Next year, Uncle Ben's rice will appear in the shelves as Ben's Original. The change comes after criticism of the brand's name and face, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Over the last several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own Associates and other stakeholders from around the world. We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand, and as we announced in June, we have committed to change,” says owner Mars in a press statement.
Uncle Ben's came under fire along with other brands because the name refers to a period of racial inequality in the US and is said to have a racist undertone. The name 'Uncle' was in fact used by whites at the beginning of the last century for black men, so as not to have to call them 'sir'.
New brand purpose
The image of 'Uncle Ben' on the packaging is also controversial: although he was supposed to symbolise a successful rice farmer in the south of the US, the man was sketched after a waiter in the restaurant where the brand founders came up with the idea. In June, holding company Mars responded that the company would look for an alternative, in consultation with stakeholders.
Now the face on the packaging disappears and the brand gets the name Ben's Original. From 2021, the new packaging will find its way to the supermarket shelves. Ben's Original also promises to carry out a new brand purpose, namely "to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table." The company will support underprivileged communities and has forged a partnership with National Urban League in the US, to support aspiring black chefs through scholarships.