With racial justice issues coming to the forefront in recent months, Trader Joe’s has received considerable criticism for the names of its internationally themed products that have stereotypical names. Initially, the retailer said that it would be changing its contested names, such as ‘Trader José’ and Trader Ming’s’ for its beer and Chinese-inspired products, respectively. The company admitted that the names, which were supposed to pay homage to ethnic origins, ‘may now have the opposite effect,’ according to a Trader Joe’s press release. However, now the beloved grocery chain is having second thoughts and rejected its reaction to the backlash, according to a report from the New York Times.
“Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action. We want to be clear: We disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions,” the company said in a statement issued on July 24.
However, to avoid further criticism, Trader Joe’s explained how they remain open to re-evaluating the matter at a later time. “We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and crew members. If we feel there is [a] need for change, we do not hesitate to take action.”
The grocer explained their product naming methodology. “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 announcement said.
Their statement went on to clarify their intent to resonate with their customers’ preferences while remaining true to the brand’s marketing spirit. “A couple of years ago we asked our buying team to review all our products to see if we needed to update any older packages, and also see if the associated brands developed years ago needed to be refreshed. We found that some of the older names or products just weren’t connecting or selling very well; so, they were discontinued. It’s kind of what we do,” they continued.
“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. We continue our ongoing evaluation, and those products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves.”
Before you go, check out all of the Trader Joe’s products you can now buy at Walmart.