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Trader Joe's newbie


Trader Joe's is not in Canada so I am very excited about my very first visit to Trader Joe's (going to the Masonic Ave location). I'm hoping someone can help with a few questions:

1. Do they have a cafe where we can grab breakfast before heading out to Napa?

2. Any suggestions for what to buy to bring home? Weight is not an issue (I'm bringing 2 pieces of luggage - one that's empty!)


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  1. Trader joe's sells standard groceries and offbeat products of marginal quality for cheap. The cult following revolves around TJ's every day usefulness and pleasant shopping environment. I don't even shop there anymore, because I've had too many quality issues, but I can't imagine what you would want to fly all the way to canada. You certainly can't take their frozen foods.

    For example, you can get rambutan on the branch there during the season. Which is cool. But I don't really like the quality of their rambutan, I'd rather go without and have it on my Cool Things About Hawai'i list.

    Another example: they have decent deals on Valhrona chocolate, but they usually only have Noir de Americ (sp?), and I've moved on to Retucchi.

    1. I'm afraid you've got somewhat of a misapprehension as to what Trader Joe's is like and are going to be disappointed. Trader Joe's is not Whole Foods. It's a small-ish specialty store for better-than-average quality, lower-than-average price package goods. No cafe. No hot foods. Where TJ's really excels is in snack foods and candy: good quality, interesting variety, inexpensive. Nuts. Dried Fruit. That's about all that might be worth lugging back to Canada.

      1. For lugging back to Canada, I recommend:

        - Trader Joe's Green Tea Mints. I think this item is relatively new. They are located among the candy at the front checkout.

        - Trader Joe's Crystalized Candied Ginger, in the dried fruit / nuts section.

        - A lot of people also like the chili dried mango. It's a bit too hot for me.

        - They have some weird/interesting freeze dried fruit which sort of dissolves on contact when it hits your tongue.

        - Some people rave about Trader Joe's peach salsa being better than any other peach salsa. I haven't tried it, but you might want to look into it.

        - I recommend Trader Joe's whole Wheat Couscous, if you don't find that sort of thing in your local grocery; that could fit easily in your luggage.

        Everything else I would recommend is either very perishable, comes frozen, or is not really luggable to Canada.

        FYI: The Chowhound admins might move this thread into the National -> Chains part of the forum.

        1. Unfortunately, most of the items I love about Trader Joe's are the perishable ones (pita pizzas, prepared meals, produce, cheeses, meats), so would be tough to lug back to Canada. In general, a lot of these are as good or almost as good as what you can get at Whole Foods but much cheaper.

          One of the things TJ is most famous though is affordable but decent wines. That might be a good bet, considering I've seen how much California wines are selling for in Canada, but not sure how many of those you can bring back with you.

          1. Here is what I recommend: When you come back to Canada and tell people that you have been to Trader Joe's, the first thing they will ask is "did you try the Two Buck Chuck?" It's wine that is famous for costing only $2, and some people consider it "decent wine, considering the price."

            You say you will be stopping at Trader Joe's, then driving up to Napa. So, buy a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck" Cabernet, and bring it with you to Napa. Then, when you are picnicking at your favorite winery in Napa, do a taste test comparison with the winery's estate grown Cab, so that you can bash Two Buck Chuck with authority when the topic arises.

            Trader Joe's
            3 Masonic Ave, San Francisco, CA

            5 Replies
            1. re: ssfire

              Agreed. Two Buck Chuck is what TJ is most famous for, and you definitely won't find it in Canada!

              1. re: arlenemae

                Around our house, TJ is famous for "Vodka of the Gods" (TJ-label vodka), at some insane price - $5 per 1.5l or so. I took two cases to burning man and couldn't give it way. The nastiness is hard to describe - sort of the umami of awefulness. TJ finally stopped carrying it.

                We also used to make a special trip for Double Rainbow Vanilla, but they've replaced it with an inferior house brand.

                We still make special trips for their protein powder - $20 for a huge tub, and without any lousy fake vanillia flavor.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  My one experience at The Burn belies your (quite correct and accurate) description of this vodka. Mixed with enough stuff everybody was drinking it, although after a while the mixers didn't matter, it seemed. The TJs here in SoCal still carry a Vodka of the Gods - maybe not the same stuff?

                2. re: arlenemae

                  2 buck chuck is not what TJ is **most** famous for.

