MONROVIA, CALIF. - After an online petition demanding that Trader Joe’s remove some of the branding associated with its ethnic foods because of racist connotations gained nearly 3,500 signatures, the retailer announced it is working to remove the branding.
“We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores,” wrote the author of the online petition, Briones Bedell. “The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. For example, ‘Trader Ming’s’ is used to brand the chain’s Chinese food, ‘Arabian Joe’ brands Middle Eastern foods, ‘Trader José’ brands Mexican foods, ‘Trader Giotto’s’ is for Italian food, and ‘Trader Joe San’ brands their Japanese cuisine.”
The company said that it has been in the process of rebranding all of its products under the ‘Trader Joe’s’ name, but there are still a number of products like some of the ones noted in the petition that are still in the process of going through a packaging and branding redesign.
“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,” said Kenya Friend-Daniel, the national director of public relations for Trader Joe’s.
Friend-Daniel didn’t say when the rebrand would be completed, but that the company is in the process and the old branding will be removed soon.
Trader Joe’s is not the first company to come under scrutiny for what critics have labeled as racially insensitive branding after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer triggered months of ongoing national protests calling out systemic racism in the United States. In June, Quaker Oats announced a rebrand of its Aunt Jemima products and Mars Food announced the rebrand of its Uncle Ben’s Rice.