Trader Joe’s has quickly become one of the countries most popular grocery stores. With its low-cost gourmet food, unique food selections, and great brand awareness, Trader Joe’s has become a real cult favorite while also gaining mass appeal. You are about to find out everything you need to know as we look at the Top 10 Untold Truths Of Trader Joe’s.
10. Joe Was Real
Like most products and food chains that go into business, the name of the brand is named after the person or people that created them. Trader Joe’s is no different and was named after the creator of the store, Joe, obviously. The Joe in question was Joe Coulombe, an entrepreneur who graduated from Stanford Business School. In the late 1950s, Coulombe launched his grocery store under the name Pronto Markets. However, as Pronto Markets was more in line with the rapidly growing 7-Eleven than a normal grocery store, Coulombe felt that the competition from 7-Eleven would be too much. So, with a quick re-think and re-brand, Coulombe launched Trader Joe’s. The reason behind the re-brand, especially Trader Joe’s unique style, is said to be down to Coulombe’s vacation. While in the Carribean, Coulombe got inspired by the ‘Tiki-themed’ idea, which was popular at this time. Adding to that theme further, Coulombe wanted a store that focused more on fresh and local foods, just like the stores and markets from his vacation. Then a legend was born as Trader Joe’s opened up and became a huge success. The chain of grocery stores is getting bigger and bigger and yet it has still managed to keep its original themes and ideas intact.
9. Trader Joe’s Stores Are Ready To Set Sail
It’s fair to say that Trader Joe’s has a unique style with all its stores. As we’ve already mentioned on our list of untold truths of Trader Joes, Joe’s founder, Joe Coulombe, got the idea for his stores while on vacation in the Carribean. The nautical theme has continued to this day and it doesn’t just apply to the store, it applies to the workers too. With job titles such as Crew Members, they also have Mates, Captains, and Merchants to keep their theme alive. The workers, or Crew Members, are also decked out in Hawaiian shirts, and this isn’t just a fashion thing either. The idea for the shirts is because the Crew Mates are traders on the culinary seas, searching for great foods and cool items to bring home. They certainly have a lot of fun at Trader Joe’s. They also have a very unique way of communicating with each other in the store. Not content with the usual loud speaker or buzzer system that most grocery stores have, Trader Joe’s uses bells. Just as ships communicate with flags and bells, Trader Joe’s does the same thing, and they are not just ringing the bell for fun either. Each ring of the bell means a different thing and Crew Members must learn the bell language.
8. The Plastic Lobster
While Trader Joe’s doesn’t go in for the marketing tricks that a lot of other companies have, it does have it’s own little gimmicks as well as some fun and games for the children. One of them is the plastic lobster. The tropical look of any Trader Joe’s wouldn’t be complete without a lobster somewhere on the premises. Becoming their unofficial mascot since the mid-1970s, the plastic lobster now appears in every store. Sometimes they like to hide it for customers to find, but be assured that no matter which Trader Joe’s you go to, there will be a pair of lobster eyes watching you. Another game Trader Joe’s likes to play with its customers is to find the plushy toy. Trader Joe’s knows that bringing kids along to do the grocery shopping can be a chore, so they have tried to make it a little more interesting for the kids. Having several stuffed toys hidden around the store can inject a little bit of fun into your grocery trip. The trick is that the kids have to find them all and if they can complete this stuffed toy scavenger hunt, they will be rewarded with a treat by the manager.
7. Sale Is A Four-letter Word at Trader Joe’s
Many companies in the world use advertising tricks in order to get us to buy their products or visit their stores. Whether they are slick advertising campaigns or promotions linked to things like movies or video games. On top of that, these companies bombard us with coupons and membership cards that promise to give us great deals and prizes. But the one trick that always gets us rushing through the door is a big sale. The promise of getting our normal goods at a lower price is irresistible. Because all these marketing tools work, surely Trader Joe’s has them too? Actually, it doesn’t. In fact, Trader Joe’s doesn’t use any of them at all. They don’t do membership cards, glitzy promotions, giant sales or any other discounts. What they do is great food at low prices, and that’s all. Rather than spending time and money on all the trimmings that other companies and brands do, Trader Joe’s focuses on what it does best and they ensure that people come back into their stores because they’ve had a great experience and bought some great food, not because of some fancy deal or points. Trader Joe’s also sells a lot of its own brand which can only be bought in their stores. That’s another reason they don’t need to over advertise. If you like their food and their prices, then Trader Joe’s is the only place to go.
While Trader Joe’s is here to bring us great foods and products at a low price, all while giving us a smile with their themes and games, it also does a lot for charity. A lot of food that comes into the store isn’t good enough for sale, and therefore the products can’t be put on the shelf. While there is nothing wrong with eating a slightly damaged or bruised piece of food, Trader Joe’s can’t sell it to customers, so what do they do? They actually donate all the food to charities. Known as ‘spoils,’ the slightly damaged food is rounded up and donated. Trader Joe’s usually gives the ‘spoils’ to local nonprofit organizations and charities. As well as contributing to their local communities with their food donations, Trader Joe’s also helps out when it comes to recycling and composting. Not only do they have information in their stores but their website has many helpful tips and guides on how and what to recycle and compost. Not only is Trader Joe’s here to serve, but they are helping save the planet too.
