Aunt Jemima's new name will be Pearl Milling Company
Aunt Jemima is rebranding as Pearl Milling Company, a move that comes months after parent company PepsiCo Inc. announced plans to retire the pancake mix and syrup brand name and image, sparking a broad and brisk makeover in food branding as marketers moved to remove monikers and images with racist undertones.
The new name goes back to the brand’s roots. In 1889, the owners of Pearl Milling Company, Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood, came up with the first ready-made pancake mix in St. Joseph, Missouri. Rutt named the product Aunt Jemima after “Old Aunt Jemima,” according to a company timeline, “a song from a minstrel show featuring performers wearing an apron and bandanna headband. The image of Aunt Jemima was registered as a trademark in 1890.
In June 2020, PepsiCo announced it would retire the name Aunt Jemima and imagery of a Black woman, which had evolved over the years. The name continued to appear on packaging later in 2020, while the imagery was removed and the company worked on coming up with a new moniker. New Pearl Milling Company packaging will begin to hit shelves in June, PepsiCo said.
The June announcement about plans to rename Aunt Jemima came soon after the death of George Floyd, which led to increased interest in the Black Lives Matter movement. PepsiCo's announcement was quickly followed by similar plans for change from a number of food brands with outdated Black characters and imagery. In September, Uncle Ben's was the first major brand to announce its new moniker, Ben's Original.
Quaker announced that it worked with consumers, employees, external cultural and subject-matter experts, and diverse agency partners on the name change, “to gather broad perspectives and ensure the new brand was developed with inclusivity in mind.”
PepsiCo has owned the Aunt Jemima brand since buying Quaker Oats Co. in 2001. Quaker signed the contract to buy the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925 and updated its look over the years, still keeping a Black woman at the heart of the brand in what the company describes as updates done “over the years in a manner intended to remove racial stereotypes that dated back to the brand origins.”
In June 2020, when announcing the retirement of the Aunt Jemima image and name, the company also pledged $5 million to support the Black community. On Tuesday, it said part of that commitment would be distributed in $1 million in grants to non-profit organizations that work on empowering Black girls and women.
A trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, dated Feb. 1, shows the new look: an image of a building and the phrase “Since 1899” above the words Pearl Milling Company. The use of red, with bits of yellow and white, keeps with the look that Aunt Jemima's packaging used.