According to The Wall Street Journal, PepsiCo has announced it will retire its Aunt Jemima brand because of its origins in racist imagery of black people. Hours later, Mars Inc. said it would change its Uncle Ben’s brand, and two more big food companies said they would review the packaging long used by Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth’s products. The owners of the supermarket staples are rethinking their products and marketing, as the U.S. confronts systemic racism.
On June 17, PepsiCo’s packaged-foods unit said it would remove imagery of the black woman from the Aunt Jemima brand’s pancake mixes, syrups, and other products as well as change its name. The company did not disclose the new name but said packaging changes would appear throughout the fourth quarter.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo’s Quaker Foods North America business, in a press release. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
Mars announced it was considering how to change the Uncle Ben’s brand and its imagery, which since the 1940s has featured a white-haired black man. “We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities,” wrote the company in a press statement posted to its website.
B & G Foods, which owns Cream of Wheat, said in a press statement that it would review the porridge’s more than century-old image of a black chef “to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism.”
Conagra Brands, which sells Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup in a woman-shaped bottle, said it was reviewing the brand and its packaging. “The Mrs. Butterworth’s brand, including its syrup packaging, is intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother. We stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown communities, and we can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values,” wrote the company in a press release. “We understand that our actions help play an important role in eliminating racial bias, and as a result, we have begun a complete brand and packaging review on Mrs. Butterworth’s.”
In April, dairy co-op Land O’Lakes dropped the indigenous woman, Mia, it had long featured on its packaging. The company said the change was meant to better reflect its culture.
Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream is the latest brand to “yield to the growing pressure to remove or rethink brands that have long been considered racist or culturally insensitive,” reported The New York Times. The company announced on June 20 that the name attached to Eskimo Pie, the chocolate-covered ice cream treat that has been around for nearly a century, will soon be retired. The packaging has long featured a small, dark-haired child wearing mittens and a heavy parka with a fur-lined hood. The term Eskimo is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people. Still, it is considered derogatory by many who associate it with racist, non-Native colonizers who settled in the Arctic and used the term. The company said it planned to have a new name by the end of the year and would discontinue the character of the Eskimo.