Trader Joe’s Moves Away from ‘Racist’ Product Labeling
Trader Joe’s said it would change the labeling of food products that some consumers view as racist. The move follows an online petition drive calling for such changes and comes amid increasing pressure on brands to drop racist images.
Trader Joe’s told reporters that it had been working to update the offending 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 spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel told the Los Angeles Times.
The changes reportedly will apply to Chinese-, Mexican- and Italian-style products. An online petition targeted such Trader Joe’s items as "Trader Ming's," "Arabian Joe," and "Trader José" as among the main products that needed to change. According to the petition, "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 has almost 2,400 signatures as of Monday morning.
"Furthermore, the Trader Joe's company takes pride in the fact that the founder, Joe Coulombe, took inspiration in building the Trader Joe’s brand from a racist book and a controversial theme park attraction, both of which have received criticism for romanticizing Western Imperialism and fetishizing non-Western peoples," the petition continues.
The Trader Joe’s decision comes weeks after certain food brands announced they would drop other product labeling seen as racist. Those products include Aunt Jemima syrup and breakfast products and Uncle Ben rice.
The Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben branding — and there use of an illustration of a black woman and man, respectively, on labels — has long attracted controversy. Now, of course, protests are happening around the country in opposition to racial injustice, bringing quick change to many parts of society, not the least of which is the broader worlds of CPG branding and food retail.
Trader Joe’s is No. 28 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America.