Uncle Ben’s rice set to change name, logo
Mars Food, which produces the rice brand Uncle Ben’s, announced Wednesday that it will change the name to Ben’s Original and remove its longtime logo.
Mars said in a Wednesday statement that the move signals “the brand’s ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining its commitment to producing the world’s best rice.”
“Over the last several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own Associates and other stakeholders from around the world,” Fiona Dawson, global president Mars Food, Multisales and Global Customers, said. “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.”
The move comes after PepsiCo and Quaker Oats announced earlier this year that they would change the Aunt Jemima brand, acknowledging the racist origins of the name and imagery. Some have pointed out the minstrel stereotype connected to both Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben products.
“Uncle” and “Aunt” were also used to refer to older black men and women during times of slavery in the United States. Uncle Ben’s logo also draws on the historical labor of black men growing rice, as enslaved people and later as sharecroppers.
Uncle Ben’s announced earlier this year that it was evaluating the brand name amid nationwide protests calling for widespread police reforms and racial equality following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The rice brand said Wednesday that it is changing the image of “Uncle Ben” on its product packaging. The image currently features the face of Frank Brown, head waiter at a Chicago restaurant who posed for the rice brand after it was founded in the late 1940s.
The name originated from a “legendary Texan farmer, Uncle Ben who was known for his exceptionally high quality rice,” according to an archived page from the company’s website, CNN reported.
Mars said in a Wednesday statement that the company is going beyond changing the name and logo, vowing to take action “to enhance inclusion and equity and setting out its new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.” The company said it is investing in community outreach programs to provide meals to “underserved communities” and forming a partnership with the National Urban League to “support aspiring Black chefs through a scholarship fund,” in addition to other education and food initiatives.
The Ben’s Original packaging is set to reach store shelves in 2021.