Trader Joe’s is getting rid of “Trader Ming’s,” “Trader José,” and other “ethnic” product names accused of being exoticizing
Trader Joe’s is changing the names used for some of its “international” food products, e.g., Trader Ming’s, Trader José, etc., amid accusations that such branding is racist.
“The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” reads the description of a Change.org petition started two weeks ago by Briones Bedell, an East Bay teenager. “For example, ‘Trader Ming’s is used to brand the chain’s Chinese food, ‘Arabian Joe’ brands Middle Eastern foods, ‘Trader José’ brands Mexican foods, ‘Trader Giotto’s’ is for Italian food, and ‘Trader Joe San’ brands their Japanese cuisine.”
The petition, which has been signed by more than 3,400 people to date, also takes to task the retailer and its founder Joe Coulombe for drawing inspiration from a book (White Shadows in the South Seas) and a theme park ride (Disneyland Jungle Cruise) that have been criticized for perpetuating stereotypes about indigenous people. “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 reads.
Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel told the New York Times that the company had already decided “several years ago” to remove the names in question and to rebrand all of its international food with just the Trader Joe’s name. Per NPR: “Friend-Daniel, the spokesperson, stressed that the change was not in response to the petition but was already in progress.” She said that packaging for some products has already been changed, and that the company hoped to complete the process “very soon.”
“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,” the spokesperson said.
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