By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

(CNN) — Uncle Ben’s owner Mars is planning to change the rice maker’s “brand identity.”

In a statement on its website Wednesday, the McLean, Virginia-based Mars wrote that “now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”

“We don’t yet know what the exact changes and timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities,” Mars added.

Earlier on Wednesday, Quaker Oats announced it’s retiring the 130-year-old Aunt Jemima brand and logo.

“As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers’ expectations,” the Pepsi-owned company said in a statement.

The moves are an acknowledgment of the brands’ origins in racist stereotypes, a consideration brought to the forefront during the nationwide reckoning on race following the death of George Floyd in police custody.

According to the Uncle Ben’s website, the name was first used in 1946 in reference to a black farmer known as Uncle Ben who excelled in rice-growing. The man depicted in the logo is a “a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown.”

However, the imagery evokes a servant and uses a title that reflects how white Southerners “once used ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ as honorifics for older blacks because they refused to say ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.,'” according to a 2007 New York Times article.

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Comments (42)
  1. Shela allred says:

    I don’t buy products from companies that bow down to extortionists. Goodbye Mars and Pepsi

    1. Uncle Ben says:

      I’m with you, Shela!

  2. Now how about that “Cream of Wheat” guy…

  3. greg says:

    Chef Boyardee’s day should be coming up soon.

  4. greg says:

    We should probably take a real hard look at Orville Redenbacher and his popcorn too.

  5. Chris Farmer says:

    Chef Boyardee (real name Ettore Boiardi -spelling was changed to to a phonetic pronunciation Hector Boyardee so people said it right) was a real person who founded the company & recipes and that is him on the can. It is not any sort of potentially offensive character/caricature, it’s the real Italian guy selling Italian foods. Lots of famous chef food products have a picture of the chef on the can/package who invented the product.

    Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima (not real people) have come to be offensive and are often used as a derogatory terms. The Cream of Wheat guy is probably left out since he does not have a name people know, but he was in fact a real chef. The original one was an offensive caricature, but the company replaced it 100 years ago to the photo of a real master chef named Frank White. Nobody knows his name now, but he was a very famous chef at the time at a famous Chicago restaurant. It was like getting Gordon Ramsay to endorse your cereal. A chef can be any race, I do not find a picture of a Black chef to be a problem any more than a White one. It is a highly skilled profession all sorts of men and women have. Companies are free to name their products whatever they want to and of course they want to appeal to the widest possible pool of consumers w/ their logos, ads & characters on the products. I just wish Progressive would decide Flo is an outdated stereotype & get rid of her LOL!

    1. justin Denial says:

      a little bit about the actual person who Quaker Oats used way back when they created this brand. Her name’s Nancy Green. The original Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green. She’s a former slave. It’s 130 years ago now. That’s how old the brand is. Former slave. She was a cook. She was an activist. She was a renowned storyteller on stage with an audience.

      She was offered by Quaker Oats a lifetime contract to become Aunt Jemima and to promote the pancake mix.

  6. J says:

    “once used ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ as honorifics for older blacks because they refused to say ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.,’”–why would some one use an “honorific” if they thought so little of someone that they wouldn’t say “mr.”?
    It’s because this is not entirely true.
    Many southerners said these things because, even if they wanted to use Mr/Mrs….it was illegal.

  7. fern Haloo says:

    That William Penn racist on my oats has to go.

  8. Stacy Harris says:

    I always thought the name Aunt Jemima was derogatory because, even when black parents began to chose names for their children reflecting their heritage, I never heard of any of these parents naming their daughters Jemima.

    I can’t for the life of me see how anyone can make a case for Uncle Ben being derogatory unless the name reminds you of Uncle Tom. But making that argument seems like quite a stretch.

  9. YN says:

    Many people use “Uncle Ben” as a derogatory term for an older Black man or a male Black servant. Maybe it is less popular now, but I am older and have certainly heard it used in a derogatory manner. An “Uncle Tom” is also derogatory, but has a different meaning and is of literary origin.

    It is time to get rid of old stereotypes and racist images. It works both ways, the image of the typical housewife “Betty Crocker” has also bit the dust. She was not a real person, she was a stereotype American “housewife”.

    Advertising tries to appeal to most everyone and stay current with society. They have figured out men also buy household products like food, baby stuff & cleaners, women buy tools, beer & trucks and there are many types of families nowadays. Whether you are selling a car or a cake mix, you want the product to appeal to everyone out there!

  10. J. Weatherford says:

    Thanks, Brand!

  11. Doug says:

    As a Welsh American, I’m offended by Captain Morgan’s rum.

  12. Bill Place says:

    Uncle Joe Stalin’s minute rocks, just like the old communists used to starve on!

  13. When will it stop? says:

    Add Mrs. Butterworth’s to the list, too. Yup, she’s outta here. Granted I’m not black, but I always considered Mrs. Butterworth to be a white wanna be Aunt Jemima. Sort of the Rachel Dolezal of pancake syrup.

  14. Pusala says:

    So if you have three white elves on a cereal box it’s bad. If you have a black person onsuryp or rice it’s bad. If you replaced Uncle Ben with a white person would that be racist? I’m getting confused here. If we use white people we’re racist. If we use black people we’re racists. Like I’ve said before, make all the concessions you want, black people will never be satisfied.

  15. Katie J says:

    It is not about the race, it is that the names of the characters “Aunt Jemima” (who originally looked like “Mammy” from GWTW) & “Uncle Ben” had come to be viewed as derogatory terms for African Americans who were relegated to being servants when those characters weer invented. Snap, Crackle and Pop have not. I am white and do not care for terms or characters that demean anyone.

    As the USA shifts towards a more diverse and less white population, companies will do what they need to to make their products appeal to all people & not just white ones. From the ads they run it is clear they have figured out it is no longer exclusively women who cook clean take care of the kids & buy groceries.

    They also now dump spokespeople when the actor playing them falls out of favor-Jared is no longer selling subs and Bill Cosby ain’t selling Jell-o. It’s not about race it’s about companies not wanting convicted felons to be associated w/ their products.

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