                3. re: ssfire

                  Please don't advise a visitor to drink 2 buck chuck at a Napa picnic. It may incite a riot.

                4. While I won't cop to actually DRINKING the stuff, 2 buck chuck is my go-to cooking wine. I like their Sauv. Blanc & their Merlot. The chard is too oaky to cook with as is the Cab. The chili & lime pistachios or cashews at TJ's are divine as is their "unburied treasure" cheesy-poofs. Have fun! adam

                  1. Free brew of the day TJ's coffee at every location I've ever been to.
                    It's about a 4oz. cup but you can get refills.
                    So get a cup and walk around.
                    You can probably find something to snack on. They got sandwiches and pastries to go.

                    1. You might find some good recommendations from the Chains board:


                      My personal favorites include:
                      Cheese puffs
                      Kettle corn
                      Dried mango
                      Various packages of nuts
                      "Tempting" trail mix
                      Joe Joes

                      1. Try the lentil curls. It's pretty interesting and you can't find it anywhere else.

                        1. Yeah, as I'm sure you gathered by now, there's no sitting area, or cafe setting.... that's more of a Whole Foods thing. Otherwise, expect something closer to a supermarket.

                          If you do decide to still go to Traders, try loading up on their snack goods. The packaged tubs of candies, chocolate covered items, are pretty much all good quality. The 3 packs of belgium chocolates, the blue chips, vegetable chips, kettle corn are all very good. You might find a knockoff cereal that's identical to something you pay 2 times as much for. Same with oatmeal, tea, hot cocoa, very reasonably priced spices, nice french hand soaps (I like the kind in the dispenser), and of course the alcohol selection. Don't expect one of a kind items, just well priced, decent quality, often repackaged versions. You can also find premade sandwiches, and salads. The wraps and sushi are okay.

                          You could certainly load up on items for a nice picnic (even a frozen key lime pie, would defrost and be ready to eat by the time you got to Napa).... but I think you might be better off enjoying the offerings in wine country, and stopping at Oxbow market instead.

                          1. I do a fair percentage of my shopping at Trader Joe's, but that's because they have unbeatable prices for certain top-quality staples such as organic milk, organic eggs, unsalted butter, Greek yogurt, and Dijon mustard. I can't think of anything they sell that would be worth taking up suitcase space.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I take it back, their crunchy salted organic peanut butter is the best and well worth stocking up on. (I don't care that it's organic, it just tastes better than the regular.)

                            2. Some Anti-Oxidant blueberry/almond/walnut/cranberry trail mix for snacking on the plane?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: katya

                                We're guilty of bringing home a suitcase full of stuff. They have many products that are just plain fun and not available in Canada. We like the vanilla JoJo's plus as others mentioned, nuts and dried fruit. I recommend the Baby Pineapple, freeze dried Mango and strawberries (though I've seen the strawberries at Costco now), the Ginger candies, plus the Almond in the Coconut candy, Chipotle chocolate hazelnuts .... Also Marconi Almonds are next to impossible to find in Canada and we found them there. We told the cashier we were having a party hahaha. I love their colorful vinyl shopping bags too. Unique and eye-catching.

                                1. re: sweeterpea

                                  To my taste, TJ's Marcona almonds are not as good as the ones from Spanish Table. Add them to the list of the 98% of TJ's items I've tried that I won't buy again.

                                  I returned the horrible "poor man's almonds" (apricot kernels) the other day and the manager told me they'd dropped them.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I saw those there. Couldn't believe they were edible. Hey, TJ's almonds are better than no marcona almonds ;o)

                              2. Wine if you can take it. Teensy miniature meringues for sprinkling on ice cream, a sort of meringue glace' in reverse. Excellent selection of nuts, trail mix, dried fruit. Half-kilo bars of Belgian milk chocolate for around $4. Bargains in cookies and candy but selection is never the same so you'll have to explore. Peppermint teabags. Unfortunately many of the TJ treasures are in the frozen food aisle and you won't be able to take them home: "If you have tears, prepare to weep them now".

                                1. Two things I really like:
                                  1. Reduced Guilt Potato Chips -- really delicious, believe me, nice and crunchy.
                                  2. Dolmas in olive oil in a glass jar, from Turkey.

                                  If you don't like something, they gladly take it back and refund your money. Also, their power bars -- great selection and great prices, I like the KIND ones, nut/cranberry but there are other flavors.

