Trader Joe’s will change the labeling of some of its international food items after a petition accused the company of using “racist branding” and perpetuating “harmful stereotypes.” The petition, which has raised over 3,440 signatures as of Tuesday morning (July 21), specifically calls out brand names “Trader Ming’s,” “Trader José’s,” “Arabian Joe,” “Trader Joe San” and “Trader Giotto’s,” which are used to label Chinese, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Japanese and Italian foods, respectively.
“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 — they are ‘Arabian Joe,’ ‘Trader José,’ and ‘Trader Joe San,’” the petition, launched by San Francisco teenager Briones Bedell, reads.
“The common thread between all of these transgressions is the perpetuation of exoticism, the goal of which is not to appreciate other cultures, but to further other and distance them from the perceived ‘normal.’”
Trader Joe’s responded to the petition on Monday (July 20) and said they are already in the process of replacing these labels.
“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,” company spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel said in a statement.
“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 continued, adding that all of the company’s items will have only the “Trader Joe’s” labeling “very soon.”
The news follows several companies’ decisions to retire bands and logos that have long been criticized for perpetuating racial stereotypes, such as Aunt Jemima’s and Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup and Uncle Ben’s rice. Some mascots and sporting teams have also followed suit in removing racist imagery and names, including the Washington Redskins.