Amid a cultural revolution that has seen numerous racial and ethnic stereotypes dismantled, including Aunt Jemima, Trader Joe’s has refused to shift.
According to CNN, the grocery chain has refused to retire names such as Trader José’s and Trader Ming’s on the labels of its international foods, even though more than 5,000 people have signed a petition calling on the chain to stop using the names.
“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions,” the grocery store said in a statement on July 24. “Decades ago, our Buying Team started using product names, like Trader Giotto’s, Trader José’s, Trader Ming’s, etc. We thought then—and still do—that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures,” the statement continued.
Trader Joe’s, which first opened in Pasadena, California, in 1967, was singing a different tune just a week ago when it responded to the petition saying it has already “been in the process of updating order labels, and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe’s.”
“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,” spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel, told CNN. “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.”
The reversal has been praised by people on the right politically including Fox News commentator Stuart Varney, who called the move “a win for sanity.”
“Recently we have heard from many customers reaffirming that these name variations are largely viewed in exactly the way they were intended—as an attempt to have fun with our product marketing,” the statement said. “We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.”