Trade Joe’s to change ethnic food labels: what was your reaction?
Like many other Californians, I shop a lot at Trader Joe’s, and trust their respect to authentic food. You are rarely disappointed by what they offer, whether it was curry sauce, salsa, hummus or lasagna. So I was a bit surprised to see the news that it decided to change the names of international products, which had names like “Trader Ming” or “Trader Jose,” in response to a petition that demanded the company to “remove racist branding and packaging from its stores.”
As a Japanese, I found “Trader Joe-san,” its name for Japanese food products, humorous and charming. As “san” is added to call someone politely, it never occurred to me that it could offend me as a ethnic stereotype.
Having said that, I am against racism. I am for Black Lives Matter. I support equality and equal opportunities for everyone. But I din’t feel that Trader Joe-san was racist.
I think it’s because of the way Trader Joe’s make Japanese food. In case if you weren’t aware, the quality of Trader Joe’s tofu is one of the best you can find in the US. And it shouldn’t be easy. How many times have you bought a tofu that was bland and had no taste? If you thought tofu was always like that, you never had a chance to try real, authentic tofu, whcih has subtle but pleasant nutty flavor of soy beans. And Trader Joe’s tofu is flavorful.
I am sure such authenticity applies to other cuisines, as I really enjoy trying their international food products (under the labeling of “Trader Ming” or “Trader Giotto”). I can “taste” that Trader Joe’s respects regional cuisine and culture, and always makes efforts to know them even better. They put a lot of effort to maintain authenticity, which should be a lot of work.
When what’s in the package is not racist and full of respect to a variety of cultures, the name won’t worry you too much. Indeed it makes you smile if it gave a little bit of humor. That’s part of the culture.
What was your take on this?