The company formerly known as Uncle Ben’s is departing from negative racial connotations, one grain at a time. After promising to rebrand Uncle Ben’s products in the wake of George Floyd’s death and calls for equality, Mars Food has officially rolled out the new packaging and name in stores nationwide as of Wednesday.
The new Ben’s Original boxes are absent of the “Uncle” designation and face of the senior Black man who fronted them. Meanwhile, they still retain the same orange background and typeface.
Mars Food agreed to drop the “Uncle” name as it was derogatorily used on Black men by white Southerners to avoid addressing them by honorifics. The mascot was modeled after Frank Brown, a Chicago maitre d’ and chef.
A spokesperson toldUSA Today that some existing Uncle Ben’s products may still remain on shelves until they are sold.
Rafael Narvaez, global CMO and R&D officer at Mars Food, addressed in a statement, “Ben’s Original is not just a name and packaging change – we believe everyone deserves to feel welcome, heard and have access to nutritious food. That’s why we’ve committed to taking actions based on insights from thousands of consumers, as well as our own Associates, that are designed to enhance inclusion and equity in service of our new brand purpose to create meals, experiences and opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.”
Mars Food North America regional president Denis Yarotskiy noted that more work needs to be done to “bring our new brand purpose to life to offer everyone a seat at the table.” Nevertheless, “we remain committed to delivering this ambition,” Yarotskiy assured.
The Ben’s Original overhaul follows the major branding change made by Pearl Milling Company, previously known as Aunt Jemima, which similarly vowed to pave the way for racial equity in the consumer goods market following the death of George Floyd.