                                  That Masonic location -- I've almost never been able to get into the parking lot -- loooong line to park. The location on Bay St (Wharf area) is easy, nice free parking garage, enter on Mason St.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: walker

                                    Trader Joe's return policy is great, but not very helpful after you've taken the stuff out of the country.

                                  2. Trader Joes is the Walmart food department for people who would never set foot into a Walmart. They are owned by the same people who own the Aldi supermarket chain in europe, one of the largest, low-end grocers on the planet.

                                    They differentiate themselves from Walmart by stocking a smattering of high-end, moderately interesting products. The secret to their success is illustrated well in this thread. One of the most common TJs refrains is, "I generally don't like it much but THEY'VE GOT THIS ONE THING THAT I LOVE!"

                                    Anyway, a large proportion of what they sell comes from unspecified producers all over the world. I have had almost no success at all trying to figure out (by writing to them) what countries specific products originated in. There are people who spend inordinate amounts of time trying to determine if a specific TJs brand of some product is actually a repackaged version of a real brand. And the company apparently encourages this because it feeds the frenzy. But of course it's just a ruse; the King Arthur flour company is currently suing TJs for packaging some random flour in bags that look enough like the KA bags that frenzied customers might think "it's KA but so much cheaper".

                                    Anyway, if you don't mind eating off-brand mystery food tarted up to look like something familiar then it's an interesting place. I wouldn't recommend the 2-buck chuck though. It's terrible. And true to form it's produced by the guy who sued California to be allowed to sell his mass-produced, central valley factory swill as "Napa" wine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronco_W...

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      Some of TJ's private-label stuff is first-rate. In the San Francisco area they have my favorite organic milk (Straus) and a few breads made by my favorite bakery (Acme).

                                      Their house-brand Dijon mustard is superior to domestic Grey Poupon or anything else that doesn't cost three or four times as much.

                                      Their house-brand Kalamata olive oil is excellent, though most of the other oils I've tried were mediocre.

                                      Sometimes when they switch from a brand-name product to a house-label product the quality drops, other times it seems to be identical.

                                      I find the Charles "two-buck Chuck" Shaw wines uninteresting, but they are drinkable, better than any other wines I've had in that price range, and indistinguishable from many mass-produced supermarket wines that sell for $4-8.

                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                        I find the quality to be much superior to generic brands sold in most any other supermarket chain, save for maybe Whole Foods. Most of their products are low on preservatives, or in some cases, were the type of products we previously had to purchase at health food stores.

                                        A number of pricey "Napa wineries" are produced the exact same way as 2-Buck chuck, buying grapes from multiple farming sources, which are partially produced or bottled outside the region. Most wine drinkers are unaware a bottle isn't produced entirely in-house.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          Quality varies a lot. Their tortillas and tortilla chips, for example, are awful. We tried their Belgian chocolate for baking and it's no substitute for Callebaut.

                                          To use the word "Napa" legally, at least 75% of the wine must be produced with grapes from Napa County. To use the phrase "Napa Valley," at least 85% must come from that AVA.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Right, but I'm just saying, using a blend of contracted grapes from various smaller
                                            fields and subregions is now an acceptable industry practice.

                                            I thought the theory was TJ sells Callebaut baking choc.
                                            The handmade tortillas are great....and with so many rebranded tortilla chips, I would say some are better than others. Anyway, it's fun to discover hidden gems there.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              Wineries buying and selling grapes and bulk wine have been common practices in California since the 1930s and estate bottling has always been the exception rather than the rule.

                                              I think the only things new about Bronco Wine Co. (which makes Charles Shaw) are its scale (40,000 acres and a production capacity of 60 million gallons a year) and maybe some of Fred Franzia's marketing and distribution innovations.

                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              TJ's Belgian chocolate *is* Callebaut, although some of the various bars they sell may be different grades/formulations than what is sold as Callebaut in the US. Callebaut is pretty much the only chocolate maker in Belgium that makes mass-market chocolate, and they make a wide range of products, so saying something is "Callebaut" is not really a meaningful description of the type and quality of a specific product.

                                              The long-time speculation that TJ's Belgian chocolate is made by Callebaut was confirmed when a batch of the 50 grams bars went out with the Callebaut stamp on the chocolate under the TJ's label.

                                          2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                            Yet their prices on "label" items that they do carry can't be beat.

                                            The Fage yogurt here is way cheaper than anywhere else in town.

