- Uncle Ben's Rice
:"Not to be confused with the
Uncle Bencharacter from Spider-Mancomics."
Uncle Ben is a brand name for parboiled (“converted”)
riceand related food products. Owned by Mars, Inc. in the U.S. by its subsidiary Masterfoods, the brand was first used by a company called Converted Rice Inc. which was later bought by Mars. It is based in Houston, Texas.
Uncle Ben’s rice was first marketed in 1943 and was the top-selling rice in the
United Statesfrom 1950 until the 1990s. [Palmeri, Christopher. [http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1999/1213/6414178a.html “Wake Up, Mars!”] " Forbes." (December 13, 1999)]
South Carolinaplanters were unable to make their rice crops thrive, “slaves from West Africa’s rice region tutored planters in growing the crop.” [cite book|author=Carney, Judith A.|year=2002|title=Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas| publisher= Harvard University Press|id=ISBN 0-674-00834-0] In the American South, whites once commonly referred to elderly black men as "uncle" even though they were not blood relatives. During the later 20th century, this was considered patronizing and demeaning and was widely deprecated. Moreover, during the 1940s, black peoplewere popularly associated with rice. In the later 1800s, African-Americans were often featured as company mascots for agricultural and other products in the United States. This kind of market branding has continued, though to a lesser extent, into the 21st century.
Uncle Ben’s products carry the image of an elderly
African-Americanman dressed in a bow tie, perhaps meant to imply a domestic servant in the Aunt Jemimatradition, or maybe a Chicago maitre d’hotel named Frank Brown. [Pilgrim, David. “ [http://www.ferris.edu/htmls/news/jimcrow/tom/ The Uncle Tom Caricature] ” " Jim CrowMuseum of Racist Memorabilia". Ferris State University. (December 2000)] [Kendrix, Moss H. [http://www.prmuseum.com/kendrix/trinity.html “The Advertiser’s Holy Trinity: Aunt Jemima, Rastus, and Uncle Ben”] "Moss H. Kendrix, A Retrospective". The Museum of Public Relations. (2006)] According to Mars, Uncle Ben was an African-American rice grower in Texasknown for the quality of his rice. Gordon L. Harwell, an entrepreneur who had supplied rice to the armed forces in World War II, chose the name "Uncle Ben’s" as a means to expand his marketing efforts to the general public. [Mars, Incorporated. [http://web.archive.org/web/20060427094526/http://www.unclebens.com/about.aspx “About Uncle Ben’s”] (2005, archived at the Internet Archiveon April 27, 2006)] The Mars company has not supplied any further biographical detail about the Uncle Ben persona.
Uncle Ben's promotion
After 61 years as a servant/ maitre d’hotel/ farmer, in March 2007 Uncle Ben's image was "promoted" to the "chairman of the board" by a new advertising campaign designed to distance the brand from its stereotyped iconography depicting a domestic servant.Elliott, Stuart. [http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/30/business/media/30adco.html?ex=1176782400&en=fac51117ccc2daa5&ei=5070 “Uncle Ben, Board Chairman”] "
New York Times". (March 30, 2007, retrieved April 16, 2007)] A visit to the company website revealed a set of impressive double doors and a plaque reading "Chairman." The doors open to reveal an upper-executive style office overlaid with a welcome message from Uncle Ben which begins, "Hello, I'm Uncle Ben." The name plate on the desk also reads "Chairman" and a portrait of the iconic marketing image hangs on the back wall. The boardroom is interactive, allowing visitors to click on sundry objects for additional information.
* [http://www.unclebens.com/ Official Web site of Uncle Ben's brand]
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