The Aunt Jemima image has evolved over the years to meet socially acceptable standards of the times. (Associated Press)

Aunt Jemima brand retired by Quaker due to racial stereotype

The Aunt Jemima image has evolved over the years to meet socially acceptable standards of the times

Quaker Oats is retiring the 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognizes the character’s origins are “based on a racial stereotype.”

Just hours later, the owner of the Uncle Ben’s brand of rice says the brand will “evolve” in response to concerns about racial stereotyping.

Quaker, which is owned by PepsiCo, said it’s overhauled pancake mix and syrup will hit shelves by the fourth quarter of 2020. The company will announce the new name at a later date.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl of Quaker Foods North America. “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.”

The Aunt Jemima image has evolved over the years to meet socially acceptable standards of the times, but the brand could not shake its history of racial stereotypes and connections to slavery. By 1989, Aunt Jemima had lost weight, abandoned her kerchief and looked more like a typical modern housewife. But the image and brand tweaks over the years were apparently not enough.

“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,” said James O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. “Brand managers have been aware of that for years and have tried, largely through incremental updates to the character’s image on the packaging, to modernize how she is seen. The headscarf is gone, they’ve added a lace collar, pearl earrings. But the effect, because of the name, is the same.”

PepsiCo also announced a five-year, $400 million initiative “to lift up black communities and increase black representation at PepsiCo.”

Caroline Sherman, a spokeswoman for Mars, which owns Uncle Ben’s, says the company is listening to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and recognizes that now is the right time to evolve the brand, including its visual identity.

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, activists and consumers have demanded that companies take a stand against racial injustice or lose their business. The singer Kirby posted a TikTok video called “How to Make a Non Racist Breakfast” explaining some of the backstory of the Aunt Jemima brand. That video went viral.

Land O’Lakes announced earlier this year that it would no longer use the Native American woman who had graced its packages of butter, cheese and other products since the late 1920s.

Matt Ott, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

racism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local war hero ceberating 100 years of life

Derek Beningfield records his grandfather’s history ahead of his 100th birthday on July 14

Editorial: Thanks for the memories

Sasha Sefter says farewell to our readers

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

RANCH MUSINGS: When the sun shines, kids and calves

It is not easy to witness the birth of a calf especially in a herd on a spacious pasture

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Most Read