Trader Joe’s

Today’s NYT has a lovely, lovely article that takes us behind the scenes at Trader Joe’s. The article looks at how Trader Joe’s buyers and taste testers select, craft, and approve their products, how the chain got started, and what their philosophy is. You should definitely read this if you’re a Trader Joe’s shopper, because it gives us a fascinating window into how the chain operates, and because certain sentences will ring amusingly true: “The stores are small, the selection is uneven and the corporate culture can be described as dorky.” And even if you don’t go to Trader Joe’s, you might enjoy the article’s depiction of the obsessive, nutty people who make up the Trader Joe’s company. I loved and laughed at this description of the company’s taste-testing panel:

The group fell silent and began chewing intently. Immediately, comments flew. “Interesting nutty flavors on No. 1.” … “This one has a cardboardy texture at the end.” … “What about the omega-3’s on this one?” Eventually, a favorite was determined by a show of hands and a plan sketched for the step ahead: persuading the supplier to make refinements and solve problems.

Next, aged goat cheeses. Then truffled cheeses. (“Like dirty socks.” … “I think people want to see those black flecks.” … “I worry that we’re just too far ahead of the curve with these.”) Toasted walnuts, then granola clusters. (“How are these not cookies?” the house nutritionist asked.) And finally a new category: trail-mix-based cereals. The group poured milk and chewed. “I am not happy to get a whole almond in my bowl of cereal,” one said forcefully.

That’s why I love Trader Joe’s! Not everything there is a winner, but it’s a good good place for people who like food.

I told Jason about this article, and he was confused about why anyone would object to almonds in their cereal.

I replied, “I don’t like whole nuts in my cereal either!” He wanted to know why, so I elaborated: “Well, nuts are very crunchy, but they’re not crunchy like cereal flakes. Flakes crunch easily and then disappear, but you have to keep chomping on a whole nut for a while.”

A pause. Then, “You’ve given a lot of thought to this.”

I have! I wouldn’t really want to be a buyer/tester for Trader Joe’s, nor would I want to be a contender on Top Chef (which premiere episode I watched tonight and got sucked into, despite my lack of interest in the previews), but I certainly can understand and discuss at length the finer points of food… like whole almonds in cereal.

Speaking of which, Trader Joe’s toffee clusters cereal has halved nuts in it, and it is delicious.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]


4 responses to “Trader Joe’s

  1. aww!

    Too bad they don’t have a trader joes around here. I think I would enjoy shopping there too. And I’m sorry to see that you slept badly last night! I dreamt that I made soup out of water and steak pieces. And then I let it sit on the stove too long so most of the water evaporated. so I added more water and pieces of baguette to thicken it. but oddly enough, the bread didn’t soak into the soup/water. And before I could put it away, a dinner party came over and there was all this other food around and since I couldn’t get the water soup away, I just ran away so I couldn’t hear people saying how bad the soup was. Then more stuff happened and then it was the next day and I looked into the fridge for lunch and even though there was a lot of other food, I picked out my soup for leftovers because I wanted to know if it tasted good. When the alarm rang this morning, my first thought was “But didn’t I just lay down to sleep??” Those mornings are never fun. :]


    • Re: aww!

      What a weird dream. Analysis: water too simple for soup, steak too fancy, can’t find a good balance and/or things aren’t working out. You’re afraid people will find out and you’d rather not hear it, but you still like your particular mixture. 🙂


  2. My brother says the town didn’t pass the bill that would’ve allowed Trader Joe’s to open up in Davis. Apparently it wouldn’t be good business for the farmers there.

    Great article!

    • Ah, so that’s why there’s no Trader Joe’s in Davis. It seems like such a TJ-friendly place. I wonder what farming has to do with TJ’s?

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s