Uncle Ben's rice brand is no more, as parent company Mars Inc. has officially rebranded the product to simply be called Ben's Original. The name comes 70 years after the original name was established for the product, which also featured the face of an elderly Black man as the brand's official logo. Along with the name change, new packaging will also be introduced when Ben's Original rice products hit store shelves next year.
"We listened to our associates and our customers and the time is right to make meaningful changes across society," Fiona Dawson, global president for Mars Food, multisales and global customers, said in a statement. "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."
This name change is not surprising, as it had been reported months ago that the product was going to be rebranded. Other companies have been working on similar changes to their own offensive product brand names, including an announcement from Quaker Oats that Aunt Jemima would similarly be removed from pancake and syrup packages. Reportedly, Aunt Jemima products will no longer feature the image of the brand's former mascot starting at the end of 2020, but a new name for the mascot has not yet been revealed.
In the interest of subverting racial stereotypes, many other brand name changes are also in the works. Per the company owner, Eskimo Pie products will also be given a new name with new marketing. Mrs. Butterworth's syrup bottle design was also set to be rebranded with changes coming to the shape of the bottle. These issues go outside of the grocery store as well, as the Washington NFL team finally dropped the "Redskins" part of their name after years of controversy. Similarly, many white voice actors have also announced their retirement from playing animated Black characters.
These changes mostly stem from the fallout of Minneapolis police officers killing George Floyd back in May. The event led to worldwide protests with people across the world calling for the officers involved to be charged so Floyd could have justice. The protests, which are still ongoing, have also shed a light on police brutality and systemic racism. Retiring brand names like Uncle Ben's is intended to acknowledge the continued struggles those in the Black community face in the United States and the idea is that these small changes will go a long way to "put an end to racial bias and injustices."
Mars has also announced the company's additional efforts to help the Black community. This includes teaming up with the National Urban League to invest $2 million in scholarships for aspiring Black chefs. They're also planning to invest another $2.5 million in nutritional and education programs in Greenville, Mississippi, where the company's rice has been produced for decades. Mars reps also note that they intend to increase the number of racial minorities working in management positions by 40%. This news comes to us from the Associated Press.