Trader Joe's Responds to Criticism Over Branding: 'We Disagree That Any of These Labels Are Racist'

"We thought then—and still do—that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures," read a recent company statement

Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's storefront.

Trader Joe’s has issued a new statement in response to the backlash over the labeling of some of their international food products.

Earlier in July, an online petition began circulating which called out the company's race-related food labels — including "Trader José," the grocery chain's label for its Mexican products and "Arabian Joe," for its Middle Eastern products — stating that the “branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures.”

“It presents 'Joe' as the default 'normal' and the other characters falling outside of it," the petition states.

Although a previous statement from a company spokesperson seemingly indicated that Trader Joe's would be changing the branding on some of its products, a new press release appeared to take a different stance.

“In light of recent feedback and attention we’ve received about our product naming, we have some things we’d like to say to clarify our approach,” read the company statement, which was dated July 24.

“A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to ‘remove racist packaging from [our] products.’ Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action,” the statement continued. “We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.”

The company statement went on to indicate that the branding of international products originated “decades ago” with the company’s “Buying Team.”

“We thought then—and still do—that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures,” the statement continued. “Recently we have heard from many customers reaffirming that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended­—as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing. We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.”

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The new statement is seemingly at odds with an earlier response from the company.

"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," spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel said in a previous statement obtained by ABC News.

"We have been in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe's, and we will continue to do so until we complete this important work,” the spokesperson added, noting that while there was no “exact date” the company “expect to have the work completed very soon.”

Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's. Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

In response to the updated statement, California high school senior Briones Bedell, who created the online petition, has called on the grocery chain to clarify what actions they will be taking.

“The latest statement is a departure from the company’s commitment to removing products that they have recognized have not been inclusive or conducive to creating a welcoming, rewarding customer experience,” Bedell wrote. “Further, this recent statement adds confusion as to how – and whether – Trader Joe’s will proceed with the repackaging of their ethnic foods.”

Trader Joe's did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for further comment.

In recent months, a number of other companies have moved to rebrand their food products amid global protests over systemic racism.

Quaker Oats previously announced that it was retiring its Aunt Jemima brand and logo, acknowledging that it was “based on a racial stereotype," with Mrs. Butterworth and Uncle Ben's sharing similar sentiments.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero ( which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies. works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement ( provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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