A California teen's petition to get Trader Joe's to change the branding on some of its international food items looked like it hit home with the grocery chain, but after hinting on a phaseout, management seems to be backtracking on that plan. Briones Bedell has noted some of the items in question featured "racist" packaging "that perpetuates harmful stereotypes," mostly via alterations to the word "Joe": "Trader Ming's," for example, included on packaging for some of the chain's Chinese food offerings, or "Trader Jose" for Mexican fare. Bedell also has a beef with the store's overall branding, saying its theme was based on "a racist book and a controversial theme park attraction" (Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride). The high school senior's petition had more than 5,300 signatures as of Saturday, and Trader Joe's itself issued a statement that seemed to indicate it took Bedell's ask to heart.
Via a rep, the chain said it was "in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe's, and we will continue to do so until we complete this important work," per ABC News. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Fox News reports on a new statement on the company's website that says earlier reports were "inaccurate" and that "we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions." It noted its "Buying Team" had reviewed some older items and discontinued products that weren't selling well, but that the products Bedell complained about were popular with patrons. "Products that resonate with our customers and sell well will remain on our shelves," it added. Bedell's response: "Surely, the owners of Trader Joe's could afford to hire a diversity officer to assist their 'Buying Team.' Or, at the very least, a new PR team?" (Read more Trader Joe's stories.)