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Marketing

Quaker Oats retires Aunt Jemima line of syrups, foods

PepsiCo acknowledges that the name and logo of the line of products is based on a racial stereotype, and is no longer acceptable.

In an acknowledgment of the brand's racist origins, PepsiCo's Quaker Oats is retiring the line of Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrups. The brand name will be changed, along with the logo, which currently shows a smiling Black woman on the packaging.

"We recognise Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype," Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a statement to NBC News.

"As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we must also take a hard look at our portfolio of brands, and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers' expectations," added Kroepfl.

NBC News also reported Kroepfl as saying that the company has worked to "update" the brand to be "appropriate and respectful", but that it realised the changes were insufficient.

The calls for equality, and an end to racism are now ringing louder than ever, in the wake of Black American George Floyd's death at the hands of a White policeman. A TikTok video titled 'How to make a non-racist breakfast', which went viral, was the first video that called attention to the racist imagery, and threw light on the origins of the name and logo that the products use.

The pancake brand was founded in 1889, and is not the first brand that uses racist imagery in its logos. The brand's logo features a smiling Black woman and was named after a character from minstrel shows - where the use of Blackface makeup by White actors was commonplace. Hours after Quaker announced the logo change, Uncle Ben, a rice brand, also announced it would be rethinking its logo and name.

Mars Inc, the confectionery manufacturing company, announced it would be undergoing the changes because of the racist origins of both the name and the imagery used in the logo. Uncle Ben's rice entered the market in the 1940s.

In southern states of the US, the term 'Uncle', like 'Aunt', was used to refer to Black people, instead of formal titles like 'Miss', or 'Mister'. In a statement on its website, Mars wrote that "now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do." But it gave no further details.

Another brand that is rethinking its image is Cream of Wheat. In a report by CNN, Rastus, Cream of Wheat's original black mascot, is yet another character that commonly appeared in minstrel shows (again with actors in Blackface makeup). Early ads for Cream of Wheat showed Rastus as a dim-witted former slave who spoke broken English. Today, the name Rastus is considered a racial slur.

"We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging, and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism," B&G Foods told CNN Business in an emailed statement.