The Aunt Jemima brand of pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods was founded in 1889 and continued for over 130 years, becoming one of the most recognizable brands in America. However, in June 2020, Quaker Oats announced that it would be retiring the Aunt Jemima name and logo over concerns about racial stereotyping. This raised the question – do Aunt Jemima products still exist today, and if so, under what name?
The short answer is yes, Aunt Jemima products do still exist, but now under the new brand name Pearl Milling Company. Quaker Oats acknowledged that the Aunt Jemima origins were based on a racial stereotype and announced plans to rebrand. By February 2021, Aunt Jemima syrups and pancake mixes were reintroduced as Pearl Milling Company products. The new brand name refers to the original mill in St. Joseph, Missouri that supplied the self-rising pancake mix that became Aunt Jemima.
History of the Aunt Jemima Brand
The Aunt Jemima brand was founded in 1889 when Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood developed a ready-made, self-rising pancake mix. They named it after the song “Old Aunt Jemima” and hired Nancy Green, a former enslaved woman, to portray Aunt Jemima as a “Mammy” character at the 1893 World’s Fair. The character was based on the common stereotype of a jovial black woman working as a servant or cook.
Quaker Oats purchased the Aunt Jemima brand in 1926 and continued using the Mammy character and slogan “I’s in Town, Honey” in advertising through the 1950s. Over time, Quaker Oats updated the brand image, first replacing the headscarf with a headband in 1968, and then giving Aunt Jemima pearl earrings and a lace collar in 1989.
Criticism of Aunt Jemima’s Origins
Despite Quaker’s updates to modernize Aunt Jemima’s image, the brand continued to face criticism over its origins being grounded in a racial stereotype of a black servant. Aunt Jemima evoked memories of the “Mammy” archetype from plantation slavery, a stout, dark-skinned woman wearing a headscarf who was devoted to serving her white masters. Civil rights leaders called for Quaker Oats to change the name and imagery.
In the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, Quaker Oats announced it was finally retiring the 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand. They acknowledged the brand origins were “based on a racial stereotype” and that it was time to make progress toward racial equality.
Rebranding as Pearl Milling Company
In February 2021, the new Pearl Milling Company line of pancake mixes and syrups hit store shelves, replacing Aunt Jemima. The new brand name highlights the original mill in St. Joseph, Missouri that produced the self-rising pancake mix back in 1889.
All traces of Aunt Jemima’s image were removed from the redesigned packaging. The new logo features an image of the Pearl Milling Company building and the tagline “Since 1889.” While Aunt Jemima syrups were previously sold in iconic dark brown bottles, Pearl Milling Company uses clear bottles. The familiar red caps remain on the new syrups.
The Pearl Milling Company product line includes the familiar mixes and syrups previously marketed as Aunt Jemima:
- Original Syrup
- Lite Syrup
- Butter Rich Syrup
- Original Pancake Mix
- Complete Pancake Mix
- Cornbread Mix
- Whole Grain Blends Pancake Mix
The recipes for these products remain the same despite the rebranding. Consumers can expect the same familiar flavors of Aunt Jemima pancakes and syrups, just with new Pearl Milling Company packaging.
Response to the Rebranding
The rebranding from Aunt Jemima to Pearl Milling Company was generally met with a positive response:
- Civil rights leaders, including the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activists, applauded Quaker Oats for finally retiring the offensive Aunt Jemima name and imagery.
- Industry experts said the rebranding was a smart business move for Quaker Oats to avoid backlash and improve sales as cultural attitudes shifted.
- Retailers supported the change and quickly transitioned to promoting Pearl Milling Company products.
- Many consumers were in favor of the more inclusive new brand identity.
However, some customers did express nostalgia for the familiar Aunt Jemima brand they grew up with. Quaker Oats is hoping Pearl Milling Company will become equally beloved over time.
Quaker Oats’ Statement
Quaker Oats released the following statement when announcing the transition from Aunt Jemima to Pearl Milling Company:
“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. We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today.”
The Future of Pearl Milling Company
While Aunt Jemima products now live on under the Pearl Milling Company name, Quaker Oats has made it clear this is more than just a name change. They are committed to building an inclusive brand that stands for warmth, dignity, and confidence.
It remains to be seen whether Pearl Milling Company will achieve the same iconic status and public affection as the Aunt Jemima brand enjoyed for over 130 years. However, the new branding has been received positively so far.
Quaker Oats is owned by PepsiCo, Inc. and they expect the familiar pancake mixes and syrups to continue being breakfast staples in households across America.
It took many years of public pressure for Quaker Oats to retire the offensive Aunt Jemima name and imagery. But in 2021, the company finally took a meaningful step toward racial equality by removing the branding rooted in a painful stereotype from slavery. The Pearl Milling Company brand looks ahead to a more inclusive future.
Key Facts About Aunt Jemima vs Pearl Milling Company
|Aunt Jemima||Pearl Milling Company|
|Founded in 1889||Replaced Aunt Jemima in 2021|
|Based on “Mammy” stereotype||Removed offensive imagery|
|Criticized as symbol of slavery||New inclusive branding|
|Dark brown syrup bottles||Clear syrup bottles|
|131 years of brand history||Launched in 2021|
|Origins in St. Joseph, MO||Highlights original mill|
|Same pancake mix recipes||New packaging design|
While the Aunt Jemima brand enjoyed over 130 years of popularity, Pearl Milling Company was created to right a historical wrong. By removing the offensive “Mammy” imagery and renaming the products to focus on their original Missouri roots, Quaker Oats has taken a major step to avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes and promote racial equality.
Consumers can still enjoy the familiar flavors of Aunt Jemima pancakes and syrups, now rebranded under the more inclusive Pearl Milling Company name. Only time will tell if Pearl Milling Company achieves the same brand recognition and affection. But the new name represents an important symbolic shift toward racial progress.