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Uncle Ben’s Rice To Take Black Man Off Box; Cream Of Wheat Mulls Removing Black Chef
Aunt Jemima syrup
SOPA Images / Contributor / Getty Images

After Quaker Oats announced it would be removing Aunt Jemima from its 133-year-old brand of syrup and pancake mix, the company that makes Cream of Wheat says it is beginning a review of its brand and packaging, which features a black chef holding up a piping hot bowl of cereal.

“B&G Foods, Inc. today announced that we are initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism.”

Meanwhile, the company that makes Uncle Ben’s rice said Wednesday that “now was the right time to evolve” the brand. Their package features an elderly black man in a tuxedo next to its trademark saying, “Perfect Every Time.”

Mars Inc., the parent company of Uncle Ben’s, said in a release that 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.”

“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,” Mars said. “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.”

Uncle Ben’s was founded as Converted Brand Rice by Erich Huzenlaub and Gordon Harwell, according to the company’s website. The name “Uncle Ben’s” was born in the 1940s after the founders found out about a famed Texas farmer, referred to as Uncle Ben, who was renowned for his rice.

For the box’s cover, the image was modeled after Frank Brown, a waiter at the Chicago restaurant where Harwell had the idea, the website says.

The brand changes come after riots raged across the country following the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25.

Also on Wednesday, Quaker Oats announced that Aunt Jemima, its 131-year-old syrup, will be renamed and rebranded amid complaints that the syrup brand is 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 recognize Aunt Jemima’s origins are based on a racial stereotype. While work has been done over the years to update the brand in a manner intended to be appropriate and respectful, we realize those changes are not enough.

“We acknowledge the brand has not progressed enough to appropriately reflect the confidence, warmth and dignity that we would like it to stand for today. We are starting by removing the image and changing the name. 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 to have in their pantry,” Kroepfl said.

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