Big Brand on Packaging Change: 'The Time Is Right'

Mars Inc. rice brand, now to be called 'Ben's Original,' is losing Uncle Ben
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2020 9:45 AM CDT
Say Goodbye to This Man on Supermarket Shelves
This image provided by Mars Food shows the new logo/name of Ben's Original.   (Mars via AP)

Following in the steps of Aunt Jemima and Land O'Lakes, another major brand is about to experience an overhaul. This time around, it's Uncle Ben's rice, which is getting a new name and dropping the picture that has long appeared on the product's packaging. The updated moniker, per CBS News: Ben's Original. Parent company Mars Inc. says the imagery on rice boxes and packets of a Black man (seen both with and without a bow tie over the years) is being nixed after longtime complaints that it's a racial stereotype. "We listened to our associates and our customers and the time is right to make meaningful changes across society," says Mars Food President Fiona Dawson.

CNN Business notes the revamped products will still feature the brand's well-known orange packaging with dark blue text. The brand had been named in the 1940s for a supposedly real-life Texas rice farmer, though even the company has acknowledged it doesn't know if an "Uncle Ben" truly existed. The portrait used on the packaging was based on a photo taken of Frank Brown, the head waiter at a posh Chicago restaurant at the time. Per the Wall Street Journal, Mars polled thousands of customers over the summer and found they didn't like the portrait, or the word "uncle" on the packaging, noting that these elements evoked images of servitude. Dawson, who says the company is still working on new artwork to accompany the updated brand name, notes that although not everyone may be happy about the change, "it's about doing the right thing, not the easy thing." (More name change stories.)

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