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Trader Joe’s says no to changing label names

Trader Joe’s, which said earlier this month it was moving to change the names of some of its products after an online petition denounced them as racist, now says it will stick with labels like Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s for Mexican and Asian food.
(Image Credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / MGN)
(Image Credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 / MGN)(KALB)
Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 10:38 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/ AP) - Trader Joe’s, which said earlier this month it was moving to change the names of some of its products after an online petition denounced them as racist, now says it will stick with labels like Trader Jose’s and Trader Ming’s for Mexican and Asian food.

“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist,” the popular grocery chain said in a statement posted on its website. It added, “We do not make decisions based on petitions.”

More than 5,000 people had signed the petition as of July 31 asking Trader Joes to remove what they are calling racist packaging and branding from the stores.

The petition created by Briones Bedell calls for Trader Joes to do away with their packaging and branding for their ethnic foods with different modifications of “Joe”. The items include “Trader Mings”, a Chinese food brand, “Arabian Joe”, a brand for Middle Eastern foods, and “Trader José, a Mexican food brand, “Trader Joe San”, a Japanese food brand and “Trader Giottos”, an Italian food brand.

“Furthermore, the Trader Joe’s company takes pride in the fact that the founder, Joe Coulombe, took inspiration in building the Trader Joe’s brand from a racist book and a controversial theme park attraction, both of which have received criticism for romanticizing Western Imperialism and fetishizing non-Western peoples,” the petition reads.

The creator of the petition says the use of these brands and packaging is “insensitive” an “demeaning.”

After the petition was launched Trader Joe’s issued a statement saying it has been in the process of updating such product labels.

“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 at the time.

But in its recent statement the grocery chain said it still believes the names, many created decades ago, represent lighthearted efforts at inclusion, adding that its customers say they still like them.

“We thought then — and still do — that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures,” the company added.

In an email Friday, Friend-Daniel said the company has indeed dropped some names over the years, including Arabian Joe’s and Armenian Joe’s, and may drop others in the future. But that will be solely on input from its employees and customers and not Bedell’s petition.

Copyright 2020 WVLT via The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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