Pepsi, Co. revealed on Tuesday that they were officially rebranding Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrups as Pearl Milling Company. The new name and accompanying logo will appear on products starting in June 2021. "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 brand," explained the press release. "Products will continue to be available under the Aunt Jemima name without the character image until June."
Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, MO, and created the self-rising pancake mix that eventually became the Aunt Jemima brand. Quaker Oats purchased the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925, creating the recognizable character. When it was revealed that the woman in the logo was based on racist stereotypes and the "Mammy" character, Quaker Oats revealed that they would be altering the branding in order to remove the unfortunate associations.
In June 2020, Kristin Kroepfl, chief marketing officer at Quaker Foods North America, 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." Quaker Oats said that they would "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." Quaker Oats also pledged to donate $5 million over the next five years "to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community."
While many believed that the outdated imagery needed a change, Vera Harris, whose great aunt Lillian Richards was the spokeswoman, expressed some worry about her family's legacy being lost. Harris understood the change, since "they painted themselves Black and they portrayed that as us" and she didn't want a "negative image portrayed" as the face of the company, she worries that Richards will be forgotten. "If her legacy is swept under the rug and washed away, it's as if she never was a person," Harris explained.
She said that her great aunt was aware of the stereotypes but simply wanted to support her family however she could. "She was an intelligent, young, vital, beautiful Black woman that took the job," said Harris. The company allegedly did not consult the family before they decided to rebrand.