 2020,” said Gasby during an interview in April 2020. “This is not 1820 or 1920. When you talk about stereotyping and profiling, you can take the bandana off her head, but the historical significance of Aunt Jemima is terrible.”

PepsiCo announced that the Aunt Jemima brand will “create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community” by donating $5 million within the next five years.

Ramon Laguarta, the PepsiCo CEO and chairman previously announced that the company plans to spend  $400 million to fund initiatives on equality and racial justice.

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