Here's Why Trader Joe's is Renaming Some of Your Favorite Products
In response to an online petition, the company made a statement that names like Trader Ming’s and Trader Giotto’s are being phased out.
Update (August 7, 2020): Trader Joe’s recently issued a statement clarifying that the products in question are not being rebranded in direct response to the petition. Read the retailer’s full statement here.
Trader Joe’s is rebranding and repackaging some of its international products in response to criticism that the products’ original branding and packaging perpetuates racial stereotypes.
“We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores,” reads an online petition that has gathered thousands of signatures. “The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”
The petition specifically calls out Trader Ming’s, Arabian Joe, Trader José, Trader Giotto’s and Trader Joe San, for the chain’s products drawn from Chinese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Italian and Japanese cuisine, respectively.
“The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures,” by presenting “‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it,” contends the petition, which also alleges that the inspiration for Trader Joe’s umbrella brand is similarly problematic because it glorifies “the horrific legacy of trading companies as they exploited and enslaved the South Pacific in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”
While Trader Joe’s has not responded to those broader allegations, it has put out a statement recognizing the detrimental effect of the product names and mentioning that a phaseout had already been underway.
“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, national director of public relations for Trader Joe’s, told SF Gate.
“With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe's name on our products moving forward. Since then, we have been in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe's, and we will continue do so until we complete this important work.”
Friend-Daniel said that, while the rebranding effort was currently a work in progress and a completion date had not yet been determined, many products had already been revamped. There are, she noted, “a small number of products in which the packaging is still going through the process.”