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  • About UNCLE BEN’S® Rice History

    An inside look at the rich history and health benefits of rice and grains.

    About us

    We believe in the power of shared meals. For more than 70 years, the UNCLE BEN’S® Brand has been helping families cook together by providing meal solutions that are easy, convenient and above all, tasty. And, we know that when you begin with rice, you end up with a better-for-you meal* because rice attracts colorful vegetables, savory spices, and leaner cuts of meat.

    The UNCLE BEN’S® Brand, the number one rice brand in the world, is proud to offer a wide range of rice dishes with flavors and textures that will help bring more to your meals, both for savory main courses and convenient side dishes. We make a variety of white, whole grain brown, and flavored rice in cook times ranging from 90 seconds to 30 minutes, as well as rice for food service operations such as restaurants, schools and hospitals. The UNCLE BEN’S® Brand products are manufactured by Mars Food, part of Mars, Incorporated, and can be found around the world.

    *Evaluation of Impact of Rice Consumption, An Analysis of the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2004.

    Our History

    The UNCLE BEN'S® Brand is all about

    rice. So we like to think our history

    goes back to the very beginning, when

    this small grain became something big

    in the development of civilization.

    • Pre-1900
    • 1930s
    • 1940s
    • 1950s
    • 1960s
    • 1970s
    • 1980s
    • 1990s
    • 2000s

    Intro

    The UNCLE BEN'S® Brand is all about rice. So we like to think our history goes back to the very beginning, when this small grain became something big in the development of civilization.

    Get Started
     

    pre-1900s

    • 1000 A.D.

      African traders had already discovered rice in India and Indonesia. By 1000 A.D., rice had made its way to the African continent. If they had frequent-flyer miles back then, this tiny grain would've been racking them up!

    • 1250 A.D.

      The word “rice” first appears in the English language. It is believed to be a derivation of “ris” (Old French), which, in turn, may also be a derivation of “riso” (Italian) and “oriza” (Latin). But no matter what it was called when and where, rice always meant good eating.

    • 1694 A.D.

      Could this be the year rice made its way to the early American colonies? Could be. According to an old story, a storm-damaged ship paid for repairs at Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, with rice seeds.

    1930s

    • 1930s

      Rice pioneers in London and Texas develop new ways of making white rice more nutritious—the PARBOILING process. This was the birth of CONVERTED RICE—a modern advance on an ancient food. This was the beginning of a new healthy eating movement.

    1940s

    • 1942

      Forrest E. Mars acquired the rights for easy-to-cook parboiled rice in 1942. This became the ORIGINAL CONVERTED® Brand Rice that changed the way people cooked and served rice. CONVERTED® Brand Rice became a staple of many soldiers' diets during WWII.

      What is PARBOILING? This is a Steam Sealing process in which the rice is PARtially BOILed in water. Our parboiling process drives vitamins and minerals into the kernel of the rice, resulting in a recapture of over 80% of the natural nutrients of the whole grain. Our patented Steam Sealing process was unique to UNCLE BEN'S, an innovation that set us apart from other types of rice that were on the market at the time.

    • 1945

      We begin using photoelectric grading to guarantee that only the most superior rice makes it into every box of CONVERTED® Brand Rice.

    • 1946

      The brand name UNCLE BEN'S® is first used. But who is Uncle Ben? Actually, he was two people! The name comes from a black Texan farmer—known as Uncle Ben—who grew rice so well, people compared CONVERTED® Brand Rice to his standard of excellence. The proud and dignified gentleman on our boxes, who has come to personify the brand, was a beloved Chicago chef and waiter named Frank Brown.

      This marks the first time a raw commodity was given a brand name: UNCLE BEN'S® ORIGINAL CONVERTED® Brand Rice

    • 1947

      UNCLE BEN'S® ORIGINAL CONVERTED® Brand Rice hits the grocery store shelf and is available to consumers for the first time. At last, rice lovers can buy rice that “Cooks up white and fluffy without steaming. No pot washing. Easier to prepare—perfect result every time.”

    • 1948

      As a rice lover, you know that rice can be wonderful. And in 1948 we spread the word near and far with our Rice Can Be Wonderful recipe book.

    1950s

    • 1950

      How does UNCLE BEN'S® CONVERTED® RICE help grow healthier bodies? Learn the secret in this vintage commercial from 1950.

    • 1952

      In six short years, UNCLE BEN'S® ORIGINAL CONVERTED® Brand Rice became the #1 packaged long grain rice in the United States. Today, more than 60 years later, it has the largest share among branded rice in the United States and it's the #1 rice brand in the world.

    • 1956

      We were so confident our rice would be fluffy every time, we proudly put it in writing with a guarantee. We touted the fact that our rice would even remain fluffy in the refrigerator. And that's not fluff!

    1960s

    • 1961

      Drum roll, please! UNCLE BEN'S® Long Grain & Wild Rice Original Recipe was introduced. Clearly, this is a big year for rice lovers, because you can never have too much of a good thing.

