Uncle Ben’s is back on shelves with a new name for its rice products and packaging after pledging to change its branding that’s been associated with racial stereotypes.
Ben’s Original products are now at retailers nationwide, Mars Food said Wednesday. The new packaging features the company’s name in its signature navy blue lettering with its orange background.
"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," Rafael Narvaez, Global Chief Marketing Officer and R&D Officer at Mars Food, said in a statement, adding: "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."
The former rice boxes had an image of a Black man critics have said perpetuate racial stereotypes and evokes servitude. The rice brand, which debuted in the 1940s, was allegedly inspired by a Texas rice farmer and the company had a head waiter at a Chicago restaurant, Frank Brown, pose as the face of the brand, the Associated Press reported.
The new release of the company’s revamped packaging comes almost one year after it said it would change its branding amid a national racial reckoning for equality and the Black Lives Matter movement that followed the death of George Floyd.
A number of companies also faced backlash and were criticized for using racially charged marketing, including Aunt Jemima. The syrup and pancake mixes brand’s parent company, Quaker Oats, vowed to remove the name and image of a Black woman from its products for being "based on a racial stereotype."
And Conagra Brands, which owns Mrs. Butterworth's line of syrups -- bottled in the shape of a woman -- and pancake mixes, said last June it was undergoing "a complete brand and packaging review" of its products.
Mars said it created a scholarship fund for aspiring Black chefs, teaming up with the National Urban League and United Negro College Fund covering up to $25,000 per scholarship each year.