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Trader Joe's will finally phase out its 'racist' packaging, mostly thanks to a high schooler

The grocery store company plans to get rid of its branding "very soon," though it would not commit to a certain date.

Trader Joe's will finally phase out its 'racist' packaging, mostly thanks to a high schooler
Image Source: Trader Joe's Open New Store In Miami Area. PINECREST, FL - OCTOBER 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In the comparatively short time that Trader Joe's has been around, customers have been flocking to the supermarket's outlets. While their products are loved and greatly appreciated, there's one thing about them that makes some customers uncomfortable: their packaging. The supermarket has been called out for their "racist" branding several times over the years, but the company has chosen to do little to fix the problem. Now, thanks to a high school senior named Briones Bedell, 17, they are finally reconsidering, The New York Times reports. Bedell started a petition online calling on Trader Joe's to "remove racist branding and packaging from its stores"—and they are listening.



The high schooler stated in her petition, "We demand that Trader Joe’s remove racist branding and packaging from its stores. The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of “Joe” that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes." She questioned the use of “Trader Ming’s” market the chain’s Chinese foods, “Arabian Joe” for Middle Eastern foods, “Trader José” for Mexican foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods, and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese foods. So far, the petition has received just over 3,000 signatures of the 5,000 signatures that Bedell has set as her target. Though she is a handful of signatures away, the company has already responded to her criticism.



"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," explained Kenya Friend-Daniel, the company’s national director of public relations. "With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward." The director did not confirm when the change would be completed across all stores in the country, but did mention that it should happen "very soon." She said, "Packaging for a number of the products has already been changed, but there’s a small number of products in which the packaging is still going through the process."



For Bedell, this just signifies the lack of urgency that the company needs. "The branding remains on shelves and unaddressed [at my local Trader Joe's]," she asserted. "There’s an abundance of products in their stores, and I think it’s still important—the petition remains important—because Trader Joe’s lacks the urgency needed in the current climate to remedy the issue." The "current climate" the senior refers to is the ongoing anti-racism protests taking place across the United States. Many brands, including Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, and Land O'Lakes, have rectified their packaging (though it took them several years). Perhaps it would do Trader Joe's some good to take a leaf out of their books and ensure that product branding is changed more swiftly. Nonetheless, the company should also focus on inclusive representation within its staff, including its managerial board. You can check out Bedell's petition and sign it here.



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