Uncle Ben’s Rice is changing its brand name to Ben’s Original and revising its packaging to remove imagery accused of perpetuating racial stereotypes.
The move is in response to criticism of the brand’s image of a smiling, grey-haired black man that bears residual racist overtones – in that the word “uncle” was routinely used in place of the more respectful title “mister” in the American South at the time the brand was first marketed.
Uncle Ben’s owner Mars Food pledged to revise the packaging during international protests over US police racial-motivated brutality.
“We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand,” read a statement from Mars, “and as we announced in June, we have committed to change.”
The brand had previously attempted a campaign that recast Ben as chairman of its board. In fact, the image depicts Frank Brown, head waiter at an upscale Chicago restaurant, who in 1947 was asked by the firm to pose as the face of Uncle Ben’s.
The new packaging should hit the market by next year.