In 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement grew in prominence, America also further reckoned with brands considered to be culturally insensitive—from sports franchises (hello, Washington Football Team) to pancake syrups (goodbye, Aunt Jemima). Among that group was one of the country’s best-known names in rice—Uncle Ben’s—with its parent company Mars Inc. announcing plans to “evolve” the 70-year-old brand moving forward. Today, that evolution is here: Meet “Ben’s Original.”
Beyond retaining its “Ben,” the brand’s font and color scheme—blue writing on an orange background—are staying the same. But as anticipated, not only is the “Uncle” being dropped, but the image of a black man in a bowtie which has appeared on the box since the 1940s will be removed. These changes will be happening worldwide, with the new packaging said to begin hitting store shelves next year.
“Over the last several weeks, we have listened to thousands of consumers, our own Associates and other stakeholders from around the world… 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,” Fiona Dawson—global president Mars Food, multisales and global customers—stated. “While implementing an evolution on this scale will be a complex process, there is no better time than right now… 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.”
Adding to that promise of inclusivity, Mars also announced a “new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.” That initiative includes community outreach programs to help provide access to nutritious meals and to further opportunities for “culinary entrepreneurs of all colors.” Specifically, in the United States, many of these efforts will be focused on the Greenville, Mississippi area where the products are produced. Additionally, Ben’s Original has partnered with the National Urban League to provide scholarships to Black chefs.
“Brands have an important role to play as we continue to navigate this moment of reconciliation regarding racial justice, diversity and inclusion,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, added. “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.”
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