Trader Joe's says it is working on changing its ethnic brands but a petition is still growing

Kelly Tyko
USA TODAY

UPDATED:  See the latest story here.

Despite Trader Joe's plans to change the names and packaging of several of its ethnic food brands, a petition urging the grocer to remove "racist packaging" has grown.

Trader Joe's told USA TODAY on Saturday that it "made the decision several years ago to use only the Trader Joe's name on our products moving forward," but it didn't have an exact date for when the change would happen. 

The company currently labels some of its ethnic foods with variations of "Joe," including Trader Ming’s, which is used to brand the chain’s Chinese foods, Trader José's for Mexican foods, "Arabian Joe” for Middle Eastern foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods and “Trader Joe San” for Japanese cuisine.

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"At this time, I don’t have an exact date but we expect to have the work completed very soon," Kenya Friend-Daniel, the company's national director of public relations, told USA TODAY in a statement Saturday. "Packaging for a number of the products has already been changed, but there’s a small number of products in which the packaging is still going through the process."

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But Briones Bedell, who started the Change.org petition calling for the removal of what she called "racist packaging" about two weeks ago, said in a petition update responding to Trader Joe's statement that she wanted the grocer to remove the products immediately.

The petition had about 840 signatures early Saturday afternoon and following a flood of stories by national media outlets including USA TODAY had grown to more than 2,700 signatures as of 2 p.m. Monday.

"We appreciate Trader Joe’s attention to these matters and ask that Trader Joe’s commit to a date in which the packaging changes will be completed," Bedell wrote in a petition update Sunday. "If a date cannot be established, we ask that Trader Joe’s immediately remove all products that the company recognizes have not been inclusive and have not cultivated a welcoming, rewarding customer experience."

According to The New York Times, Bedell is a 17-year-old high school senior from California.

Bedell said in the update that they'd like the company to "clarify statements regarding the company’s corporate brand philosophy and founder Joe Coulombe’s inspiration for the company."

The petition was started after other brands including Aunt JemimaUncle Ben'sMrs. Butterworth's and Cream of Wheat announced June 17 that they would overhaul their imaging in the wake of renewed calls for racial equality. Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said on June 19 that its Eskimo Pie brand would be renamed.

Washington's NFL franchise announced July 13 that it is dropping the “Redskins” name and Indian head logo, responding to recent pressure from sponsors and decades of criticism that they are offensive to Native Americans.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko