Trader Joe’s will keep it’s offshoot product names for Mexican, Asian and Italian-themed food products, despite a petition calling the labels racist.
The petition, created by a high school student, claims Trader Joe’s “labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.” It goes on to point out Trader José and Trader Giotto’s products, associated with Mexican and Italian cuisine, as well as ones associated with food from various Asian cultures, including Arabian Joe, Trader Ming’s and Trader Joe San.
“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,” the petition states. “The common thread between all of these transgressions is the perpetuation of exoticism, the goal of which is not to appreciate other cultures, but to further other and distance them from the perceived ‘normal.‘”
The petition, which was created a month ago, has garnered more than 5,300 signatures with a goal of 7,500.
Trader Joe’s responded last week, saying its label are not racist.
“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions,” the company wrote in a press release. “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.”
The grocery chain said it believes the names are fun and honor the cultures represented, noting that customers like the labels. It also said it has a process in place in which officials regularly review product names.
“We constantly reevaluate what we are doing to ensure it makes sense for our business and aligns with customers’ expectations,” the company said. “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.”