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Inside the Secret World of Trader Joe's

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  1. This was fascinating. I ♥ Trader Joe's!

    1. Quite interesting and not very surprising re their vendors.

      1. Good informative article.
        Is it my imagination that the article and their website makes no mention of their "no questions asked return policy" ? I'm pretty sure it used to be prominently displayed on their website before this one.


        2 Replies
        1. re: monku

          The article mentioned the policy.

        2. i just think it's funny that they even bother with that vendor confidentiality policy at this point - it's really rather easy to identify the manufacturers for a majority of the products.

          25 Replies
            1. re: monku

              i think/hope you meant that in jest...it has nothing to do with being "smart," just familiar with a product.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                I'm serious.
                I buy TJ's items because of the quality and value. It never occured to me I was buying name brand product with a TJ label.

                1. re: monku

                  wow, i didn't mean to offend! i assumed everyone who shops at TJs knows by now that many of their branded products are repackaged existing items from various manufacturers.

                  if you give me a list of the things you typically buy there, i'll tell you who makes them if they're any of the ones i know ;)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    No offense taken.

                    Probably easier if you throw some out to me, some of the stuff I buy I don't think are from name branded products....from the description I see in the Fearless Flyer.
                    Only one I'm sure of is TJ's ice cream (Double Rainbow).

                    1. re: monku

                      start here:

                      and i'll toss in a few more:
                      - Chocolate Cacao Nibs in the metal tin are Sweetriot
                      - Kefir is Lifeway
                      - Gluten-Free Granola is Bakery on Main
                      - i can't remember what the different varieties are called at TJ's, but they sell Sahale Snacks (seasoned nut blends) under their label
                      - goat's milk is Summerhill Farms (at least it is here in CA - they use regional suppliers for some items like that).
                      - Toasted Nori Snacks are Sea's Gift
                      - the latest is a repackaging of Sabra hummus.

                      those are the ones that come to mind off the top of my head.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Thanks for the primer. I'll be more aware.

                        1. re: monku

                          Costco makes it easier for us mortals. They just slap Kirkland on top of the name brand. 8<D

                          1. re: Bob W

                            Live by the Kirkland label and probably buried in a Kikland coffin.

                            1. re: monku

                              Huh? Was that a reference the fact that Costco sells coffins, or that their house brand may kill you- or both?

                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            - Frozen croissants & chocolate croissants are by Galaxy Desserts
                            - Organic milk in the SF Bay Area is Strauss Dairy
                            - Savory Broths Reduced Sodium Concentrates are Savory Choice
                            - Popped Potato Chips are Pop Chips

                            1. re: gnomatic

                              In Northern California, the cream-top organic milk is Straus; the other organic milks are Clover.

                              Organic European-Style yogurt is Straus (nationwide).

                              The boxed soups are Pacific Natural, so the boxed broth may be, too.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                tj's water crackers? made by carr's?

                                tj's stoned wheat crackers? by red oval farms?

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  My favorite part was where the retail expert Burt P. Flickinger III ended up buying a few items during his walk through.

                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              I don't think their cacao nibs are sweetriot. same shaped tins but different taste.

                              1. re: spinachandchocolate

                                I haven't seen cocoa nibs at the TJs near me. Do they have regional things like Costco?

                                1. re: rainey

                                  There have been reports that distribution centers in different areas have slightly different products. If it's a TJ's label product I wouldn't think there'd be any regional variation, though. You can always ask -- if they don't have it they can look it up and tell you if they can get it.

                                  1. re: rainey

                                    if your local store has them, they'll likely be on the display at the checkout line among the chocolate bars, gum, and tins of mints and Altoids.

                                  2. re: spinachandchocolate

                                    have you tried all three Sweetriot varieties? they make 50%, 65% and 70% (with espresso)...the TJ's product tastes *exactly* like the 65 to me, and the shape and chocolate coverage are the same as Sweetriot, and different from any other brand i've tried.

