Months after announcing plans to “evolve” Uncle Ben’s branding, the rice brand has a new name — Ben’s Original.
Mars Food, which owns Ben’s Original, said Wednesday that it will also remove Uncle Ben’s imagery from its products.
“Over the last several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own associates and other stakeholders from around the world,” Fiona Dawson, president of Mars Food, Multisales and Global Customers, said in a news release.
“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.”
Mars Food also announced plans for Ben’s Original outreach programs to bring nutritious meals to under-served communities in the U.S. and bolster educational opportunities for “culinary entrepreneurs of all colors.”
The company is partnering with the National Urban League to offer a scholarship to aspiring Black chefs in the U.S.,with goals to ultimately expand its support across the world, the company said.
In addition, Mars Food said it will work to provide educational opportunities for more than 7,500 students in Greenville, Mississippi, where Ben’s Original has been made for more than 40 years. The company said it also aims to provide easier access to fresh foods in the community.
“While implementing an evolution on this scale will be a complex process, there is no better time than right now,” Dawson said in the release. “We know this is the right thing to do for our brand and business to ensure we create the truly inclusive future that everyone deserves.”
After the death of George Floyd sparked protests across the country, Uncle Ben’s announced in June it would “evolve” its brand identity and imagery “to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices.”
A handful of other brands said they were taking steps to remove imagery depicting racial stereotypes from their packaging. Syrup brand Aunt Jemima said it would change its name and remove its logo from products. Cream of Wheat said it would review its packaging. Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup said it had already begun to review its branding and packaging.
So, who is Uncle Ben? The Uncle Ben’s brand name was first used in 1946 to refer to a Black farmer by that name in Texas, but the logo was modeled on a Chicago chef and waiter, McClatchy News previously reported.
But critics have said the imagery suggests a servant, while the “uncle” title reflects how white Southerners “once used ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ as honorifics for older blacks because they refused to say ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.,’” according to the report.