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

Surrey Mounties seeking witnesses to Saturday shooting

Police say the victim isn’t providing investigators with information

B.C.’s virtual ‘SoundON’ concerts kick off with sounds of Surrey festival

‘FVDED Broadcast’ from nightclub on July 18, as charity event

South Surrey mom frustrated by city’s response after son, 10, has severe reaction to park grass 

City of Surrey parks manager says ‘potential steps’ to address concern under review

Surrey council approves $150 FOI fee for attendance requests at city facilities

This came before council’s meeting on Monday July 13

Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner brings ‘objectivity’ to the job

Vancouver lawyer Reece Harding is Surrey’s first Ethics Commissioner, also a first for B.C.

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Thousands of dollars of stolen rice traced to Langley warehouse

Police raid seizes $75,000 in ‘commercial scale’ theft case

UPDATE: Mission spray park closed after children suffer swollen eyes, burns

Mission RCMP are investigating incident that injured several children

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

19 times on 19th birthday: Langley teen goes from crutches to conquering Abby Grind

Kaden Van Buren started at midnight on Saturday. By 3 p.m. he had completed the trek 19 times.

Professional basketball in Canada begins return to action with COVID-19 testing

Abbotsford’s Fraser Valley Bandits, six other CEBL teams arrive in Ontario for Summer Series

Most Read