Trader Joe’s to Get Rid of “Racist” Ethnic Food Branding

The company will retire the Trader José's and Trader Ming's names after a petition called for change

Customers wearing face masks enter a Trader Joe's store on July 16, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Some major U.S. corporations are requiring masks to be worn in their stores upon entering to control the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images)
Customers wearing face masks enter a Trader Joe's store on July 16, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Some major U.S. corporations are requiring masks to be worn in their stores upon entering to control the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images)
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By Bonnie Stiernberg / July 20, 2020 10:01 am

After a petition claiming that it exploits “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes” collected more than 2,000 signatures, Trader Joe’s has announced that it will stop using ethnic-sounding names on its products.

The packaging in question includes the “Trader Ming’s” name for foods and products related to Chinese cuisine, the “Trader José’s” brand for Mexican items, and “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods and sauces.

“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, which was started by a Bay Area high-school student named Briones Bedell, says.

The company said in a statement that it actually decided years ago to switch to using the “Trader Joe’s” name on all products, and it is currently in the process of updating all of its labels, although it did not provide a timetable for when it expects the change to be complete.

“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 said.

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