Breakfast brand Aunt Jemima, owned by Quaker Oats, is soon to be rebranded, following years of commentary surrounding the brand's imagery. Critics say it portrays harmful racial stereotypes and is rooted in slavery and racism.
According to Quaker Oats (a subsidiary of PepsiCo.) the brand design, which currently features an image of a black woman known as Aunt Jemima, will be phased out from the end of 2020, with a name change happening at a later date. It certainly has a long way to go before it'll rival our list of top packaging designs.
Though Quaker Oats has altered the brand before in an attempt to leave its racist overtones behind (removing the 'mammy' kerchief on Aunt Jemima's head, for example – see it above), it was unwilling to drop the Aunt Jemima brand altogether due to the 'sense of familiarity' it evokes. However, as brands everywhere examine their strategy amidst the wave of global protests in support of Black Lives Matter, Quaker Oats has reevaluated its position.
"We recognise Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype," Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America said in a statement. "While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realise those changes are not enough."
In a piece for the New York Times back in 2015, Riché Richardson, an associate professor of African American literature at Cornell University, wrote that Aunt Jemima portrayed the stereotype of a 'mammy', "a devoted and submissive servant who eagerly nurtured the children of her white master and mistress while neglecting her own."
Singer KIRBY uploaded a TikTok Video discussing the product's racist background (see it below). The video, titled 'How To Make A Non Racist Breakfast', explains the meaning of the brand imagery and real-life story of Aunt Jemima, who was employed as the face of the business when it first launched.
How To Make A Non Racist Breakfast. #BlackLivesMatter #AllBlackLivesMatter #BlackWomenLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/WY6irZwWtJJune 15, 2020
A couple of weeks ago, we saw some initial responses from brands to the Black Lives Matter movement, which included some positive messaging, and action is now beginning to follow, with Mars. Inc promising to ditch Uncle Ben's rice brand, too.