Friday, March 30, 2007

Uncle Ben Promoted to the Board

by Andrew Clark in New York
Friday March 30, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The bow-tied black figure smiling from Uncle Ben's rice packets has been given an ethnically sensitive makeover by the brand's American owner, Mars, to reinvent the character as a fictional corporate chairman dispensing worldly wisdom.

A marketing campaign launched in the US today primarily refers to the character as "Ben", and discreetly changes his electric blue jacket into a sober business suit.

An interactive website of "Ben's office" provides tips on cooking rice gleaned from the character's travels as far afield as India, Australia and Turkey. A sample poster ad provides a gilt-framed portrait of the figure and asks: "How about some respect for the meat-and-rice man?"

The image is a departure from Uncle Ben's origin in 1943 as a mythical African-American rice farmer. For years, Mars has given the character little prominence, conscious of the racial sensitivity it shares with brands such as Aunt Jemima's pancake mix and Rastus cream of rice.

In a statement, Mars' Masterfood arm said its decision to focus attention on Uncle Ben followed research showing consumers felt a "positive emotional connection" with the name and the portrait, associating them with "quality, family, timelessness and warmth".

Vincent Howell, president of Masterfoods' food business unit, said: "Because consumers from all walks of life echoed many times through the years that Uncle Ben stood for values similar to their own, we decided to reinforce and build on that existing positive connection through the new campaign."

The makeover received a mixed reception. Luke Visconti, a partner at New Jersey media firm Diversity Inc, told the New York Times that Mars was glossing over years of baggage: "This is an interesting idea, but for me it still has a very high cringe factor."

Sold in more than 100 countries, the Uncle Ben's brand extends to cooking sauces and couscous. In Britain, it claimed a 40% share of the rice market last year with sales of £89m. A London-based spokeswoman said she knew of no plans to extend the makeover to the UK market.

The origins of Uncle Ben's lie partly in the work of a British scientist, EG Huzenlaub, who developed a parboiling technique to seal the nutritional properties of rice grains while extending their shelf life. In the 1940s, Mr Huzenlaub went into partnership with a Houston businessman, Gordon Harwell, to market long-life rice.

The face of Uncle Ben is, in reality, a picture of Frank Brown, the maitre d' at a Chicago restaurant frequented by the rice company's top executives before the war.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Huzenlaub Rice is Richer Rice - Time Magazine June 28, 1943

This June 28, 1943 edition of Time Magazine (cover photo of the edition is of Bernard Baruch), discusses "Huzenlaub Rice."

The article leaves out much detail, principally Forrest Mars, the man that made Huzenlaub's journey to America possible.

When Time references Huzenlaub as a German, note how they immediately state, "now a naturalized British citizen". This reference is made because the United States was at war with Germany at the time. The Time Magazine editor wanted to point out that Huzenlaub was a British citizen during the war.

At the time, Huzenlaub was new to America and his primary acquaintance was Forrest Mars. He was not schooled in the processes of marketing and public relations and was not concerned over who received credit for his work. Rather, he wanted to see the world eat more nutritiously and worked vigorously to make sure that the Huzenlaub Process delivered this goal. He could not have achieved this global reach without the support of Forrest Mars.

Time Magazine Archives

The milling of white rice has been a notoriously paradoxical operation: most of the food value is stripped off and thrown away before the grain is considered fit for human consumption. A new process has now been developed which avoids this wasteful procedure. Already supplying good, rich white rice to the U.S. armed forces, the process may revolutionize rice milling.

Its U.S. sponsor is a Houston food broker named Gordon L. Harwell. A born pot-watcher, Harwell used to sit up late nights with a pressure cooker and a potful of paddy (rice in the husk) trying to cook up an improvement on conventional milling methods. In orthodox rice milling, machines first remove the husk (containing vitamin Bi), then the germ and several coats of bran (rich in fat, minerals and vitamin B complex), finally give forth a polished white kernel which has lost most of the vitamins and minerals in the original rough grain. (The husks are burned; the bran fed to animals.)

