Aunt Jemima brand is changing its name and removing the namesake Black character
Aunt Jemima brand plans to remove the logo and change its name in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality. USA TODAY
The pancake syrup company Aunt Jemima is changing its name and imaging in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality.
The Quaker Oats-owned company said Wednesday that the iconic Aunt Jemima figure on its packaging is "based on a racial stereotype" and acknowledged that its prior work to update the character was "not enough."
"We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand," said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, in a statement sent to USA TODAY. The move was reported earlier by NBC News and Adweek.
Shoppers will start to see new packaging at the grocery store without the Aunt Jemima image in the fourth quarter of this year. The company's new name for the syrup and other products will be announced soon after.
Following the news of Aunt Jemima's future evolution, two other iconic brands, Uncle Ben's and Mrs. Butterworth's, announced that they were also looking at making changes.
Mars-owned Uncle Ben's said it plans to change the image on its rice packaging, but said in a release that it didn't yet know "what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities."
Conagra Brands, owner of Mrs. Butterworth's, says it has "begun a complete brand and packaging review" of the syrup brand.
“The Mrs. Butterworth's brand, including its syrup packaging, is intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” Conagra Brands said in a statement Wednesday. “We stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown communities and we can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values.”
The Aunt Jemima brand was formed in 1889 after owners Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood developed the pancake mix. The character on the box was brought together and inspired by a Black storyteller and cook named Nancy Green, according to the company's website.
More than a century later, Aunt Jemima, who is said to have been born into slavery, no longer resembles a servant from the era. Quaker Oats bought the brand in 1926, and in 1989 swapped her red bandanna for pearl earnings and soft curls.
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Still, the company's image with its Black servant origins has come under fire for perpetuating racist stereotypes.
The marketing shift comes at a time when big brands face increasing pressure to increase diversity efforts and combat racism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The news comes one day after parent company PepsiCo announced a $400-million set of initiatives to lift up Black communities over the next five years. Part of the plan is to increase Black representation internally and to introduce mandatory training on unconscious bias.
Contributing: Kelly Tyko
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.