25 Things You Didn't Know About Trader Joe's Products

There are not many ways to make grocery shopping fun. Trader Joe's, on the other hand, has somehow cracked the code for making an otherwise mundane errand into something to look forward to every week. The nationwide grocery chain is a massive operation, but you would not suspect that as you step foot into your nearest location. It's less like a warehouse-style grocery chain like Kroger and more like a mom-and-pop market with a Hawaiian shirt-clad staff and stuffed animals hidden around the store for kids to find.

There are a lot of secrets behind the success of Trader Joe's, many of which stem from the products themselves. Whether it's the fan-favorite Everything But the Bagel Seasoning Blend or the ultra-affordable Two-Buck Chuck wine, Trader Joe's products are the heartbeat of what makes the grocery chain so popular. Just like any well-kept secret, there is more to these products than meets the eye.

The vast majority of its products are private label

When you go shopping at Trader Joe's, do not expect to find your favorite national brands of food. That is because the supermarket chain focuses the majority of its efforts on selling its own private label. That means everything from the ice cream to the salad dressing carries the Trader Joe's brand on its packaging.

In fact, over 80% of all of the items at the grocery stores are sold under its private label, as revealed in the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast. It is a big reason why their grocery items are so inexpensive compared to other supermarket chains. The private label also adds an element of exclusivity, giving Trader Joe's an almost cult-like following among repeat customers.

You're getting a steal on its flowers

As you enter any Trader Joe's, you will almost immediately come across a selection of fresh flowers to add to your shopping cart. Picking up a bouquet is a must-do for many Trader Joe's shoppers. Affinity for fresh flowers aside, there is an added financial benefit to buying them from this chain. Just like its groceries, the flowers sold here are usually priced far lower than at competing grocery stores.

And if you do not have a particular preference for which flowers you buy, you can often find in-season varieties cheaper than you would find more popular, in-demand selections. Whether you like flowers to sit on your counter at all times or you are picking up a bouquet as a gift, you definitely want to check how much you could save by shopping at Trader Joe's.

You have Franzia to thank for Two-Buck Chuck

If you have spent any time inside Trader Joe's, then you are likely aware of its vast selection of low-price wine. When it comes to ultra-discounted alcohol, one of the supermarket chain's claims to fame is the fan-favorite Charles Shaw, more commonly referred to as Two-Buck Chuck. True to its name, it was first spotted at Trader Joe's in 2002 for just $1.99. And without the popular wine label, Franzia, however, there would be no Two-Buck Chuck.

Yes, Franzia, the company widely known for its boxed wine. As the story goes, Charles Shaw was a struggling winery that filed for bankruptcy in 1995 and was soon after acquired by Franzia. In the years that followed, Franzia started to sell $1.99 bottles of Charles Shaw exclusively at Trader Joe's. Inflation eventually caught up with Two-Buck Chuck, and in some regions, it has nearly doubled in price. But thanks to Franzia, it is still far less expensive than the majority of wines sold today.

The first Trader Joe's-branded product was granola

The first Trader Joe's opened its doors in Pasadena, California, in 1967. Founded by Joe Coulumbe, the grocery store always focused on selling quality, organic products from the start. While you can go through the aisles today and see mostly private-label groceries, it was not always so.

In fact, the first Trader Joe's location was open for several years before the first private-label grocery item was sold. The first item to be sold under the Trader Joe's brand was none other than granola. This item hit the shelves in 1972, which makes good sense when you imagine a locally-owned, organic-forward grocery store in California in the '70s. Perhaps it had something to do with Coulumbe's ideal Trader Joe's customer, which he shared with the Los Angeles Times: " ... a person who got a Fulbright scholarship, went to Europe for a couple of years, and developed a taste for something other than Velveeta."

There are far fewer products in a Trader Joe's than your average grocery store

Customers accustomed to shopping in major national grocery store chains might be struck by the smaller footprint when stepping into a Trader Joe's. By comparison, Trader Joe's is more akin to a small-town market than a major chain like Kroger or Whole Foods. That design choice was intentional, as explained in the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast episode, "What's Up With Trader Joe's Parking Lots." A smaller grocery store adds a more intimate, personal feel rather than the impersonal warehouse vibes felt in a larger competing grocery chain.

