Aunt Jemima Is Dead

I wrote this blog last week, before it was announced that the Aunt Jemima brand would be retired.

It’s about time.

Aunt Jemima pancake mix has been the top-seller since it debuted in 1889. But their success happened by accident. When Quaker Oats bought the company, it did a study to find America’s favorite pancake syrup. Turns out that Aunt Jemima syrup was also our top choice.

But Aunt Jemima didn’t make pancake syrup, just the powdered mix.

Of course, that changed immediately and Aunt Jemima began tapping the sap. Today, the brand does $300 million in annual sales.

Here’s my take: This move should’ve happened years ago.

We grew up with the smiling, black woman’s face on Aunt Jemima products. She’s modeled after Mammy, the plantation servant in Gone With The Wind. But, there never was an Aunt Jemima. The company never had a black owner. And her image has been tweaked over time, but never evolved.

How can Quaker Oats be so tone deaf?

Their CEO should have faced this head on and announced they’re abolishing the Aunt Jemima brand because it’s racist. He should have apologized for its reference to slavery. Then, Quaker Oats should’ve donated proceeds to black organizations as a gesture of good faith.

None of this happened.

Instead, Quaker’s PR department sheepishly announced, “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.”  Ya think? 

Next, Quaker should relaunch the new brand with a bang. Encourage fans to send selfies of themselves devouring pancakes. Then, feature faces of all races on the new packaging.

And to those who’ll miss Aunt Jemima…frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Beau Phillips is President of Rainmaker Media. 
He’s a creative marketing consultant, strategist and speaker.
Reach him at 203-256-9347 

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