Trader Joe’s will remove ethnic brand names like ‘Trader Ming’s and ‘Trader Jose’s’ form its shelves after an online petition blasted the products as racist.
The petition was first launched in early July and has amassed more than 2,300 out of the 2,500 desire signatures.
‘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,’ spokeswoman Kenya Friends-Daniel told The New York Post.
The California-based grocer had at least six brands that used popular or common names from various other countries to sell products.
It sees Chinese products branded as ‘Trader Ming’s’, Italian options named ‘Trader Giotto’s’ and those based on Mexican cuisine were called ‘Trader José’s’.
Trader Joe’s revealed on Monday that it would remove all ethnic branding from its stores after an online petition called them racist
Food products that were regarded as Italian used the branding ‘Trader Giotto’s’
Baker Josef and Trader Ming’s are among the other labels causing outrage
Other variants include ‘Arabian Joe’ on Middle Eastern food, ‘Trader Joe San’ on Japanese cuisine and ‘Thai Joe.’
The petition has slammed the practice and demands that the company ‘remove racist branding and packaging from its stores’.
‘The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,’ it states.
‘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 continues.
‘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 José has been used on products that are imported from Mexico
Trader Joe San was used on Japanese products. The company has said it is working to replace the packaging and that the practice was stopped on new products several years ago
Briones Bedell, the 17-year-old who started the petition, told The New York Times that Trader Joe’s racism happened because they ‘exoticize[d]’ other cultures.
‘They’re racist because they exoticize other cultures, present ‘Joe’ as this default normal, and then the other characters — such as Thai Joe, Trader José, Trader Joe San — falling outside of it,’ she said.
Bedell, a high school senior and human rights activist, added that there are still several packages at her local San Francisco Trader Joe’s that display the controversial packaging.
‘There’s an abundance of products in their stores, and I think it’s still important — the petition remains important — because Trader Joe’s lacks the urgency needed in the current climate to remedy the issue,’ she said.
It takes further issues with the chain’s branding and design of it stores which it states was developed from ‘a racist book and a controversial theme park attraction’.
It says that both of the inspirations for the chain’s design ‘have received criticism for romanticizing Western Imperialism and fetishizing non-Western peoples’.
An online petition is calling on grocery store chain Trader Joe’s to change the packaging and branding on some of its products amid claims it encourages racist stereotypes such as Trader Ming’s on Chinese products and Trader Giotto’s on Italian products
According to the company’s website, founder Joe Coulombe had been reading a book called White Shadows in the South Seas and had recently been to the Disneyland Jungle Trip ride when he come up with the design concept for Trader Joe’s.
‘The book White Shadows in the South Seas is racist because it perpetuates the myth of the ‘white god’ and the ‘noble savage’ stereotypes,’ the petition claims.
‘It becomes even more racist in context because the founder of Trader Joe’s said that he was inspired by this book in some way when creating his company, a book which shows traders’ exotification of non-Western peoples turned into violent exploitation and destruction.’
It adds that the Disney ride is also racist because ‘it displays caricatures of non-Western peoples alongside exotic animals, as an attraction at a theme park to be gawked at’.
The petition also claims that Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe, pictured in 1985, drew his inspiration for the stores from two racist sources
Trader Joe’s initially responded to the criticism by acknowledging that the packaging needs to be changed, claiming that the company had made the decision to stop the practice for new products years ago but is still in the process of removing it from older packaging.
‘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, told the San Francisco 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.’
This is not the first time that Trader Joe’s packaging has been accused of being racist and inauthentic.
‘As is often the case in American workplaces, classrooms, and other environments, ethnic names are something to be mocked or not taken as seriously compared with their Anglophone counterparts,’ a scathing review from Nylon said last year.
In 2019, an article from food website The Kitchn slammed the company for only branding products as ‘authentic’ cuisine if they had their origins outside of Europe.
Indian and Mexican dishes were branded as ‘authentic’ but European foods were not, it found.
‘By marketing certain foods as ‘authentic,’ Trader Joe’s is subtly supporting racist and colonial hierarchies — which no one wants to see from ‘your neighborhood grocery store’,’ it added.
The petition comes as nationwide anti-racism protests in the wake George Floyd’s killing in police custody on May 25 sparked a wave of calls for racist names and branding to be changed.
Last week, the Washington NFL franchise announced that it will drop the ‘Redskins’ name and logo immediately, bowing to decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.
The owner of Eskimo Pie said late last month that it is changing its name and marketing of the nearly century-old chocolate-covered ice cream bar.
Quaker Oats announced earlier last month that it will retire the Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognizes the character´s origins are ‘based on a racial stereotype’.
Other companies are reviewing their name or logo.
B&G Foods Inc., which makes Cream of Wheat hot cereal, said last month it’s initiating an ‘immediate review’ of its packaging.
A smiling Black chef holding a bowl of cereal has appeared on Cream of Wheat packaging and in ads since at least 1918, according to the company´s website.