- Trader Joe’s does not have immediate plans to stop using brand names that critics have said are racist and that were called out in a Change.org petition imploring the grocery chain to eliminate them from its assortment, according to a post on the company’s website.
- The private label Trader Joe’s brands called out in the petition, which says they perpetuate “harmful stereotypes” about people from different backgrounds, include Trader Giotto’s, Arabian Joe, Trader Joe San, Trader José and Trader Ming’s.
- The company said recent media reports indicating it intended to stop using the brands on its products were inaccurate. Trader Joe’s added that it disagrees with the contention that the labels are racist, and said that they were chosen because they “could be fun and show appreciation of other cultures.”
It appears Trader Joe's is attempting to regain control of a narrative that has spun out beyond its control. Contrary to reports that the chain will discontinue some of its brand names in light of a highly publicized petition and widespread calls for increased cultural sensitivity on the part of corporations, Trader Joe's defended its brands and said it did not immediately respond to the petition's call.
Trader Joe's noted that it has received positive feedback from customers on brands like Trader José and Arabian Joe. But the grocer also did not guarantee it will keep these brands on shelves. Rather, it said it will continue to review the products.
“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,” the grocer wrote in its unsigned post, which is dated July 24. “We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.”
Trader Joe’s acknowledged that it had begun looking at its products to determine if any 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,” the grocer wrote.
Beyond criticizing the individual labels, the Change.org petition takes issue with the central Trader’s Joe’s brand, claiming that it is “trivializing and demeaning” because it “exoticizes other cultures.”
Trader Joe’s has been planning for some time to stop using certain of its brands, according to reports earlier in July by multiple news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post and CBS News.
"We made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe's name on our products moving forward," NPR quoted Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel as saying in a statement. The company had concluded that some of its brands may have been “contrary to the welcoming, rewarding customer experience we strive to create every day,” and was still working on altering its packaging, Friend-Daniel told NPR.
The scuffle over brands used by Trader Joe’s follows several high-profile revisions of popular brands accused of being derogatory or insensitive. This includes the announcement in June that PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats unit would discontinue using the Aunt Jemima name and image on pancakes and syrup by the end of 2020 because it is based on a racial stereotype.
Over the years, Quaker faced lawsuits, protests and petitions demanding that it cease using the Aunt Jemima brand, which evoked a fictional Black house maid and dated to the early 1900s, but declined to retire it. But when social media lit up with ire over the name, Quaker quickly said it would remove it from its products.