“We’re still in the process of deciding on what our new iconography will be, but are committed to ensuring that it will be truly reflective of the inclusive future we are striving to create for Ben’s Original,” a Mars Food spokesperson said in a statement. Mars owns the Ben’s Original brand.
In June, Uncle Ben’s announced it would change its name and brand. The announcement followed the killing of George Floyd and the larger conversation about race that it sparked in the country. At the time, many brands, including Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s and Eskimo Pies, committed to making major changes to avoid perpetuating racial stereotypes.
“Over several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own associates and other stakeholders from around the world,” said Fiona Dawson, a Mars executive, according to The Guardian report. “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.”
Uncle Ben is a fictional rice farmer from Texas. The image on the packaging is of Frank Brown, a “beloved Chicago chef and waiter.” In 2007, Mars tried to update the brand by noting that Uncle Ben had been promoted to ‘chairman’ of the company who shared “grains of wisdom.”
In addition to the name change, Mars announced a partnership with the National Urban League to help support aspiring black chefs. The initiative will be aimed at enhancing “educational opportunities” for 7,500 Greenville, Mississippi, area students, according to The New York Post. That’s where the Ben’s brand has been made for decades.
The BBC notes that as part of the National Urban League initiative, Mars will donate $2 million for scholarships and invest $2.5 million in Greenville. “We are not just changing our name and the image on the package, but also taking action to enhance inclusion and equity,” the company said, according to the Post.
Despite the change, critics suggest the rebrand should have gone further. One observers noted that it’s a “watered-down solution,” reports AdAge.