Uncle Ben’s rice is being rebranded - here’s why

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 9:36 am
Updated Thursday, 24th September 2020, 9:36 am
Uncle Ben’s rice is changing its name due to criticism regarding racial stereotyping. The image used on the packaging is also to be updated (Photo: Shutterstock)
Uncle Ben’s rice is changing its name due to criticism regarding racial stereotyping. The image used on the packaging is also to be updated (Photo: Shutterstock)

Uncle Ben’s rice is changing its name due to criticism regarding racial stereotyping. The image used on the packaging is also to be updated.

But who was Frank Brown, the real person featured on the rice packaging?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Here’s what you need to know about Frank Brown, what the product is changing its name to and why it is doing so.

Who was Frank Brown?

The founder of Mars, Forrest E Mars, first branded the rice product as the Original Converted Brand Rice in 1942. The name was then changed to Uncle Ben’s Original Converted Brand Rice in 1947.

Uncle Ben was the name of a fictional character, first used in 1946, as a reference to an African-American Texan rice farmer.

However, the company said the image used on the Uncle Ben packaging "was a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown.”

Why is Uncle Ben’s changing its name?

Mars announced in the summer that the Uncle Ben’s brand would "evolve", which suggested a change would be made to its branding.

The company has now revealed the new name of Uncle Ben's rice, which has been altered in an effort to make "meaningful changes" to a brand considered to have used racial stereotypes.

Many people saw the branding of Uncle Ben’s as aiding in the perpetuation of notions of formerly enslaved black people as being contented servants.

What will the product be called?

The new name of Ben’s Original will replace Uncle Ben’s, and will be available in supermarkets from 2021.

A new accompanying image will also be used, but the company said it is still deciding what this will be.

Fiona Dawson, global president for Mars Food, multisales and global customers said, "We listened to our associates and our customers and the time is right to make meaningful changes across society.

"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."

Ms Dawson said that months of conversations with employees, customer studies and other stakeholders led the company to settle on the new name of Ben’s Original.

Which other companies are changing their branding?

Other food giants have also announced that they will be rebranding some of their products, in the wake of the recent worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.

This includes Quaker Oats, which announced in June that it would drop Aunt Jemima from its syrup and pancake packages. The decision was made in response to criticism that the origins of the character were based on the racial stereotype of the “mammy” - a black woman content to serve her white masters.

Councils are also addressing the issue of certain street names, statues, and buildings, which are associated with, or named after, colonialism or figures involved in the slave trade.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Star.