Retailers

Trader Joe’s Spotlights Black-Owned Suppliers

Reports strides toward diversity, inclusion goals
Trader Joe's storefront
Photograph courtesy Trader Joe's

Following the tragic death of an unarmed George Floyd on May 25, Trader Joe’s joined grocers across the country in expressing its dedication to ensuring its stores provide a safe, welcoming, inclusive and respectful environment for all of its employees and customers. “In this moment of heartbreaking injustice, we stand together with and share support for our Black crew members, customers and communities,” said a Trader Joe’s announcement on June 6.

Trader Joe’s recently shared its ongoing efforts with regard to diversity and inclusion, as well as progress made since June. “Focusing in particular on our support for our Black crew members and customers, we have taken a closer look over the past several months at our diversity and inclusion efforts and identified areas where we could improve,” said the company, whose leaders, including its chairman and CEO, president and COO, and president of stores, meet weekly “to develop and oversee the implementation of significant actions” the Monrovia, Calif.-based retailer is taking to demonstrate its commitment.

Last year the grocer hired Deborah Williams as director of diversity and inclusion. She is leading the development of programs to improve Trader Joe’s hiring, mentoring, training and development, with the goal of increasing diversity in store leadership.

Trader Joe’s also established an annual $500,000 Vernon Boykin Scholarship Fund. Named for a former Trader Joe’s captain, the fund supports the education of Black crew members and their families through awards to pay for tuition or student loans. In its inaugural year, 203 crew members were selected to receive Vernon Boykin Scholarships.

The grocer has also pledged to increase its supplier diversity.  Trader Joe’s appointed a product development team dedicated to expanding the number of products in its stores that are produced by Black-owned suppliers and established a goal of having 15% or more of the items presented at its tasting panels sourced from Black-owned businesses.

“We are pleased to report that we have been exceeding this goal: an average of more than 25% of products evaluated at our panels since June have been from Black-owned suppliers,” the company said. “We have approved more than 30 new products, and the results are already arriving on store shelves.”

Products include McBride Sisters Collection Brut Rose andMcBride Sisters Collection Sauvignon Blanc, made by the largest Black-owned wine company in the U.S., as well as allergy-friendly Partake Sprinkle Cookies and Partake Chocolate Chip Cookies, founded by CEO Denise Woodard.

Trader Joe’s has also worked with its food donation partners in diverse metro areas to evaluate and extend the reach of its Neighborhood Shares Program, which donates all usable products in its stores that go unsold. With the help of its partners in 2020, the grocer contributed nearly $345 million dollars of food and beverages, or 69 million meals, to its community members in need.

“We are also focusing on neighborhood diversity as an important factor in selecting new store locations,” said Trader Joe’s, which recently signed a lease for a new store in Harlem. The store at 121 W. 125th St. in New York City will share occupancy in the building with the new headquarters for the National Urban League, New York’s first Civil Rights Museum, cultural space and affordable housing.

“As we actively work on and search for additional Trader Joe’s sites across the country, we remain committed to having all our stores be operated as true neighborhood grocery stores that serve their communities,” Trader Joe’s said. “That’s why we hire crew members from each neighborhood. It’s also why we design our stores to reflect and acknowledge the people and places of the neighborhood. … We are excited about the accomplishments thus far but realize it’s a journey. We will continue to do the work of being good listeners, embracing empathy and advocating for change. We look forward to reporting annually on our progress as we advance this important work.”

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