Ben, Not Uncle Ben: Mars introduces ‘Ben’s Original’

Uncle Ben's has a new name: Ben's Original

Mars will change the name of its Uncle Ben's rice products to Ben's Original and drop the logo depicting a Chicago head waiter as part of the company's previously announced plans to create a more inclusive brand.

The revamped Ben's products, which feature the same blue font and orange packaging, will hit shelves in 2021.

The transition from Uncle Ben's to Ben's Original comes amid a broader movement about racial equality and heightened criticism of brands with origins rooted in racial stereotypes. In June, the food companies that make Uncle Ben's, Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, and Mrs. Butterworth's said they would retire or rebrand their products.

Mars' rice brand was named in the 1940s for "Uncle Ben," a possibly fictitious Black rice farmer from Texas supposedly renowned for his high-quality crop. It featured the face of Frank Brown, head waiter at an exclusive Chicago restaurant who posed for the Uncle Ben's portrait, according to an archived page from Uncle Ben's website. The company said it didn't know if there was an actual Uncle Ben.

"For some, it clearly had overtones of servitude, and that is not the brand that we want to represent," Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, told CNN Business.

Mars decided to rebrand the products after hearing from consumers and employees who requested the change, she said.

"There's no place for anything in this world that hints at social injustice," she said.

The privately held food and pet products company also will partner with the National Urban League and donate US$2 million to a scholarship fund for aspiring black chefs. The company will donate another $2.5 million to educational programs and food access efforts within the community of Greenville, Mississippi, where its products have been manufactured for four decades.