Grocery chain Trader Joe’s has responded to criticisms about its packaging by announcing that it is in the process of eliminating labels that use ethnic-sounding names intended to be humorous.
The offending products bear such labels as Trader Ming’s for foods and condiments related to Chinese cuisine, Trader Jose’s for Mexican-style products and Trader Giotto’s for Italian-themed items.
The company has come under fire in part from a petition, posted for about two weeks, on the Change.org website. It had collected more than 2,000 signatures by Sunday night.
The labels, which offer variations of the Trader Joe’s name, exploit “a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” according to the petition.
The attention on Trader Joe’s comes amid a nationwide reconsideration of branding that has accompanied the Black Lives Matter movement.
Land O’Lakes has removed a Native American woman from its products.
The Eskimo Pie name also is becoming history.
The Monrovia, Calif.-based chain operates stores in Coralville and West Des Moines.
“The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures — it presents ‘Joe’ as the default ‘normal’ and the other characters falling outside of it — they are ‘Arabian Joe,’ ‘Trader Jose’ and ‘Trader Joe San,’” the petition says.
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The company said in a statement that it decided several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on its products and has been in the process of updating the ethnic-sounding labels.
Packaging for a number of the products already has been changed, and the company expects to complete the process “very soon,” she said.