Trader Joe’s will begin making changes to the packaging of some of its food products over concerns that variations on the Trader Joe’s brand name can be seen as culturally insensitive. For years, the grocery chain has been altering the brand naming on its private label products typically categorized as “ethnic foods,” using monikers like Trader José for Mexican-food inspired products, Trader Ming for Chinese food, Arabian Joe for Middle Eastern products, Trader Joe San for Japenese foods, and Trader Giotto on pasta and other Italian food staples. Criticism over the branding has existed for some time and recently picked up renewed interest thanks to a Change.org petition started by a California high school student, Briones Bedell.
The name changes, Bedell writes, “Belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes,” and seems to imply some food items are normal, and therefore ethnic foods are deviations from the norm. Following the petition, Trader Joe’s announced their intention to change the branding and addressed the criticism over the overtones of its branding. Trader Joe’s national director of public relations, Kenya Friend-Daniel told ABC News, “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,” but indicated that the decision was not because of Bedell’s petition, stating that Trader Joe’s “have been in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe’s” since before the petition.
Trader Joe’s is currently in the process of changing the product labeling but has not publically indicated how long it’ll be until we see the new labels. Does that make your case of Trader José beer a collector’s item now? Probably not. But it’s still a pretty decent beer, so there’s that.