Aunt Jemima's New Name Pearl Milling Company: What It Means

After more than 130 years, Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix will no longer bear that well-known name and logo come June 2021. After undergoing a full rebrand due to racial stereotypes depicted by the name and logo, Aunt Jemima breakfast products will be sold under the name Pearl Milling Company. Pepsi Co., Aunt Jemima's parent company, made the announcement Tuesday, leaving many breakfast lovers wondering why they opted for Pearl Milling Company.

According to a statement on the company's website, the name is actually a nod to Aunt Jemima’s origin, as Pearl Milling Company was a small mill in St. Joseph, Missouri that used a pearl milling technique to produce flour and cornmeal. The mill had been purchased by Chris L. Rutt, a reporter for the St. Joseph Gazette, and Charles G. Underwood in 1888, according to Marilyn Kern-Foxworth's article on the brand's history, and in 1889, after a year of searching "for a product all America would eat," they began producing the famous self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima.

It was initially sold in paper bags with a generic label of "Self-Rising Pancake Flour," and did not get its name until the autumn of 1889 when Rutt visited a vaudeville house in St. Joseph. While there, he "saw a team of blackface minstrel comedians known as Baker and Farrell" perform to a tune called "Aunt Jemima," which was originally called "Old Aunt Jemima" and was one of the most popular songs of the day. Rutt, according to reports, "knew that the song and costume projected the image for which he had been searching. He decided to mimic it, using not only the name but the likeness of the Southern mammy emblazoned on the lithographed posters advertising the act of Baker and Farrel." In 1925, Aunt Jemima entered into a contract with Quaker Oats, with Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix officially launching in 1957, with new products coming in the years that followed.

Although the Aunt Jemima logo underwent a few changes over the years, the removal of the "mammy" kerchief from the character, the origins of the name and logo remained a topic of controversy. In 2017, the husband of restaurateur B. Smith called on Quaker Oats to change the packaging, stating that it was the epitome of "female humiliation." Amid growing calls for racial equality over summer 2020, Quaker Oats announced it would do a full rebrand of Aunt Jemima products, acknowledging that "Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype."

Under this rebrand, unveiled Tuesday, Aunt Jemima products will be sold under the name Pearl Milling Company beginning June 2021. The Aunt Jemima logo, which has already been removed from packaging, will be replaced with a flour mill. In a statement to CNN, a PepsiCo spokesperson said, "we are starting a new day with Pearl Milling Company. A new day rooted in the brand's historic beginnings and its mission to create moments that matter at the breakfast table."