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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Mars to ‘evolve’ Uncle Ben’s image

Food giant Mars has announced its Uncle Ben’s branded rice will change its image in a move it hopes will help end racial bias.

Since 1946, the universally popular rice products have carried the image of a black man.

However, in a statement, Mars said the time had come to move the brand forward.

“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,” it began.

“As we listen to the voices of consumers, especially in the black community, and to the voices of our associates worldwide, we recognise 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 or timing will be, but we are evaluating all possibilities.”

The move by Mars follows an announcement, by Quaker Oats, that its leading American syrup and pancake mix brand, Aunt Jemima, is to be replaced with a completely new brand, as parent company PepsiCo admitted the brand’s origins are based on a racial stereotype.

The logo of the 130-year-old brand features a black woman named after a character from 19th-century minstrel shows.

“We recognise Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype,” said Quaker Foods North America Vice President Kristin Kroepfl in a statement to NBC.

Brands around the world are falling under the spotlight as consumers call for an end to racial injustice and discrimination. In Australia, Coon cheese and Colonial Brewing Co are two firms that have been dragged into ongoing debate.

Closer to home, in the UK, Kellogg’s Coco Pops have attracted criticism for the use of a monkey on its packaging.

The disgraced former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya confirmed she had emailed Kellogg’s UK for clarification on why Rice Krispies have ‘three white boys’ as a mascot whereas chocolate-flavoured Coco Pops are represented by a monkey. 

Ms Onasanya, who was jailed for three months in 2019 after she was convicted of lying to police about a speeding ticket, said there was no difference between Coco Pops and sister brand Rice Krispies aside from colour and flavour.

Kellogg’s responded by saying it “stands in support of the black community”.

“We do not tolerate discrimination and believe that people of all races, genders, backgrounds, sexual orientation, religions, capabilities and beliefs should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

It added: “The monkey mascot that appears on both white and milk chocolate Coco Pops, was created in the 1980s to highlight the playful personality of the brand. 

“As part of our ambition to bring fun to the breakfast table, we have a range of characters that we show on our cereal boxes, including tigers, giraffes, crocodiles, elves and a narwhal.”

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