Trader Joe's Says They'll Change International Branding After Petition Calls It 'Racist'

Trader Joes says they'll be changing the packaging for some of their products, with that announcement coming after a petition called the packaging 'racist.'

Trader Joe's

Image via Getty/Johnny Louis

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's has publicly announced that they'll be coming up with new branding for some of their international food products, with those products featuring attempts at international variations on Trader Joe's name. If you're wondering why the company found it necessary to make this announcement at this time, it's because a petition made headlines (despite thus far only acquiring a relatively small amount of signatures for a petition that makes headlines) that was calling for them to do just that. 

As of this writing, the petition has generated just over 2,870 virtual signatures. It had around 840 signatures when it began getting coverage from national outlets over the weekend.

In addition to calling out the origins of the company (read here to get what that means) the petition also takes umbrage with the shop's aforementioned branding/packaging. 

"The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes," it argues. "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."

In response Trader Joe's says that they had already begun a lengthy process of switching up their branding, which they claim they were doing prior to the petition. That said, the petition led to them publicly stating that. They further say that this effort will be completed "very soon." No more specific date was given.

"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 company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel, according to CBS News.

Friend-Daniel also sent out a statement to USA TODAY in which it was said that:

"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."

These responses were not satisfactory to the petition's original writer, Briones Bedell, who said in response that the grocery chain should pull the products "immediately" if a date couldn't be committed to.

"We appreciate Trader Joe’s attention to these matters and ask that Trader Joe’s commit to a date in which the packaging changes will be completed," Bedell said in a petition update. "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." 

The New York Times writes that Bedell is a 17-year-old senior from California.

Last month, Quaker Oats made the decision to reboot Aunt Jemima pancakes/syrup after they said that "Aunt Jemima's origins are based on a racial stereotype." Other food companies finding themselves in a similar bind (and who have stated publicly they'll review their packaging) include Mrs. Butterworth's syrup, Uncle Ben's rice, and Cream of Wheat. 

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