Uncle Ben’s to change brand identity to end racial bias, 'we stand with the black community' company said
Packet rice brand Uncle Ben's has announced that it will change its brand identity amid anti-racism protests following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Since 1946, the brand has reportedly been using an image of an elderly African-American man – said to be based on a famous head waiter at a Chicago hotel.
Mars Inc, the owner company of the brand, said Uncle Ben was a fictional character whose name was used as a reference to an African-American rice-grower, famous for the quality of his rice. However, the brand has now released a statement, saying: “As a global brand, we know we have a responsibility to take a stand in helping to put an end to racial bias and injustices. As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the Black community, and to the voices of our Associates worldwide, we recognize that now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity, which we will do.”
The statement added: “We don’t yet know what the exact changes or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities. Racism has no place in society. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, our Associates, and our partners in the fight for social justice. We know to make the systemic change needed, it’s going to take a collective effort from all of us – individuals, communities, and organizations of all sizes around the world.”
Meanwhile, earlier on Wednesday, June 17, Quaker Oats, the company behind the ‘Aunt Jemima’ brand of syrup and other breakfast foods, also announced that they will re-name this line of products and remove an image of a black woman on its label “to make progress toward racial equality.”
According to reports, the picture of Aunt Jemima has been used on these products for 130 years. “We recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. 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,” Kristin Kroepfl, vice president and chief marketing officer of Quaker Foods North America, said in a press release.
“We will continue the conversation by gathering diverse perspectives from both our organization and the black community to further evolve the brand and make it one everyone can be proud of to have in their pantry,” Kroepfl added.
While NBC reported that Quaker has said that “the new packaging will begin to appear in the fall of 2020, and a new name for the foods will be announced at a later date. The company also announced it will donate at least $5 million over the next five years ‘to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the Black community.’”
The announcements from these brands of changing and their re-naming their identities came after people on the internet started slamming them. The slamming of these brands started with a Tik-Tok video showing a black girl talking briefly about Aunt Jemima’s history and throwing the contents of the pack. The girl called her video an act of protest amid the Black Lives Matter movement.
Soon after the Tik Tok video, people took to Twitter to bash the brand with one person writing: “Y’all didn’t know the story of Aunt Jemima? Just looking at a box of Aunt Jemima pancake mix you can sense the racial undertones.” How the f**k did a lot of y'all go through life not knowing the origins or at least the image of Aunt Jemima was born from slavery. It's right there on the f**king label! Even when they tried to "modern" up her look, they still keep her original look,” another one added.
One Twitter user also pointed to Uncle Ben’s brand identity, as they wrote: “Aunt Jemima in 1889. I’m shocked the current generation didn’t know Aunt Jemima & Uncle Ben were slaves. What else could they be? ‘Uncle’ was a common appellation used in the Southern United States to refer to older male black slaves or servants.”