    • 1964

      The Beatles make their historic American TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. As teenage girls sit in the living room glued to the TV, their moms were in the kitchen discovering our tasty new varieties, including Curried and Spanish rice.

    1970s

    • 1971

      File a missing persons report! The image of Uncle Ben is removed from packages. But you can't keep a classic icon down: The image takes its rightful place on our packages again in 1983.

    • 1972

      Another great year for rice lovers: UNCLE BEN'S® Select Brown Rice was introduced.

    • 1977

      We open a state-of-the-art plant in beautiful Greenville, Mississippi.

    1980s

    • 1987

      Always looking for great new flavors and varieties to please rice lovers around the world, the UNCLE BEN'S® Brand introduced special flavor varieties and the COUNTRY INN® Rice product line.

    • 1988

      The trend toward convenience takes an innovative turn when we introduce the Boil-In-Bag line.

    1990s

    • 1990

      As the trend toward healthier diets gained speed, the UNCLE BEN'S® Brand acquired the largest market share of branded rice in the United States. Health-conscious consumers realize what our ancestors have understood for thousands of years: Rice plays an important role in eating well.

    • 1998

      Whoever said rice isn't sexy, never saw our 1998 TV campaign “Passion Lessons.” These commercials really turned up the heat on rice by inviting viewers to “Stir up some passion with UNCLE BEN'S®.”

    2000s

    • 2003

      Imagine a world without lunch. We brought that vision to life in an attention-getting commercial that spotlighted our UNCLE BEN'S® Brand product line.

    • 2004

      For those who simply couldn't wait to enjoy a meal with rice, we introduced READY RICE® pouches, which microwave to perfection in just 90 seconds. This was a major innovation in making delicious rice easier and more convenient. To spread the word about our pioneering product launch, we developed a fun and attention-getting ad campaign.

    • 2005

      One holiday classic (UNCLE BEN'S® Long Grain & Wild Rice) deserves another (Norman Rockwell's iconic Thanksgiving image).

    • 2007

      Does Uncle Ben have a sense of humor? These make-you-smile print ads from 2007 give you the answer better than anything we can say here.

    • 2008

      With this bold out-of-home ad for READY RICE®, the UNCLE BEN'S® Brand proved it has street smarts. Bet lots of people on that street had rice with their meals when this in-your-face ad was up.

    • 2009

      For those who were looking for healthier rice options at dinner, the UNCLE BEN'S® Brand introduced UNCLE BEN'S® Boil-In-Bag Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice.

    • 2011

      UNCLE BEN'S® READY CUPS were introduced to help a fast-moving world eat better in less time. These convenient cups of rice-y deliciousness cook quickly and are great as side dishes, snacks, and recipe ingredients. Varieties included Brown, White, Chicken, and Vegetable.

    • 2012

      We launched Ben's Beginners, a program designed to encourage families to spend quality time cooking meals together. When kids learn how to cook, they develop healthier eating habits. The Ben's Beginners Cooking Contest drew more than 700 video submissions and received heavy community support by way of votes. This showed the power of cooking together and how UNCLE BEN’S® brings families & communities together.

      UNCLE BEN’S® Basmati and Jasmine rice varieties made their debut. Our aromatic basmati rice brings a touch of India to dinner tables across America. And our jasmine rice lets families make the same type of rice that’s served in their favorite Southeast Asian restaurants.

    • 2013

      We kicked off the second Ben's Beginners Cooking Contest by setting a world record for the most parents and kids cooking together! Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson joined families in New York City to make this a truly inspirational and exciting event.

    • 2014

      We launched Flavored Grains, UNCLE BEN’S® flavored specialty rice & grains portfolio. These six tasty varieties included unique blends of grains, such as quinoa, couscous, orzo, basmati rice, whole-grain red rice & wild rice, combined with delicious flavors. Our Flavored Grains make it easy for families to change up their dinner routine by adding new grains and flavors to their everyday meals.

      Year three of the Ben's Beginners Cooking Contest drew hundreds of video submissions from families across America.

    • 2015

      Our facility in Greenville, Mississippi became the first in the state to achieve Zero Waste to Landfill status! We are proud that all of our 126 Mars, Incorporated manufacturing facilities around the world send zero waste to landfills, bringing us closer to achieving our Sustainable in a Generation (SiG) goal.

      The UNCLE BEN’S® food truck hit the road to promote healthier meals! Our orange truck toured the country, stopping at schools and shopping centers to educate the community about the importance of rice in their healthy meals, and to spread the word about the BEN'S BEGINNERS™ movement. The crew served freshly prepared rice dishes and handed out coupons and recipes to thousands across the nation!

      The BEN'S BEGINNERS™ Cooking Contest returned for the fourth year of encouraging families to connect in the kitchen. Once again, the cooking contest received many inspirational cooking videos from young chefs and their families across the country.