The story behind Aunt Jemima’s new name

For its Aunt Jemima breakfast product, which has been around for more than 130 years, Quaker Oats began searching for a new name in June.

In the midst of a social media reaction that criticized Aunt Jemima’s branding as racist, PepsiCo made a public commitment to modifying the brand and deleting its logo.

PepsiCo revealed that it was rebranding Aunt Jemima as Pearl Milling Company, the name of the company formed in 1888 that invented the self-rising pancake mix that would later be known as Aunt Jemima, after considering hundreds of ideas. (In 1925, Quaker Oats signed a contract to purchase the Aunt Jemima brand.)

According to Quaker Foods North America Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Kroepfl, the new name “reflects the dignity, the respect, and the warmth that we stand for.”

However, according to Josh Gerben, a trademark law specialist, it also seems to have been the prudent decision: “There is no possible controversy with the name.”

After battling for decades with a brand that had obvious roots to American slavery, it is exactly what Quaker was aiming for. According to Kroepfl, the business considered a variety of naming categories, including those that evoked knowledge, a sense of place, or an occasion. Her team discovered that names associated with female characters or names connected to the product’s past were most well-liked by consumers.

The previous brand had a root in racism

The business ultimately decided a female character was not the ideal choice since “the ‘aunt’ approach was off the table; derivations of Jemima were off the table,” according to Kroepfl. In order to avoid creating a new problem, she explains, “We sought to future-proof the brand.” Additionally, according to Kroepfl, Quaker believed that using a female persona may “convey that this brand is for women alone,” contradicting the desired message that “it’s an inclusive brand that is for everybody.”

Pearl Milling Company makes it possible to create new goods, which was difficult to achieve with Aunt Jemima, according to Kroepfl. She says that having a name and reputation based on a racial stereotype “truthfully made it harder to invest for expansion.”

The trademark red package, font, and pancake illustrations won’t change. According to Kroepfl, “our intention was to keep as much of what was functioning as possible so we could also migrate consumers effectively.”

A year after making its initial statement, the corporation eliminated the Aunt Jemima picture in the fourth quarter of 2020. In order to give customers time to adjust, Quaker intends to continue using the Aunt Jemima reference on the front of the packaging for at least six months.

However, even after that time, according to Kroepfl, the business will not fully give up on the Aunt Jemima brand. If it does, it runs the danger of the valuable brand being acquired and used by another party. According to Kroepfl, PepsiCo may keep using the name on the new packaging or limit distribution of a few Aunt Jemima items in order to protect the brand.

According to Kroepfl, “We will keep the history alive, maybe on the package, and for certainly across additional touch points.” “We want to be upfront about the history of the brand.”

According to Kroepfl, the Aunt Jemima brand generated $350 million in sales over the previous 12 months, with its syrup and pancake mix growing by 18% and 23%, respectively. The increase in sales is largely due to consumers eating more meals at home as a result of the epidemic.

Over the years, Quaker has made an effort to modernize the breakfast brand, including doing away with the Aunt Jemima figure’s kerchief in 1989. But this summer, the business admitted that it had fallen short. PepsiCo announced the name in along with a $5 million commitment to aid the Black community.

This criticism of Aunt Jemima was not the first time it had faced criticism. The emblem was defined as a “outgrowth of Old South plantation nostalgia and romance founded in an idea of the’mammy,’ a dedicated and subservient servant” in a 2015 New York Times op-ed headlined “Can We Please, Finally, Get Rid of ‘Aunt Jemima’?” A petition started in 2017 by restaurateur B. Smith’s husband urged the business to switch Aunt Jemima’s logo to that of the lifestyle icon.

Uncle Ben also changed its brand name to Ben’s Original

Not everyone appreciates the new name. Family members of the former Aunt Jemima spokesperson have voiced worries that a rebranding might obliterate some of their lineage. It is allegedly an attempt to “cleanse the heritage she represents,” according to some.

One of the latest relaunches of consumer product brands with a history of racism includes Aunt Jemima. Recently, Uncle Ben’s, a brand of rice, changed its name to Ben’s Original, and Eskimo Pie became Edy’s Pie.

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