Sunday, April 15, 2018

Why People LOVE Trader Joe's

Saratoga, California Store

Last November when I found my beloved German Christmas Cake, a square praline-chocolate bar and roasted coconut snaps at Trader Joe’s and a minute later these “to-die-for” chips with turkey-and-stuffing taste and smell, I swore to finally write about these fabulous Trader Joe's places where customers find cheerful staff and extraordinary food.

“Trader Joe's is more than a grocery store. 

It is a tiki/trader-themed grocery experience.” 
says Christine Byrne from Buzzfeed.  

Bacon Chips

Travelers to the USA: a visit at Trader Joe’s is a must!  You will find these great stores in almost every city over 150,000 - at least in the Western States.  In the East, they are less frequent to find.  At the end of 2017, Trader Joe's had 474 stores nationwide in 43 states and in Washington, D.C.  In 2018 customers will be greeted at these new locations: New York (Upper West Side) - Washington (Union Market), D.C. and Fresno, California. The only question is: WHEN will Trader Joe’s open shops in Canada.  Foodies in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, and Vancouver are waiting anxiously…

Bath Tissue in fancy packages

However, there's some silver-lining on the horizon: Amazon carries Trader Joe's products on and  But it's not the same as shopping in their stores.

Customers can experience a unique grocery store with the friendliest, an almost upbeat staff of all the chain stores, free coffee, delicious private label and organic foods, and specialty products - not to mention a great selection of wines.  Every store has a spot, where they present every day one of their delicious food items and let customers sample.

Amazing Cheese Selection
Not only me, but all of my friends stock up before we leave the States for Canada.  Even my dog is crazy about their canned pet food. It’s so much fun to read Trader Joe’s monthly flyer, called “Fearless Flyer”, containing lots of recipes and kitchen tips, in addition to little stories about the company and their products.  Great recipes can be found on their website too.  Enjoyable product and wine insider stories, decorated with cute graphics are dotting their website.
Their unique design, not only in these flyers but also in the packaging of their own store brands resembles images of 19th-century scenes.  A very smart brand identity!  It saves the company a lot of money for designers, and they get the images for free as they are not copyrighted anymore.

“It’s not complicated. We just focus on what matters
 — great food + great prices = Value.”

How it All Started
Way back in 1958, when the first store opened, the chain was called Pronto Markets. Its founder Joe Coulombe is said to have developed the idea of the Trader Joe's South Seas motif while on vacation in the Caribbean. The Tiki culture fad of the 1950s and 1960s was fresh in the cultural memory.  Trader Vic's was at its height with 25 locations worldwide.  Coulombe had noticed that Americans were traveling more and returning home with a taste for food and wine they had trouble satisfying in supermarkets of the time.

Trader Joe's Boise, Idaho

Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's is an American chain of grocery stores based in Monrovia, California, owned in the meantime by a German private equity family trust (Aldi).  The first store, which was branded as "Trader Joe's" opened in 1967.  This store, on Arroyo Parkway in Pasadena, California, remains still in operation.  Joe Coulombe made the stores larger, decked the walls with cedar planks and donned the crews in cool Hawaiian shirts.  Most importantly, he started packaging innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods under the “Trader Joe’s” name.  That cut costs and saved customers money.  It still does.  And that’s important, because “Value” is a concept they take very seriously.  And by ‘Value’, they mean great everyday prices on all great products — no sales, no gimmicks, no clubs to join, no special cards to swipe...

Panettone & Christstollen from Europe

House Brands
Trader Joe’s buys directly from whenever possible, bargaining hard to get the best price, and then pass the savings on to their customers.  If an item doesn’t pull its weight in their stores, it goes away to give way for something else.  They buy in volume and contract early to get the best prices.  The quirky, service-driven chain has even inspired a nebulously legal Canadian spinoff for Trader-Joe’s-deprived neighbors to the north. See also and article by the CBC about the "pirate".

Morning Joe

Benefits For Employees
According to this 2010 CNN Money article, Trader Joe's full-time crew members (the people that stock the shelves, ring up and bag groceries, and help customers in the aisles) can earn starting salaries between $40,000-$60,000 a year with benefits.  Also, "Trader Joe's annually contributes 15.4% of employees' gross income to tax-deferred retirement accounts.  By industry standards, that is A LOT in America.

Typical Flyer Ads

Trader Joe's has said its private-label products contain no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives, no colors derived from anything other than naturally available products, no genetically modified ingredients, no partially hydrogenated oils (adding trans fat), and no MSG. In addition, its private label dairy products use milk from cows not given the artificial growth hormone.

Grocery shopping these days is not always a pleasant experience, but at Trader Joe’s it is a joy!  Not only does the staff seem to like working there, even the customers look like they love to go to Trader Joe’s.  If you’ve never shopped at a Trader Joe's, it’s probably difficult to understand why people are so doggedly loyal to and enthusiastic about the food retailer.


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