When it comes to my weekly grocery shopping routine, it is a usually a two-hour process with stops at both Publix and Trader Joes, as well as occasional runs to Target and maybe even Kroger. Although it seems silly to stop at so many different stores just to restock my fridge each week, each store offers a different selection of products, as well as very different experiences. Ever since moving into my own apartment last year and actually being able to cook my own food and keep things in a normal sized refrigerator, trekking to the grocery store, planning out meals and cooking new things has become one of my favorite parts of the week.
I usually start my grocery errands at Trader Joe’s because, more often than not, their prices are far lower than other competing grocery stores. While I was familiar with the company because of its multiple locations in my hometown of Atlanta, I was largely unaware of their presence as a low-price grocery store until I became a frequent customer last year. One of the key features that keeps their prices so low is that 99% of the products sold at Trader Joe’s are from their own private label. Everything from salad dressing to breads to frozen fruit to cookies and even wine is colorfully and often artistically packaged and adorned with the “Trader Joe’s” name.
An article on Facebook recently piqued my interest entitled “What Brands Are Actually Behind Trader Joe’s Snacks?” Although there are recognizable similarities between many of my favorite Trader Joes items and their inspiration that you can find on the shelves at Publix and Kroger, I had never really considered the fact that maybe the same brand that made name brand pita chips was making the ones I bought for a fraction of the price. In fact, most of the products sold by Trader Joes are purchased from third-party manufacturers. With the only catch being that it’s all kept a secret. For this reason, it is largely difficult to find out what manufacturers are behind our Trader Joe’s favorites. Although, through some careful product label reading and behind the scenes investigative work, researchers have discovered popular products such as hummus, pita chips, pretzels, cookie thins, animal crackers and more to be extremely similar to their name brand counterpart. This suggests that the same manufacturer is producing both products.
As a consumer, while I am thankful for the discounted prices, it makes me curious why a manufacturer would be willing to sell their products for lower prices, while also removing their name from the product? While Trader Joe’s seems to be gaining more and more loyal followers each and every day through their viral social media popularity, healthy options and limited edition releases (looking at you, pumpkin products) on top of their relatively low prices, how are the name brand products still selling at stores like Publix and Kroger? It will be very interesting to see in the future if some of these agreements with Trader Joe’s start to dissolve, forcing them to remove fan favorites from their shelves or figure out how to manufacture the products themselves.