PepsiCo dropping Aunt Jemima’s name, removing imagery ‘based on racial stereotype’

CHICAGO — PepsiCo Inc. announced it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand due to its origins in racist imagery.

The image of a black woman will be removed from the brand’s pancake mixes, syrups and other products, the company said. A new name will be announced following the first phase of packaging changes, which will begin appearing throughout the fourth quarter.             

The 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and imagery originally were based on the minstrel show song “Old Aunt Jemima.” The brand was sold to Quaker Oats in 1926 and became part of the PepsiCo portfolio in 2001.

Its imagery has evolved in recent years, with PepsiCo removing a “mammy” kerchief from the character.

“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer, Quaker Foods North America. “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 Aunt Jemima brand will donate $5 million over the next five years to support the black community, a commitment that builds on PepsiCo’s previously announced $400 million initiative to increase black representation at the company.

“We are starting by removing the image and changing the name,” Ms. Kroepfl said. “We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud to have in their pantry.”

PepsiCo’s decision to retire the Aunt Jemima brand follows a similar decision by Land O’ Lakes to remove imagery featuring a Native American woman from its butter products packaging. The imagery was replaced with messaging that highlights the cooperative’s farmer-owners earlier this year.

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