That smaller footprint simply means fewer items will fit inside. The average Trader Joe's holds around 4,000 items, or stock-keeping units (SKUs). By comparison, the typical larger grocery store holds roughly 30,000 SKUs.

You won't find MSG in any of its products

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, has had a considerable amount of controversy and, frankly, misconceptions surrounding its safety over the years. The public's perception of the ingredient can be largely traced back to xenophobia, but thankfully that stigma around MSG is starting to end. But there are several locations where you still will not find MSG included as an ingredient; one of those places is Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's actually has several ingredients that it does not include in any of the products sold in its stores, with MSG on that list. Despite the fact that the absurdities surrounding MSG are beginning to dissipate, Trader Joe's still omits the ingredient from its products completely. As public perception changes, however, it is possible that Trader Joe's could one day begin to include MSG in its grocery items.

Its Mandarin Orange Chicken is the ultimate fan-favorite item

Certain Trader Joe's products have developed a fierce fan following over the years, like the Everything But the Bagel Seasoning Blend and the Unexpected Cheddar Cheese. But when it comes to ultimate fan favorites, Trader Joe's actually puts it to a vote. Each year, the U.S. chain holds its annual Customer Choice Awards, with winners being inducted into the Product Hall of Fame.

The most beloved item of 2023 went to none other than the Mandarin Orange Chicken. Found in the frozen foods aisle, the product was awarded both favorite overall and best entrée. But if you frequent Trader Joe's, you probably already guessed that Mandarin Orange Chicken would take home the top prize.

100% of its unsold but safe-to-consume products are donated

The vibe at Trader Joe's is one that makes you feel like you are shopping at a local market that is deeply embedded into the fabric of its surrounding neighborhood. But that commitment to the community is not just for aesthetics; Trader Joe's gives back in a big way. Each day, its locations across the country take part in Neighborhood Shares, where all of the unsold food still safe for consumption is donated to local charities.

In 2022, the amount of food Trader Joe's donated totaled $411 million worth of products — that's 85 million pounds of food. And with nearly 50 new partners added to the roster last year, Trader Joe's intends to grow the Neighborhood Shares program in the years to come.

Its iconic cookie butter is important from the Netherlands

One of the long-standing iconic Trader Joe's products is its Speculoos Cookie Butter – a specialty when making holiday cookies. The sweet, spreadable butter has been a mainstay on many customers' shopping lists, but many may not be aware of its international roots.

If you are familiar with speculoos, or Speculaas, then you are probably aware of the shortbread biscuit's Dutch origins. Staying true to its roots, Trader Joe's actually imports its Speculoos Cookie Butter direct from the Netherlands. So not only is the buttery spread tasty, but it is authentic, too.

Trader Joe's wine bottles may not explicitly state what winery it came from

One of the interesting conversation starters at a dinner party is the drink selection, specifically where your host acquired such a great bottle of wine. Wine connoisseurs can find themselves deep in discussion over a wine's origins, so you can imagine their frustration when buying some wine at Trader Joe's. That is because many of the bottles sold there do not explicitly state the winery of origin. This decision is intentional for both Trader Joe's and the winery it does business with. After all, why pay double for the same bottle of wine elsewhere when you can get it cheaper at Trader Joe's?

However, some simple calculations can help track down where the wine originated, as shared on the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast. If you look at the label, you will spot a lot number. That number corresponds with a specific producing winery. Knowing your lot numbers can help to quickly identify where the wine came from, even if Trader Joe's is not being explicit about it.

You can sample most products for free

One of life's little joys is walking through the grocery store and spotting free samples of food being handed out by employees. It is one of the reasons why Costco members love shopping at their local warehouse on weekends. Trader Joe's will often have samples from a particular product it is trying to feature, but if you want to try virtually any other product, just ask a crew member.

With some reasonable exceptions like alcohol, frozen foods, and raw meat, the "Try Anything" policy at Trader Joe's is truly that simple. If there is a box of granola or a potato chip that you want to test out before buying, you can almost always do so. But don't go and open the package yourself — ask an employee for assistance. The Try Anything policy is there for customers to feel confident in their purchase and to ensure that they like all of the things they buy at Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's had a role to play in making brie cheese popular in the U.S.

One of the more popular sections as customers make their way around Trader Joe's is the cheese department. Well, rather than an entire department, it is more like a series of shelves that house some of the most sought-after products in Trader Joe's. Among the cheddar and Gruyère, customers will find several types of brie cheese to purchase. Brie cheese actually owes a lot to Trader Joe's since it helped popularize soft cheese in America.

