Owner of Ripe Nutrition Alexandra Baird is speaking out following the announcement that athletic apparel store PERMISSION is ending its partnership with her brand as a result of accusations of cultural appropriation.
Complaints from community members began flooding in over the past week after Baird, who is white, opened a pop-up broth bar inside PERMISSION and started selling items such as bone broth, pho and jerk hot sauces, dumplings and more.
Many were outraged at the fact that a white-owned company was selling these traditionally Asian foods and labelling them as “wellness products,” taking issue with the business’s marketing tacticts and the fact that the pop-up is located right across the street from Golden Turtle — a restaurant that has been serving authentic pho and Vietnamese cuisine since 1987 and has been struggling to survive amid the pandemic.
Following the news that PERMISSION had officially ended the partnership between the two companies and issued a public apology to anyone hurt by the pop-up, Baird posted a lengthy statement of her own on Instagram.
“Over the course of the past 48 hours it has come to my attention as the founder of Ripe Nutrition, I’ve made some mistakes — big ones,” she wrote in the post.
Baird went on to thank every person who brought the issue to light, acknowledging that it isn’t the responsibility of People Of Colour to educate her on why cultural appropriation isn’t acceptable.
“That responsibility is mine and mine alone,” she said. “Anyone who has spoken out about this should never have had to do this work and I apologize for my insensitivity and ignorance as the founder of Ripe Nutrition.”
Baird explained that as someone who grew up in Toronto, a city filled with so much diversity and multiculturalism, she saw her business venture as a way to celebrate the foods she loves, not appropriate them, though she acknowledged that she clearly crossed that line.
To try and remedy the issue, Baird said she has removed all the products on her website that are “culturally insensitive” and halted all wholesale sales of the products as well. She added that she and her staff — including those who work at Ripe Nutrition’s Yorkville storefront — are in the process of sourcing cultural sensitivity training for the entire team, including any new members.
“As a young company, I am also open to feedback that you may have as to how I can do better moving forward,” she said.
“I will work hard to do better going forward and it is my hope that those of you who have been impacted by this may one day forgive the hurt that I have caused.”