Trader Joe’s defends its food brands as nonracist after petition demands change

Eclectic supermarket chain Trader Joe’s is in a public-relations deep freeze after nearly 5,000 petitioners have demanded it rebrand some allegedly racist products, reported USA Today.

The chain, which according to its website comprises more than 500 stores, has been labeling certain varieties of its ethnic foods with “Joe” variations for decades, including “Trader José‘s” for Mexican fare, “Trader Joe San” for Japanese delectables, “Arabian Joe” for Middle Eastern treats, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian goods and “Trader Ming’s” for Chinese foods.

Although the company claims it will be altering some of the branding and packaging for some of its international foods, it adamantly denies that the names are racist.

It also denied that the petition was a factor in its rebrand decision.

“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist,” read a company statement. “We do not make decisions based on petitions . . . If we feel there is need for change, we do not hesitate to take action.”

The company told USA Today in mid-July that it “made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward,” but it did not identify a future date for when the change would occur.

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“Recently, we have heard from many customers reaffirming that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended — an attempt to have fun with our product marketing,” the company asserted on July 24. “We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.”

In mid-June, several popular food brands announced that there would be packaging or name changes in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, including Mrs. Butterworth’s, Uncle Ben Rice and Eskimo Pie.