Trader Joe’s to remove ‘racist’ packaging of ethnic food

Trader Joe’s plans to remove ethnic brand names from its products as a petition calling for their removal gains steam.

The California-based grocery chain said it’s working to phase out foreign names it has attached to ethnic foods, such as “Trader José’s” for Mexican cuisine, “Trader Ming’s” for Chinese products and “Arabian Joe’s” for Middle Eastern dishes.

“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,” Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said in a statement.

Trader Joe’s revealed the plans after the launch of an online petition urging the company to ditch “racist” brand names that prop up ethnic stereotypes and treat other cultures as exotic.

The petition — which had racked up more than 2,200 signatures as of Monday morning — also raises concerns about the roots of the Trader Joe’s name itself. The brand was inspired by Disneyland’s “Jungle Trip” ride and the 1919 book “White Shadows in the South Seas,” which both contain racist depictions of indigenous people, according to the petition.

“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 decided to only use its eponymous brand on its products several years ago and hopes to complete the transition “very soon,” Friend-Daniel said. But petition organizer Briones Bedell, a California high school senior, called on the company Sunday to set a date for completing the rebranding or, in the meantime, remove all products that are not “inclusive.”

Trader Joe’s is the latest company to scrap racially insensitive brands amid a nationwide movement against racism sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

Quaker Oats announced plans last month to get rid of the Aunt Jemima breakfast brand name, which it said was rooted in a “racial stereotype.” Mars Inc. similarly said it is “evolving” the Uncle Ben’s rice brand, while Conagra Foods is reviewing its Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup line.

With Post wires

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