Rebranded Aunt Jemima Maker Creates Black Female Empowerment Grants

Pearl Milling Company, Chicago, which produces pancake mixes and syrups previously marketed under the Aunt Jemima brand, has launched the P.E.A.R.L. Pledge, a community funding initiative. P.E.A.R.L. Pledge is a multi-year program that will support the success of Black women and girls across the United States.

The move is an extension of parent company PepsiCo’s $400 million Racial Equality Journey initiative, which was announced last year. The Racial Equality Journey is a five-year commitment to supporting Black-owned businesses, supporting Black communities and increasing Black representation within PepsiCo.

Pearl Milling Company will award $1 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in alignment with its mission during the P.E.A.R.L. Pledge’s initial year. The grant awards will range from $25,000 to $100,000. The program’s pillars include:

  • Prosperity support, such as mitigating inequities and barriers in housing, employment, finances and generational wealth;
  • Empowerment support, including touting holistic wellness and success among Black women and girls in areas such as confidence building, mental and physical health and self-esteem;
  • Access to education and entrepreneurship opportunities such as capital and financial literacy, grants and scholarships
  • Representation and elevation of Black women and girls in the food industry, including the culinary arts, food innovation, media support and science areas; and,
  • Leadership skill development, including mentorship, public speaking, strategic thinking and teambuilding resources

Eligible nonprofits must be based within the United States and serve communities within the country and have 501(c)(3) status. Additional information can be found here: https://www.pearlmillingcompany.com/pearlpledge/applynow 

Pearl Milling Company retired the Aunt Jemima brand in 2020, taking on the name of the small milling firm that, more than 130 years ago, began producing the flagship self-rising pancake mix which was marketed under the Aunt Jemima name.

The brand had been under scrutiny for its racially-charged depictions of its namesake figurehead. The brand’s initial images reflected African-American slavery and servitude. Additionally, the supposed honorifics “Aunt” and “Uncle” were actually dodges that allowed racists to avoid calling African-Americans the more respectful “sir,” “ma’am,” “Mr.” or “Mrs.”

Pearl Milling Company’s grants follow a similar move by Mars Foods, which rebranded its Uncle Ben’s Rice products line in September 2020. In December 2020 the brand, now known as Ben’s Original, launched a scholarship fund called The Seat at the Table Fund in conjunction with National Urban League. The fund consists of $2 million to be distributed over a five-year period.

The Seat at the Table Fund covers education expenses for those studying for culinary arts- or food sciences-related degrees or certificates. The Seat at the Table Fund is being administered by UNCF (United Negro College Fund) on behalf of Ben’s Original.