An advertisement for Aunt Jemima pancake mix is seen in a 1951 issue of Ladies Home Journal Magazine. Image via Wikimedia Commons
June 17 (UPI) -- The Quaker Oats Company, the maker of the Aunt Jemima line of pancake mix and syrup, and Mars, which makes Uncle Ben's rice, each said Wednesday they plan to rebrand the products following weeks of civil unrest in the United States.
Quaker, a PepsiCo subsidiary said it will retire the image of Aunt Jemima, an older black woman who has appeared on the products for decades.
"We recognize Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype," Quaker Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Kroepfl said in a statement. "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."
The Aunt Jemima character, which has marked the company's pancake mix since 1889, has been criticized for years and was the subject of a Change.org petition three years ago called "Set Her Free."
"We are starting by removing the image and changing the name," Kroepfl added. "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."
Quaker hasn't said yet what brand or image will replace Aunt Jemima, but that announcement is expected this fall.
PepsiCo, which acquired Quaker in 2001, said Tuesday it will pledge $400 million for initiatives to oppose racial injustice, following weeks of unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Shortly after Quaker's announcement, Mars said it will change its Uncle Ben's brand, which features the image of an older black man. The company said it doesn't know what the changes will be or when they'll happen.
"As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices," Mars said.
"As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do."
Uncle Ben's rice was introduced in 1943 and the image of the logo was based on a Chicago maître d'hôtel named Frank Brown. The name Uncle Ben, came from a rice grower.
In April, Minnesota-based dairy company Land O'Lakes similarly dropped its logo that featured a kneeling Native American woman.