Trader Joe’s has responded to a petition that accuses the grocery store chain of engaging in “racist branding.”
Earlier this month, California high school senior Briones Bedell created a Change.org petition demanding that the grocer “remove racist packaging from [its] products.”
In particular, Bedell cites a number of international food items that are carried under names such as “Trader Ming’s,” “Trader José’s,” and “Trader Giotto’s” — which appear to be ethnic variations of the “Trader Joe’s” name.
“We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores. The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” Bedell wrote.
“The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it — they are ‘Arabian Joe,’ ‘Trader José,’ and ‘Trader Joe San,’” Bedell continued.
In a statement obtained by The New York Times on Sunday, Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for Trader Joe’s, revealed that the company had previously decided to get rid of these labels and to rebrand its international foods with the Trader Joe’s name.
“While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect — one that is contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day,” she said. “With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward.”
However, the company does not have an exact date on when these changes will be fully implemented.
“Packaging for a number of the products has already been changed, but there’s a small number of products in which the packaging is still going through the process,” Friend-Daniel added.
Despite this statement, Bedell told The New York Times that “the branding remains on shelves and unaddressed” at her local Trader Joe’s in the San Francisco Bay area.
“There’s an abundance of products in their stores, and I think it’s still important — the petition remains important — because Trader Joe’s lacks the urgency needed in the current climate to remedy the issue,” Bedell said.
As of this writing, over 2,700 people have signed Bedell’s petition.