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

Kelowna taxpayers could pay $90K for losses caused by cancelled Memorial Cup

$135,000 would be put aside for a potential bid for a future opportunity to host the tournament

Predator mutilated cats in Kelowna: BC SPCA

The BC SPCA confirmed a mutilated cat was killed by a predator

Emergency crews conduct CPR on unresponsive person in Okanagan Lake

West Kelowna emergency crews are on scene at the shores of Jubilee Mobile Home Park

Kelowna woman’s dog attacked by unlicensed pit bull: RDCO

Kelowna resident Yuli Lavigne shared a social media post detailing the attack on her dog

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Motorcycle rider seriously injured in collision with vehicle on Highway 97 west of Pritchard

Chase RCMP report that motorcycle was attempting to pass when crash occurred

LETTER: Former Summerland mayors speak out on solar project

Five former Summerland mayors sign name to short letter

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

$500 fine for Vernon man caught near Coldstream playground

Richard Slobodian, 58, served one night in jail and ordered to pay for breaching probation

Summerland Museum reopens

Museum to open on July 15 with reduced operating hours

House arrest for Vernon physiotherapist guilty of sexual assault

Stephen Witvoet to serve 18-month conditional sentencing following July 8 hearing

Most Read