                                          3. I really enjoy the following items (I left out frozen/fresh items):

                                            Sweet, Savory & Tart Trail Mix Bars (these make my all-time favorites list and I'm not a big fan of granola-type bars usually)
                                            This (Strawberry, Blueberry, Apple or Fig) Walks Into A Bar cereal bars
                                            Organic Oats and Flax instant oatmeal (I love making this for a quick breakfast at work)
                                            Cold-Pressed Italian Reserve EVOO (~$6 for a big bottle!)
                                            Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread
                                            Ginger-Roos (not sure if they still sell these, but they are basically ginger-snap cookies and are really good)
                                            Mini Peanut Butter Cups (can't always find these, but if you see them, buy!)
                                            Organic Salted Peanut Butter (made with Valencia peanuts - This is a favorite of mine - I like both Crunchy/Creamy)
                                            Dried Cranberries with Orange
                                            Candied Cinnamon Almonds
                                            TJ's Moisturizing Cream (I know - it's not food - but I love it and my skin is so dry here in Phoenix)
                                            I like their Balsamic Vinegar selection
                                            TJ's KC-style BBQ sauce (in the glass bottle!)
                                            White Cheddar Popcorn
                                            TJ's Cheese Crunchies (like Cheetos)
                                            Any of the trail mixes

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Jen76

                                              I second the mini peanut butter cups.
                                              We bought the organic ginger snaps (mini sized and in a plastic container) and they were fantastic.

                                            2. I love the idea of bringing an empty piece of luggage when traveling Asiandelight! I'm slowly working my way through their cookies and have never been disappointed. I like their french bread and people on other threads have praised TJ's cheeses so you certainly have a good start on a nice picnic. Snacks are great for traveling and TJ's does snacks very well. For a non food item, I've been using Johnson's Baby Shampoo all my life but recently I read it might be bad for you, so I tried TJ's Refresh shampoo and now I use it regularly. Let us know how you make out at TJ's. Might want to grab a quick sampling on the way to Napa and then swing back afterwards to stock up on items you liked.

                                              1. You know there's a Trader Joe's in Napa as well as in several other cities along either of the routes there from SF? I think most of them are larger and have more selection than the Masonic branch.

                                                1. At a Chowhound picnic several years back there was a chocolate expert who said that she believed the Trader Joes dark chocolate bars (72%) was the best commercially available chocolate. Problem is, it can be hard to find.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: katya

                                                    Which ones? The 72 percent "Pound Plus" bars or the 72 percent 50 gram bars sold in three-packs at the check-out counter. Or are they the same?

                                                    1. re: katya

                                                      That's from Belgium, so probably private-branded from one of the big names. At $1.49 for 1.65 ounces they're not competitive with online sources for first-rate 3.5-oz. bars.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          Still not competitive, that's $14.50 a pound, online starts around half that.

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            The best we can say for sure is that there has been one reported instance of it being Callebaut. So at one time of indeterminate length TJs bought and repackaged surplus Callebaut. But there's no way to tell what other surplus suppliers they deal with. If it was to their advantage to tell you, they would tell you.

                                                            Are we talking about the half-kilogram bars that say "made in belgium" on them? Because they cost about $4 which is considerably less than $14.50/lb.

                                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                              The "Pound Plus" bars are not top-quality chocolate.

                                                              I don't believe Trader Joe's repackages surplus. They contract with manufacturers to private-label their products, and in some cases to formulate slightly different products particularly for TJ's. The ones that were sourced from Callebaut in 2007 were three-packs of 50-gram bars:


                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                >"The "Pound Plus" bars are not top-quality chocolate."

                                                                What objective criteria are you using to make that assessment?

                                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                  Familiar recipes made with the Pound Plus dark were disappointing compared with the results using our usual ~70% Lindt or Callebaut.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    >"Familiar recipes made with the Pound Plus dark were disappointing"

                                                                    Ah, so an teleological definition of quality ("this knife is great for cutting tomatoes") vs. an ontological definition ("this tomato-cutting knife is made of the most appropriate materials"). One drawback to the former is that it's necessary to specify the end. One advantage is that it's not necessary to know anything at all about the components of the thing in question. Which since TJs refuses to reveal anything at all, that's all we have to go on, I guess.

                                                                    The pound-plus bittersweet seems to be one of the most cost effective means of ingesting chocolate I've found. And makes a decent mousse and chocolate-chip cookies. Fortunately, I've got very cheap taste in chocolate!

