Uncle Ben's rice brand is getting a new name according to Parent firm Mars Inc. On Wednesday, September 23, 2020, the 70-year-old brand announced that it will be changing the name due to its connection with a racial stereotype. The new logo is set to hit rice boxes in 2021, making its way to stores next year. The new name, "Ben's Original" is part of the new brand rehaul. The image to go along with the new name has yet to be decided.
Uncle Ben's and Race
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We listened. And we learned. We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the Uncle Ben’s brand and have committed to change. We will change our name to Ben’s Original™, as well as remove the image on our packaging to create more inclusive branding. This change signals our ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining our commitment to producing the world’s best rice. We are not just changing our name, but also taking action to enhance inclusion and equity and that comes with a new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table. Our first actions will be to fund scholarships with National Urban League that will ensure aspiring Black culinary entrepreneurs get the educational opportunities they deserve so their ideas and voices can be appreciated by all. In addition to the new scholarship, we will invest in Greenville, Mississippi, where our brand has been produced for the U.S. market for more than 40 years, to enhance educational opportunities for more than 7,500 area students, as well as furthering access to fresh foods. Read more about our commitments to an equitable future for all at the link in bio.
In recent months the Black Lives Matter protests stemming from the police killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor has pushed companies to take a look at their branding and race. Companies such as Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, and Eskimo Pie ice cream bars, have all pledged to change names or images on their packaging. And it doesn't stop at food brands; the Washington Redskins football team changed their name and removed the Indian head logo.
The original Uncle Ben's logo features a white-haired Black man with a bow tie who is said to have been modeled after Chicago Maitre d' Frank Brown. Critics shared that the rice company's depiction of Uncle Ben was racist due to a strong servant connotation. Both Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben have been strongly criticized of using the titles, "Aunt" and "Uncle," which were historically used by people unwilling to address African Americans by "Mr." and "Ms."
We listened to our associates and our customers and the time is right to make meaningful changes across society," said Fiona Dawson, global president for Mars Food, multisales and global customers. "When you are making these changes, you are not going to please everyone. But it's about doing the right thing, not the easy thing."
Along with the name and logo change, Mars announced other initiatives, including a $2 million investment in culinary scholarships for aspiring Black chefs in partnership with the National Urban League. The company also plans to donate 2.5 million to nutritional and education programs for students in Greenville, Mississippi, the city where the rice brand has been produced for over 40 years. The company has also set a goal to increase the rate of minorities in manager roles from 20% to 40%.
Whether its whole grain brown rice, long-grain white rice, rice pilaf, or parboiled original rice, keep a lookout for the new packaging.