The revamped Ben’s products, which feature the same blue font and orange packaging, will hit shelves in 2021.
The transition from Uncle Ben’s to Ben’s Original is part of a larger movement on racial equality and increased criticism of brands whose origins are steeped in racial stereotypes. In June, food companies that make Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth’s said they would retire or change their brand.
The Mars rice brand was named in the 1940s for “Uncle Ben”, a perhaps fictitious A Texas black rice farmer is supposed to renowned for its high quality harvest. It featured the face of Frank Brown, a butler at an exclusive Chicago restaurant who posed for the portrait of Uncle Ben, according to an archived page on Uncle Ben’s website. The company said it didn’t know if there was an actual Uncle Ben.
“To some, it clearly had connotations of bondage, and that’s not the brand we want to represent,” Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, told CNN Business.
“There is no room for anything in this world that hints at social injustice,” she said.
The privately owned food and pet company will also partner with the National Urban League and donate $ 2 million to a scholarship fund for aspiring black chefs. The company will donate an additional $ 2.5 million to educational programs and food access efforts in the community of Greenville, Mississippi, where its products have been made for four decades.