“Uncle Ben’s” will be renamed as “Ben’s Original” starting next year, as its company faces criticisms regarding the racial stereotype the brand suggests.
Mars Food will rebrand its rice products from “Uncle Ben’s” into “Ben’s Originals,” the company announced on Wednesday. The decision comes as companies face scrutiny for including racial stereotypes when selling their products.
Rebranding “Uncle Ben’s”
Last week, the food production company said that it will rename “Uncle Ben’s” while also removing the image of the Black guy in the product. Moreover, Mars said that the move will signal the brand’s ambition “to create a more inclusive future.”
We listened. And we learned. Moving forward, Uncle Ben's will be known as Ben’s Original™. Read our full statement to find out more about our brand's new purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table: https://t.co/h5iKGW4fKP pic.twitter.com/AN52LxHk7v
— Ben's Original UK (@bensoriginaluk) September 23, 2020
The Black person in the Uncle Ben’s rice products came from Frank Brown, a restaurant headwaiter. The face has remained since the 1940s. Meanwhile, the name “Uncle Ben” came from a Texan farmer. According to a New York Times article, the title could evoke the way white Southerners call older Black people, using “uncle” or “aunt,” rather than “Mr” and Mrs.”
To address such criticisms, Mars marketed “Uncle Ben” as a chairman with an office and “Ben Knows Best” slogan.
Addressing Social Issues
But with the intense protests against racial inequality, companies have sought efforts to address criticisms regarding such a social issue. It also included questioning the diversity among executive positions and even removing images that suggest racial stereotypes.
Global president for Mars Food, Multisales, and Global Customers, Fiona Dawson, said the company listened to the customers and associates worldwide. “We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand.”
The company announced that the revamped branding will hit stores next year.
Additionally, not only will the company retire the brand and imagery, it also pledged to take action. It promised “to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table,” as highlighted in its press release.
Mars said that their community outreach programs will deliver nutritious meals and fresh foods to underserved neighborhoods. Moreover, the company also said it will “help culinary entrepreneurs of all colors” to have educational opportunities. To sponsor aspiring Black chefs, Mars teamed up with the National Urban League.
“Brands have an important role to play as we continue to navigate this moment of reconciliation regarding racial justice, diversity, and inclusion,” said Marc Morial. He serves as the president and chief executive of the National Urban League.