Uncle Bens’ rice vows to ‘evolve’ brand to address ‘racial bias and injustices’

Rice brand’s character has long been criticised for endorsing racial stereotypes

Olivia Petter
Thursday 18 June 2020 08:22
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Uncle Ben's rice has pledged to “evolve” its brand identity in order to combat “racial bias and injustices”.

The company’s mascot character, which is depicted as a black rice grower, has long been criticised since it first appeared on the brand’s packaging in 1940.

Now, Mars Incorporated, which owns Uncle Ben’s, has issued a statement explaining its intentions to address this.

“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,” the statement begins.

“As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognise that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”

The company did not specify exactly how, or when, such changes would be implemented.

“We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities,” it said.

“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 organisations of all sizes around the world.”

The news comes after Aunt Jemima, a US pancake syrup and mix brand, announced that it would change its name after acknowledging that it was based on a “racial stereotype”.

Both brand names have faced criticism for using “Uncle” and “Aunt” as honorifics to refer to older black people, which, as the New York Times reports, reflects how “white Southerners” in the US once refused to use “Mr” and “Mrs” to refer to this demographic.

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