Trader Joe’s to rebrand products deemed racist by petition

California teen, Briones Bedell, challenged the food chain using names like 'Trade José,' 'Arabian Joe' and 'Trader Ming' to sell ethnic products

Trader Joe’s beer is seen on the shelf during the grand opening of a Trader Joe’s on October 18, 2013 in Pinecrest, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Trader Joe’s is being called to the floor for its racially biased branding by a 17-year-old from California who started a petition to change the packaging of certain products.

The petition, “Trader Joe’s: Remove Racist Packaging From Your Products,” was started by high school senior Briones Bedell on Change.org and has garnered almost 3,500 signatures.

READ MORE: Woman explodes in Trader Joe’s after asked to wear mask

“We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores,” Bedell wrote in 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.”

Bedell gave examples such as, “Trader Ming’s,” “Arabian Joe,” “Trader José,” “Trader Giotto’s” and “Trader Joe San” to further prove his point.

“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,” Bedell informs.

Executives at Trader Joe’s have apparently heard the demands of the petition and will change its branding.

Racial discourse in America has heightened since the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Their deaths have opened up various conversations about systemic racism and the various ways it spills into everyday life. Many corporations are assessing their brands, making sure that their businesses are racially and ethnically sensitive. Such moves have lead to other national food brands to shift in their product packaging, making dramatic alteration to big selling items.

Products like Aunt Jemima, Cream of Wheat, Mrs. Butterworth’s, and Uncle Ben have also vowed to change their iconic names to be more inclusive and less discriminatory. 

“June 2020 might be remembered as the month that corporate America came to grips with its institutional racism,” Forbes reported.

Trader Joe’s issued a statement in response to Bedell’s petition. 

“While this approach to product naming may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness,” says Kenya Friend-Daniel, director of public relations for Trader Joe’s, “We recognize that it may now have the opposite effect…”

According to this statement Trader Joe’s previously committed to restructuring their brand image “several years ago.”

READ MORE: Aunt Jemima’s great-grandson furious over her removal from products

According to Forbes, earlier in America’s history consumers also were unhappy with the direct and indirect connotation behind some brand icons. However, the rise of social media has created space for more consumers to be heard by brands who want to protect their image.

“…I don’t have an exact date but we expect to have the work completed very soon. Packaging for a number of the products has already been changed, but there’s a small number of products in which the packaging is still going through the process,” Friend-Daniel continued.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

Share