The company's use of names like "Trader Jose," "Ming," and "Giotto" have been labeled racist.
An online petition has called for Trader Joe's to change their packaging due to the problematic nature of their international food packaging.
Briones Bedell, a high school senior, spearheaded the project on Change.org that's garnered almost 2,800 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 states.
Anyone who's shopped at Trader Joe's is familiar with the labeling of their products—Ethnic foods are affixed with cultural equivalents of the name Joe. For example, Italian pasta is labeled as "Trader Giotto," Mexican items are "Trader Jose," and Chinese-inspired condiments are "Trader Ming." While this can be seen as an extension of the chain's quirky branding, it can easily tread into the discriminatory.
"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 continues.
Courtesy of Trader Joe's
The California-based chain is among the latest to be held accountable for racial bias. Brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are revamping their product imagery to adapt to the current times, while Washington's NFL team is drafting a new name after years of public pressure.
Since the petition kicked off two weeks ago, Trader Joe's has responded to the requests and will be phasing out the previous packaging. The decision was confirmed in a statement on ABC News by company spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel:
"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."
The company has not confirmed a specific date for completing the swap, though Friend-Daniel says many of the items are ready for the shelves.
What do you think of Trader Joe's plans to change their packaging? Let's hear your thoughts in the comments!