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Uncle Ben’s has a new name: Ben’s Original

This image provided by Mars Food shows the new logo/name of Ben’s Original. The Uncle Ben's rice brand is getting a new name: Ben's Original. Parent firm Mars Inc. unveiled the change Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020 for the 70-year-old brand, the latest company to drop a logo criticized as a racial stereotype. Packaging with the new name will hit stores next year. (Mars via AP)

(CNN) — Mars will change the name of its Uncle Ben’s rice products to Ben’s Original and drop the logo depicting a Chicago head waiter as part of the company’s previously announced plans to create a more inclusive brand.

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 comes amid a broader movement about racial equality and heightened criticism of brands with origins rooted in racial stereotypes. In June, the food companies thatmake Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth’s said they would retire or rebrand their products.

Mars’ rice brand was named in the 1940s for “Uncle Ben,” apossiblyfictitiousBlack rice farmer from Texas supposedlyrenowned for his high-quality crop. It featured the face of Frank Brown, head waiter at an exclusive Chicago restaurant who posed for the Uncle Ben’s portrait, according to an archived page from Uncle Ben’s website. The company said it didn’t know if there was an actual Uncle Ben.

“For some, it clearly had overtones of servitude, and that is not the brand that we want to represent,” Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, told CNN Business.

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Mars decided to rebrand the products after hearing from consumers and employees who requested the change, she said.

“There’s no place for anything in this world that hints at social injustice,” she said.

The privately held food and pet products company also will partner with the National Urban League and donate $2 million to a scholarship fund for aspiring black chefs. The company will donate another $2.5 million to educational programs and food access efforts within the community of Greenville, Mississippi, where its products have been manufactured for four decades.

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