Aunt Jemima first graced the box of pancake mix in the 1890s. And it’s remained a cultural icon for 130 years. But apparently, pancakes just got woke.
Quaker Oats heard all about the woke bandwagon, and it seems they developed a case of FOMO. So, while the brand claims to have broken from the negative connotations of a “black mammy” more than 60 years ago, it appears they decided to make another break from their traditional logo.
My only question is this. How many times can Aunt Jemima “rebrand to embrace diversity” before they wear out the same old song and dance?
Pancake History 101
According to AdAge:
The idea of Aunt Jemima was first conceived by newspaperman and entrepreneur Chris Rutt, according to the Afro-American Almanac. Mr. Rutt and his partner, Charles Underwood, had developed and packaged a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour but they had not settled on a name or brand positioning.
One evening Mr. Rutt attended a vaudeville show and heard a tune called “Aunt Jemima” sung by a black-faced performer clad in an apron and bandana headband. The melody was such a hit, Rutt decided to use the song’s title as the name for his pancake mix.
When Rutt and Underwood later sold the business to Davis Milling, the company hired Nancy Green, a 59-year-old former slave, to serve as the living trademark for the mix. The image of Aunt Jemina, however, is an artist’s rendering and has appeared on Aunt Jemima products — now marketed by successor Quaker Oats Co. — ever since.
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Not only did the “black mammy” face rebranding in the 1950s and 60s, but in 1989, Aunt Jemima got another face lift.
This time, they ditched the handkerchief in her hair, but they didn’t give it much fanfare. But they did come up with a cheesy commercial full of white people happily eating pancakes.
Apparently, Quaker Oats had no idea gravitating away from repressed images could be a popularity-gaining move. However, they won’t make that mistake twice. This time, they’ve announced their move months in advance.
Business 101: All Press is Good Press
And one can bet Quaker Oats, now owned by PepsiCo., will drum up as much free press as they can muster.
As Fox News notes:
Aunt Jemima is being rebranded with a new name and image, parent company Quaker Oats has announced, acknowledging that the face of the brand was “based on a racial stereotype.”
It was announced on Wednesday morning that the line of pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods will be debut a new look as part of Quaker’s push to “to make progress toward racial equality.”
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, in a statement shared with Fox News. “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.”
Kroepfl added that while the parent company has tried to “update” the Aunt Jemima brand through the years to be “appropriate and respectful,” the time has come to scrap the current product in favor of a complete makeover.
“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,” Kroepfl stressed. “So, 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.”
Who’s the Next Aunt Jemima?
I’ll admit it, I’m a little intrigued. What will this new pancake ambassador look like? Will she be black, brown, or maybe even white? Perhaps she’ll be a transgender man who identifies with liking syrup? I guess time will tell. I just hope Mrs. Butterworth’s is safe from all this nonsense.