Don’t Worry, You Have Not Changed Universes

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Until very recently, “Aunt Jemima” was the still vaguely racist mascot for pancake mix, waffles, and non-maple “syrups”. If you’re an American, it is very likely that you know her. This was her most recent incarnation:

Older versions are decidedly less wholesome.

This one is bad, and there are others I don’t want to include that were worse. Last year, in the midst of a nationwide awakening about the extent of systemic racism in the United States, Quaker Foods announced they would be rebranding.

“We recognize 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 then. “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.”

It’s obviously not the most pressing issue, but I’m all for it. Recently, they unveiled what they’ve settled on:

“Pearl Milling Company” is quite a mouthful. What the heck does it mean?

“Though new to store shelves, Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima,” the company said.

Well, alright. That’s a decent origin story. However, I find the packaging downright bizarre, like a product from an alternate universe. I fear we’re going to have countless people who are unaware of the change. They’ll reach for a bottle of syrup on the grocery store shelf, only to find themselves in the midst of an existential crisis, wondering if they’ve slipped through a wormhole into another dimension. Better for the customer, but worse for Quaker, the potential buyer might instead think that some knock-off product has replaced the “Aunt Jemima” they’re looking for. Either possibility would not be good for sales.

Despite this brand new name, the packaging is still claiming “Since 1889”, which now feels incongruous. I guess we’ll see if this makes it to 2089.


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