First Aunt Jemima, now Uncle Ben. My money is on the Cream of Wheat mascot next. Mars, owner of Uncle Ben's brand issued a statement shortly after Quaker announced retiring of the Aunt Jemima pancake mix name and logo due to racial stereotypes. Caroline Sherman, a spokeswoman for Mars shared "that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity." While the company does not have a specific date or change in mind, the company is "evaluating all possibilities."
The History of Uncle Ben's Rice
Like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben was not the inventor of the food product. In the early 1900s, Erich Huzenlaub and Gordon Harwell, who were scientists and chemists, invented a process to par-cook rice for consumption. Not only did their invention increase rice's nutritional value, but it also reduced the cooking time and made it resistant to pesky weevils.
Then in 1946, Forrest Mars, Sr. decided to partner with the scientists and open up a rice company in Houston, Texas. The company, named Converted Rice, Inc., moved on to sell its entire output to British and U.S. Armed Forces. But once the war was over, the partners saw they needed to market the long grain rice to consumers. All they needed was a name.
Since 1946, a smiling older gentleman named Uncle Ben has donned every bag of long grain white rice, wild rice, jasmine rice, and brown rice. But who is he?
Who is Uncle Ben?
According to Uncle Ben's website, Gordon Harwell was dining at a Chicago restaurant when him and his partner were discussing legendary Texan farmer, Uncle Ben (since then all history about him has been lost). The company decided to name their ready rice, Uncle Ben's Rice, and have Frank Brown, the head waiter at an exclusive Chicago restaurant pose for Uncle Ben's portrait.
Back in 2007, the brand got together and "promoted" Uncle Ben to Chairman of the board, abolishing his bow tie that promoted 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."
While there is no concrete plan set in place by Mars Food, we are sure we will find out very, very soon. Until then, stick to Black-owned rice company, Neilly's.