Uncle Ben's is a brand name for parboiled rice and other related food products. The brand was introduced by Converted Rice Inc., which was later bought by Mars, Inc. 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.
In the 1910s, the German-British scientist and chemist Erich Huzenlaub (1888–1964) and the British scientist and chemist Francis Heron Rogers invented a form of parboiling designed to retain more of the nutrients in rice, now known as the Huzenlaub Process. The process entailed vacuum drying the whole grain, then steaming, and finally vacuum drying and husking. Besides increasing rice's nutritional value, it also made it resistant to weevils and reduced cooking time.
In 1932, Forrest Mars, Sr., moved to the United Kingdom with the goal of growing the Mars food company internationally. While in the United Kingdom, Mars learned of Erich Huzenlaub's work with rice. Huzenlaub's London based company was Rice Conversion, Ltd. The two eventually formed Mars and Huzenlaub in Houston, Texas, which gave Forrest Mars partial ownership of the Huzenlaub Process rice conversion patent. In 1942, through Mars's guidance and sponsorship, Huzenlaub created Rice Conversion, Inc. with a Houston food broker, Gordon L. Harwell, forming Converted Rice, Inc., which sold its entire output to the U.S. and British Armed Forces. The advantage of this product was that it could be air-dropped to troops in the field without risk of weevil infestation, and it could be cooked more quickly than other rice products. Additionally, the converted rice product would retain more nutritional value. In 1944, with additional financing from the Defense Plant Corporation and an investment by Forrest Mars, it built a second large plant. In 1959, Forrest Mars purchased Erich Huzenlaub's interest in the company and merged it into his Food Manufacturers, Inc..
Since 1946, Uncle Ben’s products have carried the image of an elderly African-American man dressed in a bow tie, said to have been a Chicago maître d’hôtel named Frank Brown. According to Mars, Uncle Ben was an African-American rice grower 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. "Uncle" was a common appellation used in the Southern United States to refer to older male Black slaves or servants.
In March 2007, Uncle Ben's image was "promoted" to the "chairman of the board" by a new advertising campaign.
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- Palmeri, Christopher. “Wake Up, Mars!” Forbes. (December 13, 1999)
- Birth Certificate of "Erich Gustav Wilhelm August Louis Huzenlaub" - http://bp0.blogger.com/_siCHlxAln1w/RhAf_n10spI/AAAAAAAAAXk/4gbkHhH3-ek/s1600/Erich+Huzenlaub+Birth+Ceritificate+Geburtsurkunde.jpg
- M.C. Kik and R.R. Williams, "The Nutritional Improvement of White Rice", Bulletin of the National Research Council 112 (June 1945) p. 61ff
- British Patents 519,926 (10 April 1940) and 522,353 (17 June 1940); U.S. Patents 2,239608 (22 April 1941), 2,287,737 (20 December 1941), 2,287,737 (23 June 1942), cited in Kik and Williams
- Mars company history http://www.mars.com/global/about-mars/history.aspx
- Rice Conversion, Ltd. Pamphlet http://bp2.blogger.com/_siCHlxAln1w/RhA7GH10swI/AAAAAAAAAYc/oz1ZYT10QDI/s1600/H.R.+Rice+Conversion+1940.jpg
- Mars and Huzenlaub Documents http://bp0.blogger.com/_siCHlxAln1w/Rg29CX10r7I/AAAAAAAAARg/wQdZ85Ay0J8/s1600/Mars+and+Huzenlaub+Envelope.jpg
- "Science: Richer Rice", Time, 28 June 1943 full text
- "Business & Finance: Rice for G.I.s", Time, 28 August 1944 full text
- Correspondence http://bp0.blogger.com/_siCHlxAln1w/Rg3ABX10r9I/AAAAAAAAARw/PRNOaZAgdyE/s1600/Forrest+Letter+to+Erich+28+Sep+1959.jpg
- Kendrix, Moss H. "The Advertiser's Holy Trinity: Aunt Jemima, Rastus, and Uncle Ben". Museum of Public Relations. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
- Mars, Incorporated. “About Uncle Ben’s” (2005, archived at the Internet Archiveon April 27, 2006)
- Elliott, Stuart. “Uncle Ben, Board Chairman” New York Times. (March 30, 2007, retrieved April 16, 2007)