Quaker Oats has announced that they are going to retire the Aunt Jemima name and logo. The company acknowledged that the brand logo was based on a racial stereotype. Quaker Oats hopes this action will help work “toward progress on racial equality.” Additionally, Uncle Ben’s Rice has announced that they will “evolve” their brand moving forward, though they are unsure of what that will mean, aside from changing their logo.
The Aunt Jemima syrup brand is over 130-years old and its logo features a black woman, who was originally dressed as a minstrel character. The image has changed a number of times over the years, but Quaker Oats is retiring it for good now, after intense criticism. Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, released a statement which you can read below.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are 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 also said that Quaker Oats has worked to “update” the Aunt Jemima brand over the years in an effort to be more “appropriate and respectful,” but the company came to the conclusion that they were not doing enough. For now, it is unclear what the brand will look like moving forward. Quaker Oats, which is owned by Pepsi, has seen increased criticism over the past few weeks, mainly due to the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Protests are still occurring daily all around the world.
Aunt Jemima is “a retrograde image of Black womanhood on store shelves,” says Riché Richardson, an associate professor at Cornell University. “It’s an image that harkens back to the antebellum plantation… Aunt Jemima is that kind of stereotype that is premised on this idea of black inferiority and otherness.” Even the pop country band Lady Antebellum went forward and changed their name to Lady A after claiming they had no idea that their name was tied to slavery. Richardson went on and said, “It is urgent to expunge our public spaces of a lot of these symbols that for some people are triggering and represent terror and abuse.”
Quaker Oats says that their new Aunt Jemima packaging will roll out in the fall, with further changes, including the name, coming afterward. The company will also be making a donation of $5 million over the course of the next five years, “to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the black community.” As for Uncle Ben’s Rice, it’s unclear what steps they will be taking in the immediate future to change up their brand, which has seen a lot of the same criticism as Aunt Jemima. NBC News was the first to report on Aunt Jemima changing their logo and name.
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