Mars drops Uncle Ben’s brand image after racial stereotyping row

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Boxes of Uncle Ben's branded rice stand on a store shelf inside of a shop in the Brooklyn borough of New York City

(Reuters) – Mars Inc said on Wednesday it was changing the name and branding of its Uncle Ben’s rice products after the brand came under fire for promoting racial stereotypes.

The company said it would drop the logo of an elderly African-American man wearing a bow tie on the 70-year-old brand and replace it with an orange package with Ben’s Original’ written in a blue font. The brand was named after a Texas rice farmer.

Mars joins a growing list of companies that have dropped racially insensitive branding after drawing criticism amid a national debate over racial inequality in the United States.

In June, PepsiCo Inc said it would rename and change the brand image of its Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup, while Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, owned by ConAgra Brands Inc and Cream of Wheat porridge, owned by B&G Foods Inc, said they would review their packaging.

At the time Mars said it was “evaluating all possibilities” regarding Uncle Ben’s.

“We understand the inequities that were associated with the name and face of the previous brand … (and) we have committed to change,” said Fiona Dawson, global president of Mars Food.

The new packaging for the brand will hit stores in 2021.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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