Trader Joe's Refuses to Change Product Labels after Coming under Fire for Racist Undertones

Christell Fatima M. Tudtud
Aug 10, 2020
01:00 A.M.
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Despite getting backlash online, Trader Joe’s refused to change their product labels. The American grocery store wants to retain the names of their items even after getting called out by concerned individuals.

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In a statement released on July 24, the company disagreed that their brands are racist. The store claimed that naming their products Trader Giotto's, Trader José's, and Trader Ming's are "fun" as it shows "appreciation for other cultures." The statement read:

"We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions."

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The new statement, however, was opposite to what Trader Joe’s national director for public relations Kenya Friend-Daniel said earlier. She stated that the names of the grocery items were in the process of being changed. 

As reported by Do You Remember, Friend-Daniel originally stated that the light-hearted attempt of the store’s inclusiveness had an opposite effect. She continued by saying that the issue was contrary to the store’s aim for good customer experience. She said:

"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."

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Friend-Daniel’s earlier message was in response to a petition by San Francisco high school student Briones Bedell. The latter’s petition to remove Trader Joe’s racist packaging amassed more than 5,800 signatures. 

Bedell’s online petition noted that the grocery store “exoticizes other cultures” and called the store’s branding insensitive. 

She explained that the name "Joe" was the store’s default normal. The other characters, according to her, are falling outside of it.

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Since the clamor for change is getting louder and more visible online, many companies promised to change their product names as a way to address racial inequality. The most noted product was the famous Aunt Jemima logo.

However, the call to change the Aunt Jemima logo did not sit well with actor Larnell Evans, Sr.,  the great-grandson of Anna Short Harrington. She is the image model of the popular breakfast mix from 1935 to 1954.

He said it was a form of injustice for him and his family because it is part of their history. He added that the issue was all raised by "white people."

Grocery shoppers inside Trader Joe's New York City branch. | Photo: Getty Images

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Trader Joe’s marked their golden anniversary in 2017. Founder Joe Coulombe opened their first branch in Pasadena, California in 1967. 

Before the company embraced its new name, the store was called Pronto Markets in 1958. It was just a small chain of convenience stores.

Through the years, the tropically-inclined grocery chain has expanded its business. They now have 467 stores across the country. 

Trader Joe's in California. | Photo: Getty Images

With the controversy surrounding the store, Trader Joe’s gave its employees a break during a special time of the year. The company closed its stores on April 12,  Easter Sunday.

The store wanted to allow their employees a day of rest,especially after tirelessly working amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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