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Is Uncle Ben's next? Rice company announces rebrand after Aunt Jemima logo pulled

Mars Inc., which owns Uncle Ben's, announced Wednesday it will be taking a stand against racism.
Uncle Ben's has been the face of the rice brand since the 1940s.
Uncle Ben's has been the face of the rice brand since the 1940s. Shutterstock
/ Source: TODAY

Uncle Ben's signature logo, which has appeared on orange boxes of rice for decades, may soon be removed. On Wednesday, Mars Inc., the parent company of Uncle Ben's, announced in a statement posted to its website that it was planning a "brand evolution" as a way to "take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices."

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The company said the rebranding effort will involve updating the brand's "visual identity," but did not provide any details on the timeline for the change.

The news comes on the heels of Quaker Oats' announcement that it would be retiring the Aunt Jemima logo and renaming the 130-year-old brand of pancake mixes and syrups.

"As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do," said the statement from Mars.

The parboiled rice product has been around for more than 70 years, and the brand name Uncle Ben's has been used since 1946. According to Uncle Ben's website, the character of Uncle Ben was inspired by two people: His name came from a Black Texan farmer who was known for his rice-growing abilities, while his likeness was modeled after chef and waiter from Chicago named Frank Brown.

For years, there have been countless calls from both consumers and public figures to change the branding of both Uncle Ben's and Aunt Jemima. After the death of George Floyd in police custody and the subsequent proteststhat have swept across the country in recent weeks, many brands and companies have announced changes to long-standing policies or donations to organizations that support Black Americans.

Today, Uncle Ben's logo depicts an illustration of a smiling Black man, but in previous iterations, the man is seen wearing a serving uniform. Historically in the South, "aunt" and "uncle" (or "boy" and "girl") were used by white Americans when referring to Black elders because white people refused to call them "Mr." or "Mrs.," according to a 2007 New York Times article.

On Twitter, many people were supportive of Mars' attempt to end racist stereotyping in advertising.

"The liberation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are underway, people!" wrote one user.

"Please bear in mind, Americans have a horrible history with using racial stereotypes in advertising," wrote another commenter. "Especially with black people always portrayed as subservient."

According to the brand's website, the image of Uncle Ben was removed in 1971, but it made a comeback in 1983. Though Uncle Ben's has never been a Black-owned company, it attempted to rebrand the controversial figure in 2007 and "Ben" is currently portrayed as a businessman on its website.

“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,” Mars concluded in its statement. “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.”