An online petition calling for Trader Joe's to retire its 'racist packaging' gained some traction over the weekend, garnering at least 2,400 signatures and prompting the grocery chain to remove certain labels from its "ethnic foods."
If you frequent Trader Joe's, you've probably seen "Trader Mings" on the Asian food, "Trader Giotti's" on the Italian food, "Trader Jose" on some Mexican food as well as "Arabian Joes" on some Middle Eastern food and so on. The petition, started by California high school senior & youth activist Briones Bedell, states that "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—they are 'Arabian Joe,' 'Trader José,' and 'Trader Joe San." The petition urges Trader Joe's to stop the practice of labeling "some of its ethnic foods with modifications of 'Joe' that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes."
While speaking with ABC News, Trader Joes says they were already in the process of updating their packaging and removing old labels, and if any were spotted in stores it was just the result of old packaging that hasn't been swapped out just yet.
"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, a spokesperson for Trader Joe's, said in a statement to the outlet.