At the height of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer, PepsiCo decided to replace the “racist” Aunt Jemima name for pancake mix and syrup with something else. Since then, Pepsi’s marketers have been working around the clock to come up with a suitable moniker. And now they have revealed their selection: Pearl Milling Company.
In June 2021, the new packaging should be in stores everywhere. Products with the Racist Label will continue to be available until then, but they will come packaged without the image of the famous character.
The new pancake mix and syrup brand name is steeped in corporate history. The company’s namesake, Pearl Milling Company, pays homage to the firm that was founded in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1888. The business would develop the self-rising pancake mix, which would be given the racist name Aunt Jemima and utilize Black women to go across the nation making sales presentations trying to sell it.
In 1925, Quaker Oats acquired the rights to Aunt Jemima. They changed the picture of Aunt Jemima at the time because it was perceived to be more racist. People were concerned that the image of the Black woman used to sell pancake mix and syrup in the 1920s was based on racist preconceptions inherited from a friendly Black “mammy” who worked for white families following slavery.
In 2001, PepsiCo acquired Quaker Oats Company. “Consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners to gather broad perspectives and ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind.”
The new packaging resembles the Aunt Jemima design. It maintains the red, yellow, and white hues but replaces the misleading image of Aunt Jemima that caused a nationwide controversy.
The box bears an illustration of an antique waterwheel and promises to deliver a “New Name Same Great Taste – Aunt Jemima.”
But the new name has not endeared itself to everyone. Some have even predicted the demise of 140-year-old pancake business.
“Pearl Milling Company syrup?” one Twitter user whined. “My doesn’t that sound yummy, huh? The name Aunt Jemima made me hungry for pancakes. Pearl Milling Company sounds like something owned by a James Bond villain.”
One critic said, “I think it sounds like a gravel mining company.”
However, many individuals believed it was time for a fresh start.
“Whenever I see Aunt Jemima brand in the store or have to purchase it because it’s the only pancake mix available, it’s just. It should’ve been changed decades ago. It shouldn’t have existed in the first place.”
The Aunt Jemima brand, despite various redesigns throughout the years, was unable to overcome its racist history.
“The reputation of that brand, now more than 130 years old, was built on a racial and cultural stereotype that is widely regarded as offensive,” according to James O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.