Harwell wanted white rice and all the vitamins too. Brown rice (the stage before the bran and germ are removed) is both rich and edible, but it has never been as popular as white rice because it 1) looks less attractive and 2) keeps less well (the oil it contains becomes rancid). Harwell hunted for a process that would somehow transfer the valuable food elements from the outer coatings to the white kernel, but his pressure cooker experiments were failures.

Then one day a German biochemist named Erich Gustav Huzenlaub (now a naturalized British citizen) marched into Harwell's Houston office with the magic formula. Today, the Harwell plant at Houston produces 1,200 barrels of Huzenlaub Rice (called "converted rice") a day, all of it sold to the Army & Navy. In the new process the rough rice is soaked in warm water, undergoes a vacuum treatment, then is put under pressure which transfers the soluble vitamins and minerals from the husks and bran coatings to the kernel. Next a vacuum dryer seals the vitamins in the kernel; then the rice is husked and polished in the usual way.

Since rice is the world's No. 1 grain (in the number of people it feeds), the Huzenlaub Process may well prove to be one of the most important food discoveries in years. The U.S. rice-milling industry, still loath to accept it, has denied Harwell's firm membership in the Rice Millers' Association, claims that the new process is no better than several others by which milled rice is impregnated with vitamins. But millers in 36 countries around the world are now licensed to use the Huzenlaub Process. Only country turned down so far: Japan. - June 28, 1943

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Barron's Business Library

This passage from Barron's Business Library (click image to enlarge) uses Huzenlaub as an example when discussing multinational companies. While the brief mention does not completely portray the business relationship, the passage references other patents Huzenlaub licensed in other areas of the world. It also references the fact that Huzenlaub was German. He did however become a British citizen.

"It's In The Marketing"

Above Images:
The British version (top) and French version of the Uncle Ben's websites (found HERE and HERE) provide a more accurate portrayal of the genesis of Uncle Ben's "converted" rice. To better view the images, click either to enlarge. Erich Huzenlaub was born in Germany and eventually became a British citizen. It was in England that he worked with his friend and fellow scientist, Francis Rogers. It was also here that he met Forrest Mars. As Huzenlaub had become a British citizen and Uncle Ben's is an American company, the above marketing pitch is attractive to build a bridge between British customers and the American company. You also will see how they tie in France as part of the genesis to endear themselves to French consumers. This is understandable and it makes sense.

Bottom Image:
However, in the United States, the below story is told on the Uncle Ben's website. American audience, American story. No foreigners mentioned as to the true start of the company. While the first paragraph is accurate, the second is not entirely accurate. Compare the sites and see the difference. The company would be better suited to share a consistent message around the world as to the genesis of the great company that is Uncle Ben's. Click on the below image to enlarge or visit the site for yourself HERE.

Rice for G.I.'s - Time Magazine August 28, 1944

This 1944 issue of Time Magazine published in the heat of World War II features a cover with Major General Patch. "Huzenlaub Rice" was utilized by the military in feeding troops.


Time Magazine Archives

Next week Texas' Gordon L. Harwell and Forrest E. Mars (Mars Candy) will start building a new $750,000 plant at Houston, Tex., to process vitaminized, weevil-proof rice for G.l.s in the hot-weather zones overseas. Financed by Defense Plant Corp. and given a high priority by the War Production Board, the new plant will process 25 to 30 million Ibs. of rice per year for the Army.

Harwell and Mars are U.S. licensees for a rice-milling process developed by German Biochemist Erich Gustav Huzenlaub (now a naturalized British citizen), which forces the vitamins and minerals firmly into the heart of the rice. For the past year and a half, Harwell, who snapped up the Huzenlaub Process after others turned it down, has been struggling to fill Army orders from his original pilot plant. Anxious to get more "converted rice," the Army got behind Mars's and Harwell's plan for a new plant. Last week Harwell hurried aboard an airliner at Washington, Houston-bound with his high-priority certificate and a bundle of blueprints. The plant is scheduled to be completed by January 1, 1945.

