McLean-based Mars Inc. to change Uncle Ben’s rice brand
The move comes after PepsiCo announced rebranding of Aunt Jemima line
After weeks of racial inequity protests and the removals of Confederate monuments across the United States, McLean-based global food product manufacturer Mars Inc. announced Wednesday it is “evaluating all possibilities” for changing the branding on its Uncle Ben’s rice products.
Uncle Ben’s has been branded with an image of a black man since 1946, according to The Museum of Public Relations. The names “uncle” and “aunt” were used to address older enslaved people because they were denied the use of other courtesy titles.
“As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices,” Mars Inc. said in a statement. “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.”
The move came shortly after PepsiCo Inc.’s Quaker Oats division announced Wednesday that it would remove the image of Aunt Jemima from its packaging and change the name of the brand, which has existed for more than 130 years. The Aunt Jemima brand was inspired by the song “Old Aunt Jemima” by African-American minstrel show performer Billy Kersands. Minstrel shows, popular in the early 19th century, were performed mostly by white people wearing blackface.
“We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Kristin Kroepfl, Quaker Foods North America vice president and chief marketing officer, in a statement. “While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.”
Mars, which reported $18 billion in revenues last year, has not announced any details or timeline for rebranding its Uncle’s Ben products.
“Racism has no place in society,” Mars added. “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.”