Trader Joe’s is backtracking. The grocery chain now says it won’t change the names of product lines like Trader Ming’s about two weeks after releasing a statement saying it was in the process of updating those names. That first statement, attributed to spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel, was in response to a petition started by San Francisco high-school student Briones Bedell. In it, she writes, “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.”
In a new statement reported on by the AP, Trader Joe’s says, “We disagree that any of these labels are racist” and that “we thought then — and still do — that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures.” Speaking to the AP, Bedell says the response is a “complete reversal of their previous commitment to removing names.” Friend-Daniel tells the AP that the company has dropped names and may drop more in the future, but will only do so based on feedback from customers and employees — not an online petition. It’s a confusing reversal, given that Trader Joe’s could’ve just … said this in the first place. Was the company barraged by indignant responses from customers furious over cancel culture coming for Trader José’s?