Uncle Ben’s rice will now be called Ben’s Original as owner Mars announced a new name for the 70-year-old brand they claim will ‘help put an end to racial injustices’ in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
Critics had complained that white southerners once used ‘uncle’ to refer to older black slaves because they refused to call them ‘Mr’, and suggested the logo – which showed a white-haired black man with a bow tie – evoked servitude.
But the move sparked fury today from fans of the much loved family brand, who called the relaunch ‘ridiculous’ and accused Mars of caving in to Left-wing activists. ‘Bye, bye Uncle Ben’s. We won’t be buying “cancelled products”,’ one tweeted.
We listened. And we learned. Moving forward, Uncle Ben's will be known as Ben’s Original™. Read our full statement to find out more about our brand's new purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table: https://t.co/0tSE0lnMa1 pic.twitter.com/741JQU1qTI
— Uncle Ben's USA (@UncleBens) September 23, 2020
Since 1946, Uncle Ben’s products, including its much-loved microwave rice packets, have featured a picture of a well-dressed elderly African-American man – said to be based on a famous head waiter at a Chicago hotel.
Meanwhile, Mars say the name Uncle Ben refers to an African-American rice-grower, famous for the quality of his rice. Defenders of the brand have insisted this history means critics are wrong to associate it with slavery.
Wednesday’s announcement comes three months after Mars said it was “evolving” away from the Uncle Ben’s branding.
In June, a representative for Mars explained the origin of its now-former branding.
“The name comes from a Black Texan farmer, known as Uncle Ben, who was known for growing high-quality rice,” the rep said in a statement to HuffPost. “The gentleman on our boxes, who has come to personify the brand, was a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown.”
The rice product was one of several prominent food products that recently promised to either change its name or logo or review its branding.
Quaker Oats announced in June that it would move away from the name and logo used for its Aunt Jemima syrup, which the company said was “based on a racial stereotype.”