California- based and well-known retailer Trader Joe's responded to calls for changes to its packaging that some have claimed is racist by saying the company is already in the process of doing just that. Dianne de Guzman of SFGate reported the grocery store chain issued a statement after a petition began circulating, with the company explaining what it has done and why it was doing it. The statement talked about the company's international products and how they are branded.
"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 said.
Friend-Daniel is the national director of public relations for Trader Joe's.
She said that Trader Joe's has been working on a change in policy when it came to labeling items in the last few years. It will continue to do so, eventually relabeling all the offensive cans and jars in its stores.
The spokesperson added there isn't an exact date for when the changing of labels is going to be completed. She said that even though there isn't a date or time to report, the chain is close to finishing that work.
The statement was a reaction to a petition that made headlines earlier this week as Trader Joe's became the latest corporation to come under fire for branding or packaging that activists have called racist. The Change.org petition was started by a user named Briones Bedell and received over 1,000 signatures by Saturday night.
Bedell wrote that the chain tends to label some of its ethnic foods with variations of "Joe" in order to try and give the items an otherworldly feeling. In the process, the practice perpetuates some rather harmful stereotypes.
It is the modifications of its name that the firm was referencing in its official release. "Arabian Joe" and "Trader José," are just a couple of the names activists mentioned as being the most problematic.
Guzman wrote that this isn't the first time the grocery store brand has come under fire for the way it markets some of the things it sells. In 2019, the cooking website The Kitchn made note of the firm's use of "authentic" on its packages, using it "almost exclusively in reference to Indian and Mexican dishes." The site found that the same word was never used when talking about European products.
The site claimed Trader Joe's was boiling down entire cultures to either "authentic" or "inauthentic."