Just hours after Quaker Oats announced they were renaming and rebranding Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s has announced they will do the same thing. The brand, which is owned by Mars Inc. is taking a stand against racism. Like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben is based on a racial stereotype, and people have criticized both brands for years now. Conagra, the company behind Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, said it would go through a rebranding and renaming. Conagra noted it “can see that our packaging may be interpreted in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our values.”
The nationwide reckoning on race following the death of George Floyd in police custody has brought racial stereotypes to the forefront. Gone with the Wind was pulled from HBO Max, episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and others forms of media have been looked at under a new light over the past few weeks, which has since shifted to food brands. Mars Inc. released a statement on their choice to rebrand Uncle Ben and you can read it below.
“As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices. As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do. We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities. Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, our Associates and our partners in the fight for social justice. We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us – individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world.”
The Uncle Ben’s official website states that the name was first used in 1946 in reference to a black farmer known as Uncle Ben (not to be confused with Uncle Ben from the Spider-Man comics). “The name comes from a black Texan farmer-known as Uncle Ben-who grew rice so well, people compared Converted Brand Rice to his standard of excellence.” The man depicted on the box “was a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown.”
Uncle Ben’s has been criticized for years over their imagery, which makes Frank Brown look like a servant. The title also reflects how white southerners would address older people of color. So, Mars Inc. is going to figure out a new brand, along with Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth. It will be interesting to see how these companies move forward with new brands after having the popular imagery for so long.
So far, social media users seem to be behind these new changes from Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima. Obviously, there are others who don’t believe that anything needs to be changed and are outraged by the “cancelation” of another company. The new changes for Aunt Jemima will arrive in the fall, while it’s unclear when Uncle Ben’s will follow suit. You can head over to the official Mars Inc. website to learn more about Uncle Ben and their future plans.
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