Quaker Oats on Wednesday announced that Aunt Jemima, its 131-year-old syrup, will be renamed and rebranded amid outrage that the syrup is based on a “racial stereotype.”
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,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release.
“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. We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. 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,” Kroepfl said.
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The New York Times had put the hard press on Quaker Oats with a recent story. “The brand, founded in 1889, is built on images of a black female character that have often been criticized as offensive,” The Times reported. “Even after going through several redesigns — pearl earrings and a lace collar were added in 1989 — Aunt Jemima was still seen by many as a symbol of slavery.”
Uncle Ben’s will be next.
After the Quaker Oats announcement, the food and candy giant Mars said it was “evaluating all possibilities” concerning the rice brand Uncle Ben’s, which has been marketed through a character that has long been criticized as a racial stereotype. Mars said it did not know the exact changes or timing, but that it had a responsibility as a global brand “to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices.”
“As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do,” Mars said in a statement.
Quaker Oats is owned by PepsiCo, which had its own disaster when it ran an ad featuring Kendell Jenner handing a police officer a can of Pepsi.