For the first time in almost a century, the name Aunt Jemima will no longer grace packages of pancake mix, syrup, grits and flour products on grocery store shelves.

Beginning in June, “Pearl Milling Company” will replace the Aunt Jemima brand, what many critics have long called a “mammy stereotype.”

This change also comes after mounting pressure amid Black Lives Matter protests last summer and racial unrest around the country.

PepsiCo, Inc. announced last week that Pearl Milling Company will offer products in the same familiar red packaging previously found under the Aunt Jemima brand.

Products will continue to be available under the Aunt Jemima name without the character image until June.

The company says that although the name is new to consumers, Pearl Milling is no stranger to the food industry. The company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Mo., and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima.

Quaker Oats Co. bought the Aunt Jemima brand name in 1925. The firm said, “It updated its image over the years in a manner intended to remove racial stereotypes that dated back to the brand origins.”

In June 2020, the brand announced it was transitioning from the Aunt Jemima name and likeness on packaging and pledged a $5 million commitment to support the Black community.

In the coming weeks, Pearl Milling Company said it plans to unveil a $1 million commitment to fund grants to non-profit organizations to benefit Black girls and women.

“This is in addition to PepsiCo’s more than $400 million, five-year investment to uplift Black business and communities, and increase Black representation at PepsiCo,” said the company.

Throughout the effort that led to the new Pearl Milling Company name, Quaker says it worked with consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts to gather broad perspectives and ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind.

Quaker Oats is not alone in trying to repair hurt feelings among customers. Mars, Inc., owner of the Uncle Ben’s rice dropped the 70-year-old logo featuring a smiling, servile-looking Black man from its packaging and re-named its product Ben’s Original last September.

When the news of the change was announced, Aunt Jemima began to trend on Twitter where people shared their thoughts.

“They couldn’t go with something like Morning Sunshine syrup or something like that? Pearl Milling Company? Like…there’s a valuable resource and the laborious act of obtaining said resource in that name,” Twitter user @dragonflyjonez said. “That’s how you try to distance yourself from slavery?”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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