According to Orange County Register, brie cheese grew in notoriety with the rise of health-centric supermarkets in the '60s and '70s, which is the same era Trader Joe's originally opened. In fact, it was the first supermarket to bring brie cheese to America during that time period. The rest, as they say, is history.

Look at the ends of aisles to find better wine

Trader Joe's has a large selection of wine, and it can be overwhelming if you need to decide on a bottle to bring to your next dinner party. If you want Trader Joe's to help narrow down your options, simply walk to the ends of the aisles, and there you should be able to find a great selection of wine.

It intentionally places its better wines that it wants customers to find at the ends of aisles, as discussed on the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast. There, shoppers will find the "stacks" of popular wines that fellow Trader Joe's regulars enjoy the most, hence the ones that other customers will probably like, too. Consider it a kind of silent endorsement of what the more highly sought-after wines at Trader Joe's are.

Its Everything But the Bagel seasoning has found its way into multiple items

Over the years, Trader Joe's has introduced a series of popular dry rubs and seasonings that customers can use to enhance virtually any dish. From classics like Green Goddess to unique flavors like Everything But the Leftovers, Trader Joe's has become a sort of seasonings mecca. But the true undisputed favorite for many shoppers is the Everything But the Bagel Seasoning Blend.

In fact, that seasoning has become so popular over the years, it has found its way into other food products. These days, shoppers can find Everything But the Bagel potato chips, crackers, and even smoked salmon. If you cannot get enough of this iconic Trader Joe's seasoning, you do not need to look far to find it incorporated into more and more products.

Yes, you can save money on many Trader Joe's products

One of the many reasons regulars prefer to shop at their local Trader Joe's over any other supermarket is that they actually stand to save a bit of money on their weekly grocery run. While Trader Joe's famously does not offer sales or promotional offers on its products, the base price on most of its items is already lower than the face value of competing chains.

Much of that is due to the fact that the majority of Trader Joe's products are private-label, keeping production in-house and therefore keeping prices lower. And when you consider the fact that many of these grocery items are organic and contain no artificial ingredients, it makes the value even better.

Sorry, your favorite seasonal products will never be available year-round

If you want to see just how popular Trader Joe's has become over the years, visit your local market around the time a new season begins. Some of the most beloved products Trader Joe's sells are its seasonal items, particularly the ones that come around every fall or winter for the holidays. Autumn is an especially popular time when the supermarket becomes filled with all things pumpkin, butternut squash, and apple.

While these are among the highest-selling items Trader Joe's offers all year, do not expect them to be anything but seasonal. In a June 2023 episode of the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast, marketing director, Tara Miller, revealed that the rotation of seasonal products is intended so that Trader Joe's can continue to introduce new products on a regular basis. As Miller explained, if the seasonal items were to become permanent, there would be no room leftover to bring in any new offerings for customers.

Trader Joe's sells fertile eggs — yeah, they might hatch

Trader Joe's is home to all of your grocery staples, including milk, bread, and eggs. If you are new to shopping at Trader Joe's, a lot of those familiar items are exactly what you would expect. But if you look closer at the egg selection, you may spot one peculiar addition.

Trader Joe's actually sells fertile eggs, meaning that the hens that laid those eggs were in contact with roosters. However, it is important to note that the eggs are refrigerated immediately, bringing any embryo development to a grinding halt before you would have time to notice a difference when you crack the eggs over a frying pan. But as one TikTok user demonstrated, fertile eggs are capable of hatching if you bring a carton home and begin incubating them.

Many of your favorite products are from national brands

While Trader Joe's sells mostly private-label items in its stores, that does not mean it manufactures every product. In fact, many of your favorite Trader Joe's items may have been sourced from a popular national brand. For example, a feature in Eater San Fransisco revealed that La Boulangerie is the brand behind several Trader Joe's baked goods.

Many of the brands behind Trader Joe's products are pretty tight-lipped over their partnerships, so information is not as readily available for how many companies take part in this sort of relationship. You would have to do a considerable amount of detective work and ingredient comparisons to draw any sort of conclusion regarding your favorite Trader Joe's products.

