Uncle Ben's to 'Evolve' Brand and Visual Identity Similarly to Aunt Jemima Amid Racial Stereotyping Concerns

Just hours after Quaker Oats announced it would be retiring the 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand name and logo, the owner of the Uncle Ben's brand of rice announced the brand will "evolve" in response to concerns about racial stereotyping. The decision to reconsider its branding comes amid growing demand from activists and consumers for companies to take a stand against racial injustices and stereotyping.

In a statement, Mars. Inc., Uncle Ben's parent company, acknowledged that they "have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices," according to Ad Age. The company added that "we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that one way we can do this is by evolving the Uncle Ben's brand, including its visual brand identity." According to a Mars spokeswoman, it is unclear "what the exact changes or timing will be," though the company is "evaluating all possibilities." The spokeswoman said that the Uncle Ben's brand "values family, quality and bringing people together through cooking and shared meals" and will "continue to honor these values" as it comes to a decision.

The announcement followed news from Quaker Oats, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, that the Aunt Jemima brand would undergo both a name and image change as the "origins are based on a racial stereotype." In a statement, Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said the company acknowledges "the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today."

The names and images for both brands had their roots in enslavement. According to Bloomberg reporter Ryan Teague Beckwith, "'aunt' and 'uncle' were terms used for house slaves." But the names of the brands weren't the only cause for outcry. Aunt Jemima's origin and logo are based off the song "Old Aunt Jemima" from a minstrel show performer. Its logo, meanwhile, was based on Nancy Green, a "storyteller, cook and missionary worker" who had formerly been enslaved.

Created in 1946, the Uncle Ben's brand is named after a Black Texan farmer known as Uncle Ben, "who grew rice so well, people compared" Mars' Converted brand rice "to his standard of excellence," the brand notes on a timeline on its About page. The image is seen across all of its products, meanwhile, is of Frank Brown, "a beloved Chicago chef and waiter." Brown's image was briefly removed from packaging in 1971, only to return in 1983. It is unclear why Brown’s image was temporarily removed.