Ben’s Original Rice – New Packaging Removes Racial Stereotyping

Packaging Design and Racial Stereotyping


How important is packaging design and branding as part of your marketing mix? Can your packaging design negatively affect consumer sentiment towards your brand?

The answer to the above questions is a resounding yes. The evidence for this is borne out by the many brands worldwide that have been forced to change their packaging amid growing pressure to remove racist imagery.

An article by Kelly Tyko on the USA Today (EU) website discusses the many brands that have changed their packaging design in response to consumer pressure.

The article discussed one of the most high-profile of these brands – the Uncle Ben’s rice brand. The brand, which is owned by Mars announced ” we listened, we learnt, we’re changing” and new packaging was rolled out in May 2021. The new packaging retains all the previous brand colours but the image of the African-American man has been removed and the brand name has changed to Ben’s Original.

Other Brands Replace Racist Imagery in their Packaging Design

Many other brands have had to do the same. The Aunt Jemima brand from Quaker Oats have renamed the brand as the “Pearl Milling Company”. This brand, which is owned by PepsiCo, made this announcement 2 days after a Tik-Tok video entitled “How to make a non-racist breakfast” went viral. In the video, a young woman criticizes the racist origins of Aunt Jemima.

Other brands such as Mrs Butterworths, Land O’Lakes and Cream of Wheat (B & G Foods) have made similar changes to their packaging branding.

World Events Can Affect your Brand, Packaging and your Marketing

The fact that huge brands such as Mars and PepsiCo have been pressured by consumers to change their branding and packaging after the death of George Floyd and the global #blacklivesmatter movement is a salutatory lesson in why brands need attend to basic marketing, such as a regular SWOT analysis and evaluate the ethics of their current branding and packaging.

A regular SWOT analysis means your business regularly evaluate the opportunities and threats in the environment in which you operate and decide if you need to adapt any part of the strategy, such as branding and packaging before customer sentiment turns against your brand. An ethical evaluation of a brands’ packaging can help a brand to see if their branding contains, among other things racial or gender stereotyping.

You can read the full article here.