To the Quartermaster's Office, the Huzenlaub product is important for two reasons :

1. The hot-weather lands of the South Pacific abound with broad-snouted weevils. The weevils ruin ordinary rice before the men get it. But the Quartermaster's Office can put Huzenlaub's "converted rice" into any kind of bag, ship it to New Guinea or Saipan and never worry about weevils because the milling process makes each grain so slick and hard the weevil can't make a dent in it. It can be stored indefinitely.

2. Water-soluble vitamins and minerals, which are lost to rice when the brown bran husk is removed in the usual commercial milling process, are largely retained in the Huzenlaub Process.

"Converted rice" costs the Army 80¢ per 100-lb. bag more than ordinary commercial rice (average price—$7.72 per 100 Ibs.). Harwell was granted the higher ceiling for his special type several months ago, over the opposition of other millers. But with the greater capacity and efficiency of the new plant he hopes the price will soon be lowered. The Army thinks the premium a small one to pay to give the G.I. relief from dehydrated vegetables. - August 28, 1944

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Manilla Chronicle - December 15, 1952

The Manila Chronicle

by Phillip Sexton
December 15, 1952

As we don't really need anyone to tell us, getting enough to eat is the major problem of the Far East, with the exception of the small, rice-growing areas of the Southeast Asia mainland. Among other things, the Philippine Republic needs a way not only to increase her own rice output, but also to get the most out of what she has. The NARIC which is this country's rice buyer, has been repeatedly rocked with very disconcerting scandals, and some of the rice stocks, for which such huge amounts were payed out in foreign currency, found to be infested. The nation sorely needs a radical departure from the present system of growing, administering and storing her cereal.

We have a man with us in the Philippines now who may be able to answer many pertinent questions for us. He has been here for over one year, I am told, and yet, I don't recall having read a single line about him anywhere, which seems to me as being a remarkable thing, under the circumstances. His name is Erich. G. Huzenlaub, the cereal technician who invented the "rice conversion process." The Reader's Digest once termed his process a "revolution in rice." The United States has had, for several years, one of the largest mills in the world, at Houston, Texas, given over entirely to the Huzenlaub Process. I have been amazed to find that the Research Director of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, announced that rice "conversion was "one of the most significant and scientific developments of World War II." Still, Huzenlaub has evidently led a very quiet existence in Manila, for an extended period of time.

I am not going into the scientific data of the process, but I do think that you would like to know just what the "conversion" accomplishes. After treatment, the rice has a high percentage of natural vitamins B-1 and B-2. It is immune to infestation, and can be stored for years, without becoming uneatable. The breakage (of rice) is considerably less than under the ordinary milling, and the quality is supposedly far better than other artificial systems such as "parboiled" and "enriched" rices.

The part that really struck me was the fact that "converted" rice can be stored indefinitely. After Huzenlaub invented his process, he designed a commercial demonstration in London, which operated for five months, in 1939. At this demonstration, he used some Thai palay, which was several years old, and broken into small, moldy bits.

The Thai minister watched the "conversion" himself, and then ordered his entire Embassy staff to live on the "converted" rice for one month. At the end of this experiment, the Thai minister announced that he had found the rice equivalent to fine five percent broken, Thai White Rice, and that if he himself had not actually watched the original, old palay being "converted," he would never believe that such a thing was possible.

Huzenlaub was the one who built the huge plant in Texas, and trained the personnel for its operation. A year after it was producing, the U.S. Defense Plant Corporation granted it a loan for about $800,000 which boosted its capacity to around 50,000 metric tons. At the same time, the U.S. Office of Price Administration classified this "converted" rice as "essential for the war effort."

It appears that Huzenlaub wants permission to build a "conversion" plant and mill in the Philippines. He says that he can get it financed by American capital, and all that he would like to do is show the country that his process is a major solution to the rice problem here. It seems to me that he has the facts and figures to back himself up. What is more, he is able to point his plants in highly successful operation elsewhere in the world.

A technician of Huzenlaub's apparent talents deserves thorough hearing in the Philippines. If he can unquestionably confirm the information that has been passed on to me, there is no telling how profoundly the rice picture here might be effected. Let's get onto it. Heaven knows there is nothing to lose.

Copyright 1952. The Manila Chronicle. Philippines.