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Uncle Ben's rice promises change to branding, exact changes and timing unclear

Uncle Ben's rice promises change to branding, exact changes and timing unclear
Posted at 11:49 AM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 11:50:34-04

Uncle Ben's rice promised Wednesday to make changes to its brand image, hours after Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup promised to change its name and logo.

Mars, the parent company of Uncle Ben's, did not say how it would make changes to the brand's name or logo but promised to "evolve the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity," according to a statement on its website.

"We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities," the statement read. "Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, our Associates and our partners in the fight for social justice. We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us – individuals, communities and organizations of all sizes around the world."

According to Uncle Ben's website, the name "Uncle Ben" refers to a "legendary Texan farmer, Uncle Ben who was known for his exceptionally high-quality rice." Frank Brown, a maitre d' at a Chicago restaurant, posed for "Uncle Ben's" portrait, which has since served as the brand's logo.

Critics say the brand harkens back to slavery and Jim Crow-era South, where older black slaves and servants were frequently referred to as "Aunt" or "Uncle."

On Wednesday, Aunt Jemima said it would remove it's logo — which has origins in minstrel show tropes — from packaging beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020 and would eventually rename the brand.

The changes come as American institutions hold conversations about systemic racism amid weeks-long, largely peaceful protests in dozens of cities across the country. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.