Uncle Ben’s is becoming Ben’s Original.
On Wednesday, food producer Mars, Incorporated announced that it would be changing the rice brand’s name due to its perpetuation of racial stereotypes.
The press release stated that the change displays “the brand’s ambition to create a more inclusive feature while maintaining its commitment to producing the world’s best rice.” The packaging will also remove its well-known image of an elderly Black man in a bow tie.
“We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of Uncle Ben’s brand. We have committed to change,” Mars stated.
In June, the company denounced the use of racial stereotypes and solidified its commitment to changing its products. Other brands impacted included Aunt Jemima.
The company is following through on their decision to rebrand, which was sparked by racial tension surrounding the death of George Floyd in May.
What to Expect
“We’ve listened. We’ve learned. We’re changing,” Mars stated.
“While implementing an evolution on this scale will be a complex process that will take considerable time, there is no better time than now. We will begin production of our new brand identity immediately and Ben’s Original will be reaching the store shelves early next year,” they continued.
In addition, Mars is partnering with the National Urban League to help aspiring black chefs receive scholarships. This is part of the company’s new commitment to helping culinary students of all races obtain the education they need.
According to an archived website about the rice brand’s origin, the name Uncle Ben came from a well-known Texas rice farmer. In addition, the site also reveals that head waiter Frank Brown from Chicago was the man who posed for the popular image.
In addition to Mars Incorporated’s recent decision, PepsiCo and Quaker Foods are also expected to remove imaging of Aunt Jemima from their packages.
Kristin Kroepfl, chief marketing officer at Quaker Foods North America stated, “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
In addition to Aunt Jemima, the company that produces Cream of Wheat has recently decided to modify their brand imaging. Currently, the packaging features a smiling Black man in chef’s attire. The brand stated that they would be “initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging.”
B&G Foods said in a statement, “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.”