2024 Election

Trader Joe’s ‘racist’ Product Labeling Practice Once Again Lands Grocer in Social Media Hot Seat

POV: Another Gen Z Trader Joe’s shopper finds out there’s a Trader José.

The popular Monrovia, Calif.-based grocer has once again gone viral over a decades-old product-naming practice that has previously been referred to as “racist.”

A youthful TikToker named Kyi (@kyeatdaays) reignited the debate after calling out the free-spirited retailer over the way it chooses names for various packaged foods, based on their imagined country of origin.

Shoppers at a Trader Joe’s in New York City. The Monrovia, Calif.-based grocer has more than 560 stores in 43 states.

Kyi, who currently has just 161 followers on the popular app, managed to snag 2.1 million views, roughly 150,000 likes and scores of comments on the clip.

She used the popular point-of-view method to illustrate her alleged surprise, upon realizing that a frozen sack of Mandarin Orange Chicken — one of the store’s more obsessed over items — was actually branded as “Trader Ming’s.”

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While preparing the food, she turned to the camera, mouthing the words, “Wait a damn minute.”

In a caption, she wrote: “POV: U just found out Trader Joe’s does THIS to cultural foods.”

The viral moment calls to mind a 2020 brouhaha begun after a San Francisco Bay Area high school student delivered a petition to the company, requesting that Trader Joe’s cancel the unusual tradition.

Viewers of the new video expressed their own opinions on the subject, many of them lighthearted, with plenty of them expressing support for the retailer.

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With more than 560 stores in 43 states, most Americans have already seen the labels, typically found on foods that can be attributed to one specific culture.

“For the Italian food it’s Trader Giottos,” one commenter pointed out.

“Big missed opportunity to call it Trader Zhou’s,” joked another.

Others confessed to enjoying the “Trader Jacques” on various French foods, like the store’s signature wheel of brie cheese.

“As a Mexican, i rather enjoy Trader Jose,” said one happy shopper.

Like many foods that can be attributed to one specific culture, Trader Joe’s brands its popular Mandarin Orange Chicken as “Trader Ming’s.”

“I thought they were all traders that know each other and sell each other their own foods,” one viewer deadpanned.

Other commenters were surprised that the discussion was taking place at all, saying they thought that the store had halted the naming practice years ago.

The company previously found itself under fire over its quirky labeling practices back in 2020.

“I could have swore they said they were going to stop doing this … omg,” said one, likely referring to a statement Trader Joe’s issued after receiving the 2020 petition.

But after the company’s initial pledge to make the change, it quickly backtracked, saying in another statement that it would be sticking by its longstanding tradition.

“We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist,” Trader Joe’s said in a statement posted to its website at the time.

@kyeatdaays a different name for every culture too lol #traderjoes #traderjoesorangechicken #orangechicken #asianfoodtiktok ♬ original sound – eni????????‍♀️

“We do not make decisions based on petitions,” the company went on to add, defending itself by saying that the decades-old practice was appreciated by customers. “We thought then — and still do — that this naming of products could be fun and show appreciation for other cultures.”

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Ella Ford is a mother of two, a Christian conservative writer with degrees in American History, Social and Behavioral Science and Liberal Studies, based in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area.

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