Uncle Ben’s faced criticism for racial stereotyping. Now the rice brand, owned by Mars, has revealed its new name.

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  • Rice brand Uncle Ben’s is being renamed Ben’s Original and replacing its image, parent company Mars announced on Wednesday.
  • The brand’s name has roots in white Southerners calling older Black people “aunt” and “uncle” instead of “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
  • This follows similar rebranding by Aunt Jemima and Land O Lakes because of racial stereotyping.
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Rice brand Uncle Ben’s is being renamed Ben’s Original following criticism over racial stereotyping, parent company Mars announced on Wednesday.

The company will also remove the brand’s iconic image of an elderly Black man because of the “inequities” it’s associated with, it said.

The 77-year-old Uncle Ben’s brand was named after a Texan rice farmer who was so well known for the quality of his produce that it became an industry standard. The company said that, “as the story goes, the proudest boast a rice grower could make was to claim his rice to be ‘as good as Uncle Ben’s.'” The brand’s founders chose the name to show the quality of their products.

But the brand’s name has roots in white Southerners calling older Black people “aunt” and “uncle” instead of “Mr.” or “Mrs.”

Mars announced it would “evolve” the brand’s identity in June, just hours after PepsiCo said it would change the name and logo of its Aunt Jemima pancake brand because of racial stereotyping.

Other brands to have changed their logos or branding in 2020 include Land O Lakes and Colgate’s Chinese toothpaste brand Darlie. B&G Foods announced Thursday that it is removing the image of a Black chef from its Cream of Wheat packaging.

Mars said it listened to “thousands of consumers” as part of the rebranding process. Though the change will be “complex,” there is “no better time than right now,” Fiona Dawson, Mars’ global president of food, multisales and global customers said in a statement

“We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand, and as we announced in June, we have committed to change,” Dawson said.

Industry-wide move towards better inclusion

This is part of an industry-wide move towards better inclusion and diversity, said Carmen Bryan, consumer analyst at GlobalData.

“By retiring old racial archetypes, major players will be able to tap into an increasingly globalized market and reinforce a positive brand message,” Bryan said in a statement.

Consumers are increasingly basing their behaviour on a company’s social responsibility and wider social movements. More than a third (38%) of respondents to a GlobalData survey said their purchasing decisions are always or often driven by how the world around them is changing, such as economic or social developments.

The rice brand will also engage in community outreach programs, including a scholarship fund to support aspiring Black chefs, and educational support in Greenville, Mississippi, where Ben’s Original is produced.

Ben’s Original’s new packaging will be available from 2021.