Trader Joe’s announced that it will be rebranding its international food labels after an online petition called the branding “racist”.
What We Know:
- California high school senior Briones Bedell started the petition on Change.org, saying that Trader Joe’s international food packaging is racist. Trader Joe’s uses labels like “Trader Ming’s,” “Arabian Joe,” “Trader José,” and more. The petition states, “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.” Currently, the petition has over 2,500 signatures.
- The petition also notes how Trader Joe’s inception was rooted in racist and exotic ideas. Founder Joe Coulombe took inspiration for the Trader Joe’s brand from the book White Shadows in the South Seas and the Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride. The petition criticizes the book for romanticizing “the horrific legacy of trading companies as they exploited and enslaved the South Pacific in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”. The petition goes on about how Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise Ride is known for “misappropriating Indigenous culture and perpetuating stereotypes of native people as primitive and savage”.
- Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel made a statement addressing the situation. “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.” Friend-Daniel added that the brand has already begun the process of updating its labels, saying “we expect to have the work completed very soon”.
- The calls are growing louder and louder for companies to address their racist practices. Even though something simple like food packaging may seem harmless or like a genuine attempt at inclusivity and representation, it speaks to the larger issue of race in American marketing and corporate culture. Perhaps the reason Trader Joe’s kept their packaging for so long is that there are not enough people in leadership who see a problem with it.
Earlier this year, PepsiCo announced it would change the Aunt Jemima name and mascot, acknowledging that it was rooted in racial stereotypes.