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Trader Joe's: Spices and prices

John Francis Oct 21, 2013 01:48 AM

This month's Fearless Flier has an Insider Page on herbs and spices, comparing theirs with what's in "supermarkets & natural food stores." The price comparisons make TJ's look good, though less so when corrected for different quantities. But it's the quality claim that's interesting. "There are only a handful of truly high quality spice manufacturers in the world, and we happen to do business directly with a number of them... Trader Joe's puts the spiced in our own label and we don't mark up our prices to sky-high proportions just to recover all those "hidden" [marketing] costs."


I've bought nearly all my herbs and spices from a "truly high quality spice manufacturer," Penzey's, and haven't tried any of TJ's competitive products except for black peppercorns (not in their comparison). Has anyone here made such comparisons, or have inside information about TJ's suppliers?

  1. c
    Chowrin Oct 25, 2013 09:43 AM

    Cumin seems reasonable.
    Haven't tried the rest.

    1. j
      John Francis Oct 22, 2013 07:03 AM

      Just got Penzey's current catalog, and their prices can indeed be fairly steep - as expected. Their least expensive cinnamon, Chinese (Tung Hing), is $5.59 for 1.7 oz, compared with TJ's $1.99 for 1.5 oz.

      Quality is another matter, which I suppose we have to figure out for ourselves. Maybe I'll pick up some of TJ's stuff, such as basil, oregano, and cumin, and compare it with the Penzey's already in my drawer. Has anybody else done this?

      5 Replies
      1. re: John Francis
        Tripeler Oct 24, 2013 12:45 AM

        I have found that Smart & Final is astonishingly cheap for spices, but the sizes are quite large. Still, it is attractive for things like cumin, paprika, chile powder and curry powder. Quality is not exceptional, but not at all bad.

        1. re: Tripeler
          Cathy Oct 24, 2013 05:51 AM

          Smart N Final is now owned by Sprouts, where you can go if you want to pick up smaller portions of spices from the bulk bottles.

          1. re: Cathy
            chez cherie Oct 24, 2013 07:14 AM

            i thought sprouts was owned by smart and final?

            1. re: chez cherie
              Tripeler Oct 24, 2013 07:16 AM

              This reminds me of the Mark Twain story about two bobcats who got into a fight and ended up eating each other, so there was absolutely nothing left.

        2. re: John Francis
          Chowrin Oct 25, 2013 09:44 AM

          Truth in pricing. Penzey's charges a premium for their excellent flint jars.
          it's also less than $6 for 4 oz.

        3. c
          chez cherie Oct 21, 2013 05:28 AM

          tj's started carrying smoked paprika a year or so ago. it's def not penzey's. i'm pretty familiar with their spices, and though i use a spanish brand of smoked paprika, i feel confident that this is not a relabeled penzey's item.

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