Privately held Mars Inc. on Wednesday gave its iconic rice brand, Uncle Ben's a makeover and will officially drop its original name and logo to Ben's Original, after it received criticism for endorsing racial stereotypes.
The company first announced a "brand evolution" for Uncle Ben's two months ago in June in a bid to address racial bias promoted through its product.
Uncle Ben's will now be called Ben's Original, and the company will remove the image of an elderly African-American man on the packaging to create an inclusive brand, its subsidiary Mars Food said in a statement.
“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," said Fiona Dawson, Global President of Mars Food, Multisales and Global Customers, in a statement.
The new packaging will begin reaching store shelves in 2021, the McLean, Virginia, company added.
For the past 70 years, packaging for Uncle Ben's products has used the imagery of an older African-American man wearing a bow tie.
Whether “Ben” existed in real life is unclear, yet the image of the character was based on Frank Brown, a server in a Chicago restaurant.
Uncle Ben’s brand was adopted in 1947, five years after Mars acquired the rights to easy-cook parboiled rice during the second world war, FT reported.
Mars Food has also partnered with the National Urban League to support aspiring Black chefs through a scholarship fund. Mars Food will also invest in the local community of Greenville, Mississippi, where the rice is produced for the last 40 years, to address issues of racial injustice.
“While implementing an evolution on this scale will be a complex process, there is no better time than right now,” added Dawson. “We know this is the right thing to do for our brand and business to ensure we create the truly inclusive future that everyone deserves.”