Trader Joe’s Disagrees That Any Of Their Product Names Is Racist
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Trader Joe’s is an American chain of grocery stores headquartered in Monrovia, California. In 1977, the company began introducing international-sounding variants of its brand for some of its private label ethnic food items, such as “Trader José,” “Trader Joe San,” and “Trader Giotto” for Mexican, Japanese, and Italian products. The company also referenced other cultures with branding like “Trader Mings,” “Arabian Joe’s,” and “Pilgrim Joe” for Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Thanksgiving-themed American products. In July 2020, following the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing nation-wide protests, an online petition signed by 5300 people asked the company to rename these products, criticized their labeling as “racist” and accused the company of promoting “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”
The company reacted by stating that it was already in the process of reverting a number of international foods back to Trader Joe’s branding (e.g., “Arabian Joe’s” and “Armenian Joe’s”), stressing that this decision had already been made several years earlier. Trader Joe’s later clarified that the other branding referenced in the petition will remain, stating: “We disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions,” and “Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate those products with name variations that remain in our stores… If we find certain product names and-or products are not resonating with customers, we won’t hesitate to make changes.” The company asserted that the branding is a lighthearted attempt with the purpose to “be fun and show appreciation for other cultures.” The petition itself has been criticized on social media for promoting cancel culture and for “wasting” attention on “trivial matters.”
Trader Joe’s Note To Customer About Their Product Naming, in italics, below:
To Our Valued Customers:
In light of recent feedback and attention we’ve received about our product naming, we have some things we’d like to say to clarify our approach.
A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to “remove racist packaging from [our] products.” Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action. We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions.
We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members. If we feel there is need for change, we do not hesitate to take action.
Decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader José’s, Trader Ming’s, etc. We thought then—and still do—that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures. For example, we named our Mexican beer “Trader José Premium” and a couple guacamole products are called “Avocado’s Number” in a kitschy reference to a mathematical theory. These products have been really popular with our customers, including some budding mathematicians.
We constantly reevaluate what we are doing to ensure it makes sense for our business and aligns with customers’ expectations. A couple years ago we asked our Buying Team to review all our products to see if we needed to update any older packages, and also see if the associated brands developed years ago needed to be refreshed. We found that some of the older names or products just weren’t connecting or selling very well; so, they were discontinued. It’s kind of what we do.
Recently we have heard from many customers reaffirming that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended—as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing. We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.
Trader Joe’s has been a unique, fun and neighborly place to shop for over 50 years. We look forward to taking care of our wonderful customers for many future decades.
– Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s says it’s almost done renaming its international foods, after getting complaints that the labeling on some of the foods are racist, in the video “Trader Joe’s renames ‘racist’ packaging“, below:
Trader Joe’s has said it will take action following outrage about its product labels that included names like “Trader Ming’s,” “Trader Jose” and “Arabian Joe.” Brittney Hopper reports, in the video “Customers React To Trader Joe’s Controversy Over ‘Racist’ Product Labels“, below:
An online petition alleges that the branding is racist and demanded it be changed. And while it originally seemed like the company was going to take action in response to the calls for change, the company has released a new statement that it would stay the course, in the video “Trader Joe’s Refuses To Change Product Names Over Online Petition“, below:
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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