If you happen to be walking down the aisle of your supermarket looking for pancake mix, you will no doubt come across a familiar box with a red background, yellow trim, italic serif title, and a stack of buttered pancakes stabbed with a fork. But you’ll also notice that two signature items are missing—the name and the smiling portrait of the brand’s namesake. Aunt Jemima has been renamed Pearl Milling Company, paying homage to the 19th-century business that created the original ready-made pancake mix. PepsiCo was one of several companies to announce brand redesigns as protests against systemic racism erupted across the United States last summer.
I had written an article in August about brands with racist histories and most of those I had profiled have now since changed. Eskimo Pie ice cream is now known as Edy’s Pie, a tribute to one of their founders, Joseph Edy. Uncle Ben’s rice is now simply Ben’s Original, dispatching with the photo of an older African-American man in a bow tie. Only Cream of Wheat, as far as I can tell, has yet to redesign its packaging.
These changes are less about canceling American history than they are about understanding the inequities that are associated with the names and faces of these legacy brands. Writes Ben’s Original: “We are not just changing our name and the image on the package, but also taking action to enhance inclusion and equity—and that comes with a new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.”
President / Creative Director