5. Trader Joe’s is Owned By Aldi
There may be many people out there that can see certain similarities between Trader Joe’s and the German grocery store, Aldi. They both sell great products, great wines, and at low prices. Are they, in fact, the same store? Well, actually no they are not but Aldi does own Trader Joe’s, sort of. The reason that we say sort of is because there are actually two international companies with the Aldi name and brand. Originally the Aldi supermarket chain was one name and one brand. They very quickly opened up discounted grocery stores all over the world. That is until the two brothers that ran the company had a big falling out. Since then Aldi has split in two; Aldi Sud, which operates the grocery stores known as Aldi, and Aldi Nord, which now owns Trader Joe’s. While this big grocery chain did buy out Trader Joe’s, they have never interfered with it. Instead, they have kept the brand pretty much the same, with the same mission statement and brand awareness, and they have even kept the old management the same. All of this can only be a good thing as Trader Joe’s has such a unique and interesting take on the grocery store that it would be a shame to turn it into just another boring chain.
4. Disappearing Items
Have you ever walked around a Trader Joe’s, looking for your favorite item only to find it’s not there? You’ve discovered this great store and many great products but now those products aren’t sold anywhere. This happens a lot at Trader Joe’s. The biggest reason for the sudden shortages of products is that Trader Joe’s doesn’t order as much stock as most other grocery stores. In fact, the average grocery store has an estimated 50,000 products on its shelf or in storage at any one time, whereas Trader Joe’s has only about 4,000. That’s a huge difference and those numbers also make it quite likely that a product will run out and not be re-stocked. What they actually do is called ‘Truck to Shelf.’ This means that Trader Joe’s only orders a small amount of product so they don’t have any waste, or foods sitting on the shelf for days on end. ‘Truck to shelf’ guarantees fresh foods and produce are on their shelves. If you are a regular shopper at Trader joe’s grocery stores, apart from having to deal with disappearing stock, you will probably have to deal with stock that has been discontinued altogether. This is another thing that Trader Joe’s does. In order to keep the cost down, and therefore sell their products at a lower price, they can’t stock a product for too long if it’s not selling well. Even if you love a certain food, if not too many others do, then that food will go. Trader Joe’s may also discontinue items if the supplier ups the price or if it costs too much to transfer or store. While all these things may be annoying for the customers, especially if you find a food you truly love, it is beneficial in other ways, as it keeps their prices low.
3. Trader Joe’s Vs Canada
When your company becomes famous and a household name, you may find that people suddenly want to take advantage of you or try to cash in on your name. That’s exactly what happened to Trader Joe’s. In 2012 a man from Vancouver, Canada, opened up a store called Pirate Joe’s. While the name sounds similar, it can’t hurt Trader Joe’s that much can it? Actually the man didn’t just open a store that had a similar theme and name, he actually sold Trader Joe’s food. Taking several trips across the border to Trader Joe’s, the Canadian bought food in bulk and then took it back to his store and sold it at quite a markup. As soon as Trader Joe’s heard about this they banned the guy from their stores instantly. However, not beaten yet, he decided to ‘hire’ other people to cross the border and buy Trader Joe’s products for him. Trader Joe’s sued him, and while the man tried to fight, he had spent all his money in court and had no choice but to close down his store.
2. Popular Items at Trader Joe’s
While Trader Joe’s is proud to sell big named brands such as PepsiCo, Danone, and Naked Juice, most of its products are under its own brand. The Trader Joe’s product line not only covers a multitude of foods but it also promises us that its foods don’t contain any of the bad stuff that other brands do. Artificial flavorings and colors, preservatives, trans-fats, and genetically modified ingredients are all absent from the ingredients list for these products. The most popular food items that Trader Joe’s sells is Mandarin Orange Chicken, this delicious dish has been their top performer for the last few years. Other notable tasty treats include; Triple Ginger Snaps, Mac and Cheese, Cookie Butter, and their dark chocolate bars. Each new food has to go through a vigorous taste testing before it’s released onto the public. So when we see that food on the self, we know it’s going to be good. As well as food, Trader Joe’s has its own alcohol range as well. They have been brewing their own beer for many years with their Vintage ale. There is also a great wine range, which has quickly become the champion for great tasting affordable wine. Not many grocery stores with their own brands do alcohol as well. So it’s great to see Trader Joe’s doing what they do best with food, to alcohol. Great tasting, affordable products that are full of fresh and great ingredients. Trader Joe’s brand has come a long way since it introduced its first product decades ago. The humble granola cereal was the first item to be produced and sold under this brand. There is also another upside to the Trader Joe’s brand and that is you can taste anything before you buy it. If you ask a member of the staff, they will be happy to help you out. And, yes, this includes tasting the alcohol as well.
1. Bigger Than Whole Foods
On our list of untold truths of Trader Joe’s, we have mentioned many great things that make this grocery store such a hit. However, while Trader Joe’s is becoming more and more popular, it is still very secretive about certain things and is often criticized for that fact, especially in regards to its sustainable food and sourcing. While this issue may well hold back some companies, Trader Joe’s has gone from strength to strength. Recently it was reported that Trader Joe’s is bigger than its competitor Whole Foods. While Whole Foods is a lot more well known, Trader Joe’s has more locations across the country than its rivals and that looks set to increase. With its free samples, more than generous return policy, in which you can return anything even if you don’t have the receipt, and it’s low prices and great customer care, Trader Joe’s looks set to become even bigger in the future.