Back in June, major food brands were getting introspective. As the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the systemic racism that underpins every aspect of American society, grocery aisles became a target of rightful scrutiny; many brands and their logos had come of age during the height of the Jim Crow era and had done little to rectify this imagery in the decades since (either because these companies were afraid of disrupting their hard won brand recognition or because ignoring the unpleasant history of their own products has always been easier and more convenient in a capitalist system). Brands like Aunt Jemima, Eskimo Pie, and Uncle Ben’s line of rice products all committed to conducting a review and redesigning their products accordingly. And now, according to a press release from Mars Food, Uncle Ben’s has a new look and a new name: Ben’s Original.
“Today, Mars Food announced it will change the UNCLE BEN’S® Brand to Ben’s Original™, signaling the brand’s ambition to create a more inclusive future while maintaining its commitment to producing the world’s best rice,” the press release states. The new box will not feature the classic portrait of Uncle Ben, an effort by Mars “to create more equitable iconography.” It was not clear whether there will be a new image swapped in, because the press release alternately says the image has been “removed” and “replaced,” though this image accompanying the press release implies that if there is going to be a new logo, it’s not being shared just yet.
The product’s website indicates that Ben’s Original will hit store shelves beginning in early 2021, and that along with the new product, the company will undertake new efforts to “enhance inclusion and equity” at the community level. Ben’s notes in particular its commitment to investing in education programs and increasing access to fresh foods in Greenville, Mississippi, where the rice is produced.
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“These initial steps are in addition to commitments from Mars, Incorporated to continue to improve racial equity throughout our business, from increased representation in our workforce, leadership and talent pipeline, to better utilizing our spend, specifically among our suppliers, to drive positive change,” read the statement on the company’s website. “We hope you continue to welcome us to your dinner table, as we work to ensure everyone is always welcome at ours.”