                                                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                      TJ's now has two different dark pound-plus bars. I prefer the one that's not the 72 percent. But then, I generally find cheap high cocoa solids chocolates to be not very palatable. Unless they're well-made with high-quality cacao, I find high cocoa solids chocolates to be dry and bitter.

                                                                  2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                    The Robert Lauriston criteria. I think they're carved in stone, right next to the Ten Commandments.

                                                                    Pound Plus bars are very good for what they are. I use them for baking or making hot chocolate, but not for eating out of hand. I've unfortunately developed very expensive taste in chocolate!

                                                                2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                  I agree with Robert: TJ's does not repackage surplus. When they buy surplus they sell it through under the original label. It's not cost-effective to repackage a limited-quantity product. Even if they bought a similar product in the future, there's no guarantee they would be able to use the same packaging, as the source codes, plant codes, and ingredient and nutritional information might not be the same.

                                                                  Callebaut is the only chocolate maker in Belgium that makes chocolate on the scale and at the pricepoint to supply Trader Joe's. It may or may not be the same chocolate as they sell under their own label, but if it says it's made in Belgium, it's made by Callebaut. Callebaut, like other large chocolate manufacturers, makes a range of products of varying quality at different price points.

                                                                  Trader Joe's often has agreements with its suppliers that it will not disclose the source in order to keep from undermining the price (and reputation) of the brand-name product. In addition, it does give them the option of changing contractors. I remember way back when I first bought them the "pound-plus" bars were made in France, not Belgium.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                    >"Callebaut is the only chocolate maker in Belgium that
                                                                    > makes chocolate on the scale and at the pricepoint to
                                                                    > supply Trader Joe's"

                                                                    How do we know this? Here's another billion dollar belgian chocolate supplier:

                                                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                      It appears from their site that they only make "couverture" and not consumer chocolate bars.

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        Here's a 20-billion dollar belgian chocolate company:
                                                                        which appears to have it's manufacturing plant in "a small
                                                                        town outside Antwerp". Isn't that where the pound-plus
                                                                        bars' labels claim they are made?

                                                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                          I've never seen that, but isn't pretty much anywhere in Belgium outside Antwerp? It's not that big a country.

                                                                          However, you "got me" -- I will conceed that it's possible that TJ's chocolate is made by Guylian. I seriously doubt it, based on the fact that we know Callebaut has made chocolate for TJ's and my own person experience with Guylian chocolate (which isn't very good, IMHO) but I guess it's within the realm of possibility.

                                                          2. As a fellow Canadian...I can appreciate your excitement with the anticipation of visiting a "Trader Joes" It is a great store..Couple of questions...Will your accomodation allow you to try some of their frozen/perishable products? If so.. I would suggest trying the Tart Alsace...which is a frozen pizza/pastry type product with carmelized onons and prosuitto Delicious.
                                                            If you have the slightest sweet tooth...take a walk down the cookie/candy aisle where the products are located above the frozenproduct freezers...Florentine choc/almond cookies. Triple ginger cookies. Pretzels stuffed with peanutbutter dipped in chocolate....
                                                            The Wasbi Mayo is a hit in our house...great on chickenburgers(Comes in a plastic Jar)
                                                            Their dry cereals are different from what you can get in Canada...as well as a broad selection of teas.
                                                            I totally understand the allure of US grocery shopping...even as a young child it would be an adventure/treat...Now the product selection in Canada has improved greatly over the years ....but for some reason..the variety of choices and specialty products is still not over the moon.
                                                            Have a great time

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: easily amused

                                                              We really do have it over the moon here in the US easily amused. It's a great time in history to be alive and a chowhound!

                                                              1. re: easily amused

                                                                easily amused, if it's any consolation whenever I visit Canada I love to hit Loblaws and gawk at all the products we don't get in the US. I bring home Aero bars and assorted teas. It's all about novelty :)

                                                                1. re: puddin head

                                                                  Puddin, you are so right about novelty.....I understand that Coffee crisp chocolate bars and "dill" potato chips are unavailable in the US and are favorite stashed items of many on return to the US

                                                              2. The almond windmill cookies are very tasty.

                                                                1. Trader Joes belongs to Aldis who sells just the very basic foods and household goods , We've visited Trader Joes many times without ever learning that there was anything special about them.. It's possible that they've changed since last week , but last week they were nothing special

                                                                  16 Replies
                                                                  1. re: onesawb

                                                                    TJ's does not BELONG to Aldi's. The two chains are owned by two different men who happen to be brothers.

