Uncle Ben’s has a new name after being criticised for racial stereotyping


UNCLE BEN’S has been renamed Ben’s Original after a series of criticisms for racial stereotyping.

After 70 years, the rice product’s owners, Mars, announced the updated packages will start to hit shelves from next year, in an attempt at “evolving” the brand. 

Global president for Mars Food, Fiona Dawson said: “We listened to our associates and our customers and the time is right to make meaningful changes across society.” 

She added: “When you are making these changes, you are not going to please everyone. But it’s about doing the right thing, not the easy thing… Times have changed.”

Over the past few years, many brands have retired racial imagery from their marketing. 

Councils have also been forced to address the issues of street names, statues and buildings named after figures associated with slavery and colonialism.

During Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year, the infamous toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol sparked a movement facilitating change.

Since the 1940’s, rice boxes have featured a Black man with white hair and a bow tie. This imagery have connotations with servitude. Additionally, the term “uncle” is pejorative in its association to Jim Crow-esque stereotypes.  

Dawson explained that the change comes after months of deliberations with customers, stakeholders and employees. The company is still deciding on a new image.

Mars also announced they will be investing £1.5 million in culinary scholarships for aspiring black chefs, in partnership with the National Urban League. They also announced a £2 million investment to students of nutrition at Greenville, Mississippi. Greenville is the home of the rice brand, and largely African-American city.

Who else is following suit?

Many other brands are also following suit, in coalition with the Black Lives Matter movement. Quaker Oats have announced they will be removing the character of Aunt Jemima from their food packages. The character’s origins were based on the highly offensive stereotyped character of “mammy” – a black woman who serves her white counterparts.

In the UK, rugby team Exeter Chiefs agreed to stop the use of their “big chief” mascot, however their name will remain the same.

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