Uncle Ben’s to update branding, but ‘not in response to Aunt Jemima’

The rice brand says it was about to announce its own change just as Aunt Jemima did.

Mars is planning to update Uncle Ben's branding. (Image via Uncle Ben's Twitter account).
Mars is planning to update Uncle Ben's branding. (Image via Uncle Ben's Twitter account).

MCLEAN, VA: Uncle Ben's said on Wednesday that it is also planning to "evolve" its brand, but not in response to Quaker Oats' announcement that it will rebrand Aunt Jemima.

The grocery staple said it had a brand refresh of its own in the works when news broke on Wednesday morning that the Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake brand would be updated.

"It is separate and something we have been talking about for quite some time," said Caroline Sherman, VP of corporate comms for Uncle Ben's parent Mars Food. "We were about to release a statement as Aunt Jemima's announcement was made. It's just a very strange coincidence."

On Wednesday morning, Quaker Oats parent PepsiCo said it is planning to rebrand the Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup line, acknowledging that "Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype." The company has also pledged to donate $5 million over the next five years "to create meaningful, ongoing support and engagement in the black community."

Aunt Jemima representatives referred inquiries seeking comment to the statement. 

Within hours, Uncle Ben's started trending on Twitter, with consumers calling on the brand to follow in Aunt Jemima's footsteps.

Uncle Ben's quickly released a statement explaining that the product's visual brand identity would change.

"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," the company said in the statement. "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."

Sherman told PRWeek that it is not a question of if a change will be made, but when.

"A change will be made, but we are evaluating all the possibilities of what that could be," she said.

There has been an uptick in conversation on social media about the appropriateness of Uncle Ben's branding since the death of George Floyd last month, Sherman said.

"But we were talking about this prior to that," she said. "This is not a new conversation for us, we have been talking about it for quite sometime. It is even more important to us in this context to take this step forward."

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