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Aunt Jemima Is Now Officially the Pearl Milling Company

After 95 years, Quaker is changing the name of its Aunt Jemima products.

By Lisa Lacy, ADWEEK • February 9, 2021

The pancake and syrup brand formerly known as Aunt Jemima has officially rebranded as the Pearl Milling Company.

The new brand identity, which includes the “same familiar red packaging,” will appear on store shelves this June. Parent company Quaker announced its intent to rebrand last June after producing products under the Aunt Jemima name for nearly 100 years. At the time, Quaker pulled the image of the Aunt Jemima character, saying the brand—despite a 1989 update including “a contemporary look [with] pearl earrings and a lace collar”—”has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today.”

Products with this characterless packaging, which also includes cornmeal and grits, will remain for sale until June.

According to a revamped timeline on AuntJemima.com, Pearl Milling Company was “a small mill in the bustling town of St. Joseph, Missouri” that produced flour, cornmeal and the self-rising pancake mix that was branded as Aunt Jemima in 1889. (Quaker acquired the brand in 1926.)

The timeline previously noted the character was first portrayed in 1890 by Nancy Green, “a storyteller, cook and missionary worker” who was born as a slave in 1834. From there, Aunt Jemima became synonymous with the Mammy stereotype, which appealed to white consumers nostalgic for slavery following the Civil War.

The 2021 rebrand marks a big turnaround for Quaker, which previously declined to implement changes.

In 2017, Dan Gasby, partner of the late restaurateur, cookbook author and lifestyle guru B. Smith, petitioned PepsiCo in a Change.org campaign called Set Her Free. According to Gasby, PepsiCo said Aunt Jemima was a wholesome character and they didn’t feel the need to change the brand.

“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker, said in a statement last year. “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.”

In a February statement, Quaker said it decided Pearl Milling Company was the right name after consulting with “consumers, employees, external cultural and subject matter experts and diverse agency partners to … ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind.”

Pearl Milling Company also plans to announce a $1 million commitment to “empower and uplift Black girls and women” through a grant program. This is in addition to PepsiCo’s $400 million fund to support Black businesses and communities and increase Black representation at PepsiCo.