Uncle Ben is a brand name for parboiled (“converted”) rice and 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 States from 1950 until the 1990s.
Uncle Ben’s products carry the image of an elderly African-American man dressed in a bow tie, perhaps meant to imply a domestic servant in the Aunt Jemima tradition, or maybe a Chicago maitre d’hotel named Frank Brown. According to Mars, Uncle Ben was an African-American rice grower in Texas known 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. The Mars company has not supplied any further biographical detail about the Uncle Ben persona.
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