The Uncle Ben's® Story
The origins of Uncle Ben's
The makers of Uncle Ben's have a long, rich history of producing premium quality rice. It all began with the development of the original Converted® brand rice by Eric Huzenlaub and Gordon Harwell. But it wasn't until 1942, when Forrest E. Mars formed a partnership with the duo, that the pilot plant to produce Converted brand rice launched. This plant exclusively supplied its high quality rice to the Armed Forces during World War II. In 1945, at the end of WWII, Mars & Huzenlaub opened the Houston rice mill in the USA.
So... where did the Uncle Ben's name originate? The story goes that in the late 1940's, Gordon Harwell, the first president of Converted Rice, Inc. (the predecessor of Uncle Ben's, Inc.) and his partner were having dinner in their favourite Chicago restaurant. As they were discussing marketing strategy, to bring their high quality rice to new customers, the connection to Uncle Ben's quality arose in conversation. Uncle Ben was an African American Texan rice farmer known far and wide for producing high-quality premium rice. Right there and then, they christened their product Uncle Ben's Converted Brand Rice.
The face appearing on all Uncle Ben's packaging is actually that of Frank Brown. Frank was a maitre d' hotel at a Chicago restaurant and agreed to pose for the Uncle Ben's portrait.
Today Uncle Ben's rice is sold in over 100 countries.
History of the Uncle Ben's® Brand
During World War II, the original Converted brand rice was supplied to the US Army.
A marketing campaign commenced in 1945 to educate US consumers about the benefits or original Converted rice.
Converted rice officially launched as Uncle Ben's® Converted Brand Rice in 1947.
The Uncle Ben's® brand became the #1 rice brand in the US by 1952.
The company changed its name from"Converted Rice Inc" to "Uncle Ben's Inc." in 1959, when Forrest Mars became sole owner of the business.
The Uncle Ben's® brand brought more exotic rice varieties to the market and taught consumers how to use them. Exciting new products such as Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice Original Recipe were launched.
In 1966, Uncle Ben's rice was launched in the UK.
Uncle Ben's® moved into brown rice varieties.
By 1974, annual sales of Uncle Ben's rice had reached the 100 million milestone.
In 1977, Uncle Ben's rice was produced in Europe for the first time in Olen, Belguim.
By 1981, sales of Uncle Ben's® rice had doubled to $200 million.
Innovation was characterised by the drive for taste and convenience. Benchmark ranges, such as Uncle Ben's Country Inn and Uncle Ben's Boil in the Bag were introduced.
Innovation remained a key focus for the company. In 1994, Uncle Ben's® Soups and Rice Puddings were introduced.
In 1998, Uncle Ben's Flavoured Rice was added to the range.
Uncle Ben's Express microwaveable rice first launched in the UK in 1999.
In 2000, Uncle Ben's® Frozen Bowls launched.
Uncle Ben's Rice, headlined by the Express microwaveable range is launched in Australia in 2007.
By 2009, 13 delicious Uncle Ben's Express variants are available for purchase in Australia.
The Uncle Ben’s® range continues to expand across Australian supermarkets as consumers realise the convenience and ease of using microwave rice. Focusing on health, a new range of Flavoured Brown Rice products is launched carrying the Heart Tick of Approval. Uncle Ben’s is the only brand in Australia to carry the Heart Tick of Approval within the microwave rice category.