The smiling face of Uncle Ben will soon be a memory after the company changes its name to Ben’s Original.
In June, Mars Food North America announced its decision to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand due to “inequities that were associated with the name and face of Uncle Ben’s brand.”
External Communications Manager for Mars Food North America Sara Schulte said they have listened to the numerous concerns concerning their brand image.
“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. While it was never our intent, the picture of the man on the packaging elicits images of servitude for some and also, in the U.S., the word ‘uncle’ was, at times, a pejorative title for black men,” she said. “We will change our Uncle Ben’s brand name to Ben’s Original as well as remove the image on our packaging. This change signals our ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining our commitment to producing the world’s best rice. We are not just changing our name, but also taking action to enhance inclusion and equity and that comes with a new brand purpose to create opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.”
New packaging and a new sign outside the factory located on Broadway Street is expected to be seen in the first half of 2021, Schulte said.
The third largest employer in Greenville, Mars Food has been in business locally for 42 years and has strived to make a positive impact for the community through various community outreach programs.
Moving forward, Mars Food stated the company will focus on continued educational opportunities for more than 7,500 area students and give access to fresh foods.
Since their announcement to change their brand image in June, Schulte said they have been communicating with Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons and other community leaders to gain their perspective and formulate plans for the future.
“Since we announced our plans to evolve Uncle Ben’s in June, we’ve been working with Mayor Simmons and many other community leaders to understand their perspectives, the values of the Greenville community and some of its greatest challenges. As a result, Mars Food will invest $2.5 million over the next five years around the local community of Greenville to help to enhance educational opportunities for more than 7,500 Washington County area students and to expand access to fresh, healthy foods for Greenville area residents,” she said.
Mayor Simmons said he is proud of the name change to Ben’s Original and the work Mars Food Associates is putting into Greenville.
Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said: “I’m proud of the Ben’s Original brand and the Mars Food Associates, who pour their hearts and souls into making the world’s best rice every day in Greenville. Mars holds a special place in our community, and we’re proud to send a piece of Greenville to dinner tables and families through Ben’s Original. Since Mars Food first announced its commitment to evolve the brand in June, they have done an outstanding job of listening to myself and many more of our community leaders and advocates to ensure our diverse voices are heard. We will continue to work together to improve education opportunities for our more than 7,500 area students and provide greater access to fresh foods for our residents. I’d like to thank Mars Food for taking a very important step forward in helping to feed opportunities that offer everyone a seat at the table.”
Schulte said these initial steps they are taking, as well as future endeavors, will continue to improve racial equity from increased representation in the company’s workforce, leadership and talent pipeline, to better utilizing spending, 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. 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,” she said. “We’re proud of each our Associates in Greenville and around the world who have such an important role to play in producing the world’s best rice every day, and we’re excited about the future of the Ben’s Original brand.”