Ben's Original is hitting store shelves with brand new packaging after Uncle Ben's name was deemed insensitive due to its connection with a racial stereotype. Customers should expect to see the new packaging rolling out soon. Absent is the photo of Uncle Ben, a Black man with a bow tie and white hair. He did not come up with the company, but rather, Uncle Ben was a character that was inspired by a Black Texan farmer who was known for his rice-growing abilities and a chef and waiter from Chicago named Frank Brown.
The original article from 9/23/20 continues below:
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
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.