Trader Joe’s petition: Grocer asked to remove ‘racist packaging’ of brands including Trader José’s, Trader Ming’s – USA TODAY

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Some brands are beginning to alter their names and logos as they face increasing pressure to diversify and combat racism.

USA TODAY

A petition is asking Trader Joe’s to remove “racist packaging” from its ethnic food products following moves by other brands from Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s and Eskimo Pie to the Washington NFL franchise.

The Change.org petition was started two weeks ago and had more than 840 signatures as of Saturday afternoon. It says the grocer “labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of ‘Joe’ that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” noting how Trader Ming’s is used to brand the chain’s Chinese foods and Trader José’s for Mexican foods.

But the chain, considered one of America’s favorite grocery stores, says it already has begun work to phase out the names and while its approach to product naming “may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect.”

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“With this in mind, we made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe’s name on our products moving forward,” Kenya Friend-Daniel, Trader Joe’s national director of public relations, told USA TODAY in a statement Saturday. “Since then, we have been in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe’s, and we will continue do so until we complete this important work.”

Other brands identified by the petition include “Arabian Joe” for Middle Eastern foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese cuisine. 

An exact date for when the products’ packaging would be changed wasn’t known but was expected very soon, Friend-Daniel said in the statement, adding some products have already been changed. 

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PepsiCo, which owns Quaker Oats, announced June 17 that it plans to retire Aunt Jemima from packaging on its brand of syrup and pancake mixes because it’s “based on a racial stereotype.”

The owners of Uncle Ben’s, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Cream of Wheat also announced June 17 that their products’ packaging also would be reviewed. Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said on June 19 that its Eskimo Pie brand would be renamed.

Washington’s NFL franchise announced July 13 that it is dropping the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo, bowing to recent pressure from sponsors and decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.

The products’ rebranding announcements – considered long overdue by experts, historians and some consumers – come at a time when companies face increasing pressure to boost diversity efforts and combat racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Memorial Day.

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Contributing: Associated Press

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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