Trader Joe’s Promises to Discontinue Racist Packaging

A high school senior has criticized the monolithic company’s use of “exoticized” names.

High school senior Briones Bedell launched an online petition demanding that Trader Joe’s “remove racist branding and packaging.” Her petition has already amassed over 3,000 signatures and has even incited a reaction from the popular grocery chain. In response to the petition, Trader Joe’s has pledged to discontinue racist packaging and change the names of its international food lines, e.g., Trader Ming’s, Trader José, Trader Giotto’s, Arabian Joe etc. The impassioned teen commented, “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…” 

Although the petition has enjoyed impressive support, some customers question the need for rebranding.

During a New York Times interview, Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel maintained that the company had already decided “several years ago” to discontinue the controversial packaging and to rebrand its existing international food lines. Friend-Daniel revealed that some of the products in question had already been rebranded, while other products were still in the process of being relabeled. She emphasized that the company hoped to finalize the rebranding process “very soon.”    

These accusations of racism come during a time in history where we, as a nation, are desperately trying to counter prejudice and reach for racial equity. We are facing renewed calls for racial justice and finally being held accountable for our actions. Many other leading companies such as Nestle, Aunt Jemima syrup, Uncle Ben’s rice, and Mrs. Buttersworth’s have faced pressure to undergo rebranding. Due to immense public pressure, companies are finally implementing fruitful internal changes and distancing themselves from their well-established, xenophobic packaging. 

Hopefully, Black Lives Matter will continue pushing companies to reexamine their products, practices, and principles.