                                                                      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                        well, if we want to get super technical about it...Trader Joe's is owned by Theo Albrecht who also owns Aldi Nord, which operates stores in Denmark, France, the Benelux countries, the Iberian peninsula and Poland. Theo's brother, Karl, owns Aldi Sud, which operates and controls stores in United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia (operating as Hofer in Austria and Slovenia) and Australia. So while the two stores are kind of cousins here, they do not reside under the same umbrella.

                                                                        1. re: puddin head

                                                                          And because they're privately held they don't have to disclose much. If you believe this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldi the separate entities may still jointly agree upon things. Thus it is possible (perhaps likely for certain items) that US Aldi stores and Trader Joe's have common suppliers for efficiency, even though the ownership is technically separate. Conclusive evidence of this either way may be difficult.

                                                                          1. re: CrazyOne

                                                                            Skimming aldi.us, I see little or no overlap among the products.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              There isn't much overlap that I've noticed either, although I've seen others report differently. I've only been in Aldi once or twice. I figured some things like frozen fruit, maybe produce, and possibly dairy and such would overlap if nothing else.

                                                                    1. re: onesawb

                                                                      You know, lots of businesses are under the same owership as other businesses. Common ownership in and of itself means nothing, unless you have a personal or political bone to pick with the owners.

                                                                      If you don't like Trader Joe's, why have you -- by your own acknowledgment -- visited it many times?

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        Because it has driven out the competition. And the techniques it has used
                                                                        to drive out the competition have, it is possible to argue, been less than

                                                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                          Which? Aldi's or Trader Joe's? Anyway, if you object to their corporate philosophy, I would certainly fall under what I was thinking of as a "political" bone to pick with the owners that might apply to all their commonly owned businesses.

                                                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                            Where does Trader Joe's not have competition? All the ones I shop at are within a few blocks of a competing supermarket. I don't know what you might be alluding to by "less than forthright."

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston


                                                                              Their appeal is based, in part, in creating a sense of "I'm getting exactly what I get elsewhere but they've just put their own private label on it." Which certainly feels good. Sometimes they get busted.

                                                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                I understand getting irked by a supermarket chain's cult following, but their selection is specifically geared to do the opposite of what you're saying. You can't get King Arthur flour just anywhere, or even a knock off flour for that matter. The image is that they're carefully selecting specialty products, at fair pricing, and offering upscale items in a generic format. Obviously it's not all upscale, but there are some gems, and some unique items (such as packaged naan bread) and it's usually a pleasant experience. It's a bit like flying Jetblue, you don't have to be fooled by their marketing plan to make them your preference.

                                                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                  There's not one thing In Trader Joe's that I shop for that way. I never go in there thinking "Oh, look, this looks exactly like xyz product but it has private label packaging." For that matter, a damned lot of private label packaging purposely makes connections with brand name packaging. Target dryer sheets used to be in an orange box, for example, just like Bounce. They had disclaimers on there that it was not made by P&G, heh.

                                                                                  Now I know there have been some attempts at tracking down who makes what for a few items. Chocolate is one I remember. But a significant part of their appeal, no. It's a few people who take the time to try to do this, and the vast majority of shoppers who simply go because of the convenient location or the selection of products (or both).

                                                                              2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                                                What? A kitschy backstory is less than forthright? I don't get it. Trader Joe's is a chain, and there's no hiding that. The fact that it has foreign ownership may be less well known, but it's hardly alone even in the supermarket arena.

                                                                                I don't get what competition Trader Joe's is driving out. I suppose in some place that may be true, but in most places I've seen it it's just an additional option, doesn't drive out anything.

                                                                                1. re: CrazyOne

                                                                                  Not only that, they don't carry an entire line of products, so there is no way you could depend on Trader Joe's without visiting other stores too.

                                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                                    I gotta agree with all these replies, Chuckles. TJ by my home is across the street from a still thriving produce/upscale market. TJ by my workplace is across the street from Whole Foods, and in the same strip mall as a higher end grocer.

                                                                                    Who is TJ driving out of business? And if you mean Aldi instead, I don't see that either. Their product mix is...somewhat eccentric, to say the least.