Quaker Oats has announced plans to rename their 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand in an effort “to make progress toward racial equality.”
In a statement Wednesday (via NBC News), Quaker Oats — who purchased the Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mixes in 1926 — admitted the racial history of the brand, which was named after the minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima.”
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Quaker Oats’ vice president and chief marketing officer Kristin Kroepfl said in a statement. “As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations.”
The new name and packaging for the breakfast products will be announced later this year, with the rebranded products expected to hit supermarket shelves by the fall of 2020.
According to the timeline on the Aunt Jemima website, the brand was created in 1889 but was first “brought to life” by Nancy Green, who featured as “Aunt Jemima” on packaging; following Green’s death in 1923, other Black women would be featured on the Aunt Jemima packaging, including Anna Harrington, actress Aylene Lewis, blues singer Edith Wilson and performer Ethel Ernestine Harper. Harrington’s surviving relatives sued Quaker Oats in 2014 for royalties dating back to her appearance on the Aunt Jemima brand in the Thirties; that lawsuit was dismissed.
In recent decades, the Aunt Jemima name and character has drawn controversy for its racial insensitivity and stereotyping. While PepsiCo, which purchased Quaker Oats in 2001, made some changes to the iconography in recent years — including removing the “mammy” kerchief, NBC News reported — many, including the late restauranteur B. Smith, demanded that the Aunt Jemima brand be changed entirely, CNN reports.
In addition to rebranding Aunt Jemima, Quaker Oats also announced a $5 million donation over the next five years in order “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.”
Soon after Aunt Jemima’s announcement, Uncle Ben’s Rice — another food brand built off a racial stereotype — also revealed plans to change their image.
“As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that one way we can do this is by evolving the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity,” the Mars Incorporated-owned rice brand said in a statement (via Huffington Post).
Conagra Brands, Inc., the purveyors of Mrs. Butterworth’s brand, also announced a review of its packaging, which it said was originally “intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” in a statement. “We understand that our actions help play an important role in eliminating racial bias and as a result, we have begun a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth’s,” the statement continued. “It’s heartbreaking and unacceptable that racism and racial injustices exist around the world. We will be part of the solution. Let’s work together to progress toward change.”
Quaker Oats announced that the image of Aunt Jemima will be removed from all packaging and the brand’s name will be changed. @SheinelleJones reports on the move that comes amid rapid cultural change in the country. pic.twitter.com/76a3hC64rM
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 17, 2020