Have you ever browsed the aisles of Trader Joe’s and saw a name on one of the brand’s cultural products and thought, “Hmmm… that’s not right”? Well you’re not the only one and the brand is now being called out for its “Trader Ming” and “Trader José” products.
Trader Joe’s is the latest brand to rethink their marketing strategies amidst a new wave of racial controversy surrounding their different ethnic products.
A change.org petition is calling for the grocery store to change their names on their ethnic foods after the different variations began circulating on social media. Which is very much on brand for the conscious-consumer that Trader Joe’s markets toward
The petition, started by a 17 year old California teenager, said, “The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes”. Since the petition was posted, it has reached over 26 hundred signatures, and it keeps growing
The use of names like “Trader Ming’s” for Chinese food, “Trader José” for Mexican foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian food, and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese food seemed like a fun way to change up branding and to show diversity in the products, but people are now noticing that the act isn’t the best option for today’s political climate.
Briones Bedell, the high school senior who started the petition said that Trader Joe’s is, “racist because they exoticize other cultures, present ‘Joe’ as this default normal, and then the other characters — such as Thai Joe, Trader José, Trader Joe San — falling outside of it.”
This petition has now reached Trader Joe’s headquarters, and they have issued a response on the matter.
The company’s national director of public relations said, “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,” and saying further, “With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward.”
And continuing to say, “We have been in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe’s, and we will continue to do so until we complete this important work. At this time, 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.”
This is one of the latest examples in recent weeks of brand’s rethinking their strategies to be more inclusive and, well, on the right side of history.
Since the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter wave began back in early June, we have seen numerous U.S. companies announce changes in their previous racial stereotyping branding procedures.
From Aunt Jemima’s recall of their history of slavery, to Land O’ Lakes removing their Native American mascot from packaging, and Uncle Ben’s evolving of their cover photo, there has been a sharp turn of events in the American grocery market.
Now, Everything But The Bagel seasoning and Cauliflower Gnocchi are still staples on my shopping list, but it does make me feel better that people are calling Trader Joe’s out on their microaggressions and that Trader Joe’s has actually recognized the problem. Maybe we can all learn something from this for our own lives.
Let us know what you think! Is this too far-fetched of an outcry or is a change necessary at Trader Joe’s?