According to PepsiCo, the Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, by Charles L. Rutt, who branded the self-raising pancake mix after ‘Old Aunt Jemima’, an 1875 song from a minstrel show that featured performers in blackface who wore aprons and bandanna headbands.
In 1925, the Quaker Oats Company purchased the Aunt Jemima brand and PepsiCo acquired Quaker Oats in 2001.
The branding was dropped in June last year after it came under fire for being rooted in a racial stereotype, following the death of George Floyd, killed while in police custody.
News of Aunt Jemima’s rebranding started a domino effect, compelling many companies to change longstanding brand names that were regarding as racist, including Conagra Brands, B&G Foods, Mars Inc and Land O’Lakes.
PepsiCo said the Pearl Milling Company branding heralds the start of a new era.
“We are starting a new day with Pearl Milling Company … rooted in the brand’s historic beginnings and its mission to create moments that matter at the breakfast table,” said the company.
“This name is a nod to where our delicious products began before becoming a family-favourite breakfast staple.
“While the Aunt Jemima brand was updated over the years in a manner intended to remove racial stereotypes, it has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the dignity, respect and warmth that we stand for today.”
The revised branding features what appears to be an old watermill – where flour was originally ground – still in the familiar red, white and yellow colour scheme previously used on Aunt Jemima’s packaging.
The company said the Pearl Milling Company-branded pancake mixes, syrups, cornmeal, flour, and grits products will be rolled out onto supermarket shelves in the US in June. The existing Aunt Jemima products (with the image removed) will continue to be sold until that time.
Calling for nominations
PepsiCo said Pearl Milling Company will also announce an annual $1 million commitment to empower and uplift Black girls and women in the coming weeks. This is in addition to PepsiCo’s $400 million it will make over five years towards causes to uplift the Black community.
It is inviting the public to visit its website to nominate the non-profit organisations for an opportunity to receive grants.