Mars scraps Uncle Ben’s branding over racism links

Eufemia Didonato

Mars has announced its Uncle Ben’s rice brand will be renamed Ben’s Original following accusations of racial stereotyping, as the retail giant joins a list of global brands seeking to brush up their image. Mars today unveiled its revamp for the 70-year-old rice brand, which will see its logo of […]

Mars has announced its Uncle Ben’s rice brand will be renamed Ben’s Original following accusations of racial stereotyping, as the retail giant joins a list of global brands seeking to brush up their image.

Mars today unveiled its revamp for the 70-year-old rice brand, which will see its logo of an African-American man dropped in favour of a simpler design.

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“It’s time for him to retire,” said Fiona Dawson, head of Mars’ food business. 

“We listened to our associates and our customers and the time is right to make meaningful changes across society.” 

Dawson noted the term “Uncle” could be understood with pejorative connotations in the US, adding that it was “clearly… something we would not want to be associated with.”

“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,” she added.

The move by Mars marks the latest in a series of rebrands by major retail companies, as the business world scrambles to adapt to a new corporate climate in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

In June, Pepsico-owned Quaker Oats announced it would retire Aunt Jemima from its syrup and pancake packaging, following sharp criticism that the character alluded to racist stereotypes.

Quaker said new branding would appear in stores by the end of the year, though it has yet to reveal a fresh logo.

Earlier this year Conagra Brands said it would review its Mrs Butterworth syrup bottles, which come in the shape of a maid-like female figure that has been accused of being linked to minstrel shows.

In a statement Conagra said the packaging was “intended to evoke the images of a loving grandmother,” but added that it understood its “important role in eliminating racial bias” and would review the branding.

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Alongside the Ben’s rebrand announced today, Mars also said it was taking steps to “enhance inclusion and equality”. 

The company announced it is developing plans to roll out culinary scholarships to support black and minority ethnic chefs, and will also improve access to fresh food in Greenville, Mississippi, where its Ben’s rice production is based.

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