Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's iStock

Trader Joe's grocery store chain said that it was working to get rid of product names deemed "racist" by critics.

The products in question are those on which the Trader Joe's brand name has been changed to reflect the cultural origin of the respective product, such as to Trader José's, Arabian Joe's or Trader Ming's.

"We made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe's name on our products moving forward," a spokesperson told NPR. She added that the company "had hoped that the work would be complete by now but there are still a small number of products going through the packaging change and we expect to be done very soon."

She said the approach to naming products "may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness," but that "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."

The announcement came after a petition called on Trader Joe's to "remove racist branding and packaging from its stores."

The petition accused the grocery chain of "exoticizing other cultures" in its naming scheme.

"The grocery chain labels some of its ethnic foods with modifications of 'Joe' that belies a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. For example, 'Trader Ming’s' is used to brand the chain’s Chinese food, 'Arabian Joe' brands Middle Eastern foods, 'Trader José' brands Mexican foods, 'Trader Giotto’s' is for Italian food, and 'Trader Joe San' brands their Japanese cuisine."

"The Trader Joe’s branding is racist because it exoticizes other cultures - it presents 'Joe' as the default 'normal' and the other characters falling outside of it - they are 'Arabian Joe,' 'Trader José,' and 'Trader Joe San,'" the petition also stated.

The petition so far has over 3,900 signatures.

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