Most of the items sold at Trader Joe's contain no artificial flavors or preservatives

Trader Joe's prides itself on offering high-quality products at affordable prices, as it is a practice it has followed from the beginning. Many of the items sold at the grocery chain are organic, which can mean something different depending on who you ask. For Trader Joe's, that means no artificial flavors or preservatives are found in the vast majority of the items customers shop for on a regular basis.

It is one of the reasons shoppers cannot get enough of Trader Joe's. No matter what you buy, you can rest assured that you are bringing home high-quality groceries, and you did not have to break the bank in order to acquire them.

It is believed that Double Rainbow is responsible for supplying the ice cream

Ice cream is a popular item no matter what grocery store you shop in, but Trader Joe's takes its frozen desserts to a whole new level. Unique ice cream flavors and one-of-a-kind novelty treats are among the most popular items customers shop for at Trader Joe's, leading many to wonder how the grocery store chain manages to make such great sweets. The truth, as it is believed by many, is that there is another brand behind the label at Trader Joe's.

When it comes to ice cream specifically, it is believed that Trader Joe's partners with Double Rainbow to supply many of its items. This rumor has never been confirmed, however, though that is many a customer's best guess. It just adds to the mystique of why Trader Joe's items are as good as they are.

Trader Joe's has made changes to products in the past based on customer feedback

Trader Joe's takes its customer feedback very seriously. After all, the grocery chain welcomes free samples of most of its products so customers can buy with confidence. To boost that confidence, Trader Joe's has an open channel of communication with its customers who wish to pass along any feedback, positive or negative.

The grocery chain not only talks the talk — it walks the walk, too. Trader Joe's has made modifications to its items in the past specifically based on customer feedback. This includes reducing the amount of plastic used in its produce. If you have something you want to suggest to Trader Joe's, it does seem like it makes it a point to listen.

One of its newer cracker products hailed from Germany

Trader Joe's is constantly introducing new products, from snacks to condiments to household supplies. It is one of the reasons customers are always returning: there is always something new to try. A new cracker product had customers buzzing when it recently debuted, and soon after, shoppers realized just how unique this new snack was.

The Trail Mix Crackers, which launched earlier in 2023, is a cheese cracker blend made with mung beans, seeds, cashews, and raisins. A Trader Joe's supplier first spotted the crackers in Germany and knew they had to be included in the store's lineup. The supplier then brought the crackers to the company's Tasting Panel to try, and they were soon after brought to store shelves.

New products are voted on by Trader Joe's crew members

How exactly does Trader Joe's come up with all of its new and unique grocery items? After all, new products appear very frequently, so it must take a full-time panel of experts to test and experiment with all of the would-be items. As it turns out, that is essentially what Trader Joe's does before any new product is brought to customers.

Trader Joe's has a panel of everyday crew members who get to try new products. As explained in the "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast, this panel is shrouded in secrecy. It is also a very unique thing for a grocery chain to have. Because Trader Joe's is so much smaller than other supermarkets, and because most of its items are private-label, the grocery chain can truly take its time in selecting only the best products that will find themselves on shelves.

The store has four yes's and six no's on each of its private-label products

No matter what Trader Joe's private-label item you buy, they all have one thing in common: across the grocery store, Trader Joe's adheres to four yeses and six nos. These are the ten ingredients or practices that Trader Joe's keeps front of mind when launching new products. The four yeses are four commitments to quality: yes to quality ingredients, yes to naturally derived colors, yes to its approval from its employee-based tasting panel, and yes to affordable prices.

The six nos are the six ingredients Trader Joe's omits from all of its products: no artificial flavors, preservatives, MSG, genetically modified ingredients, and partially hydrogenated oils. It also says no to added costs that are passed onto the consumer, mainly marketing costs. Ever notice that there are no Trader Joe's commercials?

Trader Joe's launches new products frequently

Most grocery shoppers frequent their local supermarkets once a week, stocking up on pantry essentials and any items needed for that week of meals. When you shop at Trader Joe's, you might notice that there is always something new to try, even at the frequency of your weekly excursions to the grocery store. That is because Trader Joe's makes it a point to launch new products on a regular basis.

There is a designated section of each Trader Joe's market solely dedicated to new arrivals, so be sure to check it out each time you stop by. Chances are, there will be at least one or two new items on the shelves since the last time you shopped. It's all a part of enticing customers to come back week after week.