Has Aunt Jemima Always Been Considered Offensive?
Aunt Jemima is one of America's long-standing brands. They've been making their famous line of Syrup and Pancake Mix since way back in 1893. In that time, the company has withstood the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Civil Rights movement, and ups and downs in terms of their own popularity. But as of this week, the Aunt Jemima brand will cease to exist.
Aunt Jemima was purchased by the Quaker Oats Company in 1937, which is now a subsidiary of PepsiCo. In a statement released on Wednesday, Kristin Kroepfl, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Quaker Foods North America had this to say in regards to the Aunt Jemima brand:
"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. We recognize Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype. 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."
As Kroepfl points out, the subject of Aunt Jemima's racial stereotypes has been a point of discussion for years within the company. For much of its history, the Aunt Jemima character was depicted in print and magazine publications serving white families. It wasn't until 1989 when Quaker Oats finally changed the appearance of the character.
In the years that have passed, calls have grown louder for Quaker Oats to drop the name altogether. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, those calls have gained more momentum. Just this week, a video targeting the Aunt Jemima brand on the social media platform, TikTok garnered over 3 million views, prompting the company to respond.
There's no word on what the new name of the syrup and pancake mix will be called, but Quaker Oats stated that they would be consulting individuals in the African American community on how to best remake the brand. PepsiCo. also announced they would be starting a 400 million dollar initiative "to lift up black communities and increase black representation at PepsiCo."