Have you noticed anything different when shopping for pancake mix and syrups?
At grocery stores across the country, the Pearl Milling Company brand has started to replace the Aunt Jemima line of breakfast products.
The launch of Pearl Milling comes a year after Quaker Oats said it would retire Aunt Jemima from packaging on its brand of syrup and pancake mixes because it was “based on a racial stereotype.”
In June 2020,parent company PepsiCo announced plans to overhaul product imaging and change the name in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality. The new brand name was unveiled in February 2021.
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USA TODAY spotted some of the new brand’s pancake and syrup products at a Florida Publix supermarket this week next to Aunt Jemima items.
Officials with Pearl Milling confirmed that the products in the new packaging have begun shipping and said the transition was expected to take a few months.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Pearl Milling Company said it was working with stores to get the products with new packaging on shelves over the next few months. Aunt Jemima products are expected to be in stores during the transition, the company said.
Aunt Jemima history
The first Aunt Jemima image was based on Kentucky native Nancy Green, a Civil War-era slave from Mount Sterling.
Originally, Aunt Jemima was shown with a wide smile and wearing a bandanna in her hair, an image that faced criticism for years as it was accused of encouraging racist stereotypes. Quaker Oats bought the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925. In 1989, the image was revamped, with the new model wearing pearl earrings.
When announcing the new name in February, Pepsi said products would be carried under the Aunt Jemima name without the character image until the June debut of Pearl Milling but some products in stores still have the image on the box.
The brand also includes cornmeal, flour and grits.
According to Pearl Milling, the rebranded products will have the phrase “New Name, Same Great Taste as Aunt Jemima” on the new packaging to help consumers find the replacements.
Uncle Ben’s changes to Ben’s Original
Aunt Jemima was among the first brands to announce its rebranding efforts after protests over systemic racism and the murder of George Floyd gripped the nation last summer. The same day, the owners of Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat said their products’ packaging also would be reviewed.
After decades of criticism for how the products have perpetuated racial stereotypes, experts, historians and some consumers consider the moves long overdue. Companies have faced increasing pressure to boost diversity efforts and combat racism since Floyd’s death.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin,a white man, was convicted of murdering Floyd, a Black man, in April. His sentencing is Friday and he faces up to 30 years in prison.
Uncle Ben’s was renamed Ben’s Original, and the rice brand start rolling out products in its new packaging in May, parent company Mars Food said last month.
Since the 1940s, the rice boxes have featured a white-haired Black man, sometimes with a bow tie, an image that critics have said evokes servitude. Mars has said the face was originally modeled after a Chicago maitre d’ named Frank Brown.
The new packaging no longer has a face but still features an orange background with a similar blue font. Some Uncle Ben’s products will remain on store shelves until they sell out, Mars Food told USA TODAY.
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