                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                What about my "must buy" - those Triple Gingersnaps? :-)

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  i *suspect* they may be Beth's, based in Mill Valley, but i'm not positive...

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    what about my water crackers and stoned wheat crackers?

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      again, can't be sure because i've never had either one (darned Celiac), but my best guess would be Carr's for the water crackers, and Nabisco on the stoned wheat.

                                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  i did not know that either! great article.

                        2. thanks, that was very interesting!

                          1. I thought it was an interesting article.

                            I particularly appreciated the comments about limited choices. I don't need 40 kinds of peanut butter -- I just need one *good* peanut butter (or really, four: salted/unsalted, creamy/chunky). I get very frustrated when I'm offered what seems to be a huge number of choices only to find that most of the products are exactly the same and none of them has the combination of features I want.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Agreed. I tend to get overwhelmed in big stores so theoretically TJ's should be a more relaxing place to shop. Heh. Maybe on sunday nights. At my TJ's the employees tend to yell back and forth a lot, etc. Maybe they will do a follow up article on how employees are trained and what they look for in an applicant. I've only been to my local TJ's so I'm not sure if the hyperactive employees are in every store.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                I agree and disagree. When I like the product like the boxed soups and ketchup I could't agree more. When I don't -- like many of their packaged food are too highly spiced, they can get chile happy -- then it's disconcerting not to have an alternative.

                              2. How about the orgin of the TJ's greek yogurt and teddy bear ginger gummies?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: HillJ

                                  i've never seen the ginger gummy bears, but my guess is that it's Buderim:

                                  i'm 99% sure the individual 5.3-oz containers of organic Greek yogurt are Oikos, but i don't kno about the larger, non-organic 1-lb containers.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Yep, the ginger gummy bears are def. Buderim!

                                2. Anyone know who makes Trader Joe's Kettle Corn. I purchased a bag recently and can't get enough of this stuff. It tastes better than some freshly made batches too.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. VERY interesting story - I do hope that TJs can keep up the neighborhood feel.

                                    1. They forgot to mention how you fall in love with a product and then it's gone.

                                      Their frozen prik king was great but now gone. Put a few of their tiger shrimp on the top and it was da bomb!

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: rainey

                                        Maybe we should start a thread "Your favorite things that you used to be able to get but can no longer get at Trader Joe's…"

                                        I'll start:
                                        The all-butter frozen puff pastry they used to sell.
                                        The low-fat rye crackers (kinda like melba toast). I can't remember the name.

                                        1. re: skippy66

                                          Ginger Spread.
                                          Kirk's Original Coco Castile Soap

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            Yeah, there are already threads for this on the chains board, but just so you know, LW, that ginger spread was made by Ginger People. I buy it at a local market under the brand name now.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              Yup, I've seen it (and also did a search for "ginger" on that thread that Sloth linked and saw you said the same thing there <g>) . But I still have (I think) two jars of the TJs brand in my pantry to use up. :-)

                                          2. re: skippy66

                                            One Christmas they had a fantastic truffle butter.
                                            Speaking of butter, I wish they still carried the Plugra but I'm very happy with the Kerrygold.

                                            1. re: rainey

                                              Thanks for the reminder re: the butter - I wish they still carried the Presidente.

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                LindaW...... Do you prefer creamery or cultured butter. If cultured, Organic Valley has a good example of this ripened cream butter. Available in unsalted and salted.

                                                1. re: ospreycove

                                                  I'll take either, ospreycove. Organic Valley that is sold by Whole Foods? Trying to remember if I've had it. I pick up Kate's butter when it's on sale at my local supermarket; REALLY liked Vermont Butter & Cheese Cultured European style as well.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Oh yeah! Vermont Butter & Cheese butter is to die for. But I've never seen it at either TJs or WF.

                                                    1. re: rainey

                                                      if your local WFM doesn't have the butter you can probably ask the dairy manager to order it for you, because they do carry some of the Vermont B & C cheeses.

                                            2. re: skippy66

                                              You can add more to this long-running topic on the Chains Board