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Aunt Jemima to change name, remove stereotype image

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/17/2020 Dalvin Brown

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The pancake syrup company Aunt Jemima is changing its name and imaging in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality. 

The Quaker Oats-owned company said Wednesday that the iconic Aunt Jemima figure on its packaging is "based on a racial stereotype" and acknowledged that its prior work to update the character was "not enough."

"We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the Black community to further evolve the brand," said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, in a statement sent to USA TODAY. The move was reported earlier by NBC News and Adweek.

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Shoppers will start to see new packaging at the grocery store without the Aunt Jemima image in the fourth quarter of this year. The company's new name for the syrup and other products will be announced soon after. 

The brand was formed in 1889 after owners Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood developed the pancake mix. The character on the box was brought together and inspired by a Black storyteller and cook named Nancy Green, according to the company's website. 

More than a century later, Aunt Jemima, who is said to have been born into slavery, no longer resembles a servant from the era. Quaker Oats bought the brand in 1926, and in 1989 swapped her red bandanna for pearl earnings and soft curls. 

a close up of a bottle © Provided by WXII 12 - LocalNewsRSS

Still, the company's image with its Black servant origins has come under fire for perpetuating racist stereotypes. 

The marketing shift comes at a time when big brands face increasing pressure to increase diversity efforts and combat racism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

The news comes one day after parent company PepsiCo announced a $400 million set of initiatives to lift up Black communities over the next five years. Part of the plan is to increase Black representation internally and to introduce mandatory training on unconscious bias.


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