The petition argues that a handful of products with variations of the name Trader Joe's — including "Trader José" and "Trader Ming's" — inflict harmful stereotypes

By Nicholas Rice
July 20, 2020 09:25 AM
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Trader Joe's is making a change.

The popular food market chain recently announced that they will be altering the labels on some of their international food products after an online petition called out the grocery company’s branding as "racist."

Created by California high school senior Briones Bedell, the petition states that some of the company's race-related food labels "belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes," including "Trader José," the grocery chain's label for its Mexican products, "Arabian Joe," for its Middle Eastern products and "Trader Ming's," for its Chinese products, among others.

"The Trader Joe's 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.

Trader Joe's responded to the Change.org petition, acknowledging that the naming of their ethnic food products "may now have the opposite effect" of their original intent.

"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," Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for Trader Joe's, said in a 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."

Friend-Daniel added, "At this time, I don’t have an exact date but we expect to have the work completed very soon. 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."

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Bedell responded to the company's statement on Sunday in a petition update, calling on Trader Joe's to "commit to a date in which the packaging changes will be completed."

She added: "If a date cannot be established, we ask that Trader Joe’s immediately remove all products that the company recognizes have not been inclusive and have not cultivated a welcoming, rewarding customer experience."

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The move by Trader Joe's comes about after a slew of other companies are looking to rebrand their food products amid the global protests over racial inequality, sparked by the killing of George Floyd back in May.

Quaker Oats previously announced that it was retiring its Aunt Jemima brand and logo, acknowledging that it was “based on a racial stereotype," while food brands such as Mrs. Butterworth and Uncle Ben's also followed suit.

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

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.