MCLEAN, VA. — Mars, Inc., which in June said it would evolve the Uncle Ben’s rice visual brand identity after a push from its consumers and associates to do so, has announced the brand now will be known as Ben’s Original. Mars said the move signals the brand's ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining its commitment to producing high-quality rice.
“Over the last several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own associates and other stakeholders from around the world,” said Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food, Multisales and Global Customers. “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.”
As part of the rebranding initiative, Mars said it has committed to removing the image on the packaging to create more equitable iconography. Introduced in 1943, Uncle Ben’s products feature the likeness of Gordon L. Harwell, a Black rice grower who supplied to the armed forces during World War II and claimed his rice to be “as good as Uncle Ben’s,” according to the brand’s website (The brand’s origin story no longer appears on the updated site). The new brand packaging will roll out in early 2021.
In addition to changing the brand’s name and imagery, Mars said it is taking action to enhance inclusion and equity and is setting out its new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.
Actions will include Ben’s Original community outreach programs, which Mars said will be structured to ensure underserved communities have access to nutritious meals, as well as help culinary entrepreneurs of all colors get educational opportunities. Mars said its efforts will begin in the United States, where Ben’s Original has partnered with the National Urban League to support aspiring Black chefs through a scholarship fund, before expanding to support other underserved communities around the world.
“Brands have an important role to play as we continue to navigate this moment of reconciliation regarding racial justice, diversity and inclusion,” said Marc Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League. “We’re proud to partner with Ben’s Original as they evolve and embark on a new path with a new purpose, providing Black communities here and abroad with more equitable opportunities in education and business.”
Mars also said it plans to invest in the local community of Greenville, Miss., where Ben’s Original has been produced for more than 40 years. Investments will focus on enhancing educational opportunities for more than 7,500 area students, as well as furthering access to fresh foods.
In addition to its partnership with the National Urban League and its investment in Greenville, Mars said it will continue to work to improve racial equity, from increased representation in the company's workforce, leadership and talent pipeline, to better utilizing spend, specifically among suppliers, to drive positive change.
“While implementing an evolution on this scale will be a complex process, there is no better time than right now,” Ms. Dawson said. “We know this is the right thing to do for our brand and business to ensure we create the truly inclusive future that everyone deserves.”