Trader Joe's to change 'racist' packaging on international foods

The grocery chain came under fire for its labelling of “international” food products, called “Trader Jose’s” or “Trader Ming’s.”
Image: Trader Jose beer at a Trader Joe's store in Pinecrest, Fla.
Trader Jose beer at a Trader Joe's store in Pinecrest, Fla.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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By Ben Kesslen

Trader Joe’s will rename products that have been criticized as racist, the company announced in a statement.

The popular grocery chain has come under fire for its labeling of “international” food products, called “Trader José’s” or “Trader Ming’s.”

A petition circulated online, gaining a few thousand signatures calling for the removal of “racist packaging.” Calling Chinese food products “Trader Ming’s,” the petition said, “belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes.”

“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 José,’ and ‘Trader Joe San,” the petition says.

In response, the company made clear it will be changing the criticized products.

“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,” Kenya Friend-Daniel, the head of the company’s public relations, said in a statement to the New York Times. Trader Joe’s did not immediately return NBC News’s request for comment on Monday.

Friend-Daniel said the company decided to only use Trader Joe’s name on its packaging “several years ago” and is in the process of changing out the names deemed offensive.

Trader Joe’s announcements comes as Quaker Oats announced in June it would be changing the name of its Aunt Jemima brand, saying the product was “based on a racial stereotype.” Uncle Ben’s, the rice product, also announced it was undergoing a name and packaging change for the same reason.