Next time you visit the rice aisle at your local supermarket, you might notice that one of the products you're used to seeing looks a little bit different.
The brand formerly known as Uncle Ben's just relaunched with a new name — Ben's Original — and new packaging, and the company's products are already showing up in stores across the country.
Mars Food, the parent company of Ben's Original, made the announcement on Wednesday and shared photos of the sleek new packaging, which includes the new brand name and a familiar orange background/navy blue font.
Noticeably absent is the photo of Uncle Ben, a Black man with white hair that has appeared on the brand's products since the 1940s. Over the years, some versions of the packaging showed the man wearing a serving uniform and the brand has faced pressure from both consumers and public figures to rebrand the product.
The brand has previously explained on its website that the character of Uncle Ben was inspired by two people: a Black Texan farmer who was known for his rice-growing abilities and a chef and waiter from Chicago named Frank Brown.
After the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Mars Inc. announced that it was planning a "brand evolution" to "take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices." In September, Mars Inc. revealed the new name — Ben's Original — and announced that new packaging would hit stores in 2021.
Now that the revamped product is officially available, the company hopes this is just the beginning of a continuous dialogue about equality.
“This is a major milestone on our brand evolution journey, which is why it was so important we took the appropriate amount of time listening to thousands of consumers and our own Associates from around the world to help create a thoughtful and authentic brand identity," Mars Food North America regional president Denis Yarotskiy told TODAY Food.
"That said, this is much more than a name and packaging change — we’ve also committed to taking action to enhance inclusion and equity that comes with our new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.”
Of course, you might still see some unsold Uncle Ben's products in stores, and the brand is working closely with its retail partners in the U.S. to replace those as they sell out and they expect that to happen by the end of the summer.
In addition to creating new packaging, Mars Inc. has also created Ben’s Original community outreach programs to provide food to underserved communities and a Seat at the Table Fund scholarship to support Black students who are interested in food industry careers in the United States. The company is also investing $2.5 million over the next five years in Greenville, Mississippi, the city where Uncle Ben's was produced for over 40 years.
Ben's Original isn't the only company that has rebranded itself in the wake of Floyd's death last year. In June 2020, Quaker Oats announced that it would be renaming its breakfast brand Aunt Jemima after many consumers claimed that it perpetuated a racist stereotype.
In February 2021, the company announced that Aunt Jemima had a new name — Pearl Milling Company — and explained the story behind the new name.
“Though new to store shelves, Pearl Milling Company was founded in 1888 in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was the originator of the iconic self-rising pancake mix that would later become known as Aunt Jemima,” the statement reads.
The brand's new logo is expected to appear on store shelves next month.