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Multinational food manufacturer Mars Food announced that Uncle Ben’s rice brand will now be known as Ben’s Original, after criticism for racial stereotyping.
In addition to the name change, the rice brand will also be dropping the logo of an elderly Black man in a bow tie in an effort “to create a more inclusive future” by removing racist imagery.
We have a responsibility to help end racial injustices. We’re listening to consumers, especially in the Black community, and our Associates. We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we will evolve Uncle Ben’s visual brand identity. pic.twitter.com/n0e1pZ75OF
— Ben's Original USA (@BensOriginal) June 17, 2020
We listened. And we learned. Moving forward, Uncle Ben's will be known as Ben’s Original™. Read our full statement to find out more about our brand's new purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table: https://t.co/0tSE0lnMa1 pic.twitter.com/741JQU1qTI
— Ben's Original USA (@BensOriginal) September 23, 2020
“Over the last several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own Associates and other stakeholders from around the world,” said Fiona Dawson, Global President Mars Food, Multisales and Global Customers. “We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand, and as we announced in June, we have committed to change.”
In the 1940s, Uncle Ben’s was named after a possibly fictitious Black rice farmer from Texas supposedly famous for his high-quality rice. The rice brand logo used the face of Frank Brown, head waiter at an exclusive Chicago restaurant who posed for the Uncle Ben’s portrait, according to an archived Uncle Ben’s web page.
The transition to Ben’s Original and the rebranding comes amid a broader movement for racial justice and calls for brands to address racial histories and stereotypes. Quaker Foods and PepsiCo plan to remove the image of Aunt Jemima from their products. Names of sports teams, music groups, and birds have been changed in an effort to root out racism associated with their original names.
Mars Food also announced the company plans to invest in the local community in Greenville, Mississippi where the Ben’s Original has been produced for more than 40 years. Through outreach programs, the company will focus on enhancing educational opportunities for more than 7,500 students as well as furthering access to fresh foods.
The rebranded Ben’s Original products will hit shelves in 2021.
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