For many people, grocery shopping these days isn’t just about buying food to fill their hungry bellies. It’s an experience and a way to show support for businesses that share their values. Throughout the Trader Joe’s story, it’s easy to see how the store took trends to heart and has built a brand much loved by a huge demographic, especially millennials.
Trader Joe’s story begins in 1958, when Joe Coulombe began running a chain of Los Angeles convenience stores. After ten years, Joe decided to the in-and-out style of his stores in response to a changing America, and in 1967, the first Trader Joe’s opened in Pasadena, California. The vibe of the store embraced a nautical theme and the narrative that sea traders stocked the store.
In 1972, Trader Joe’s introduced the first private label product for the store: granola. Now, they’re famous for private label items that stay affordable because there aren’t marketing fees, middleman fees, etc. We’ll get into some of the most popular private label goods a bit later on. By 1988, Trader Joe’s had 19 locations and a new CEO. Expansion began, and over the course of three decades and a third CEO, Trader Joe’s has 488 stores in 41 states and the District of Columbia.
Why Trader Joe’s is so successful
In its 50-year history, Trader Joe’s has become one of the most beloved stores in America. It’s especially popular among millennials. Why? It’s a combination of everything the stores offers, such as a fairly-small size, friendly crew members, specialty items, and the hip, global feel. 80% of what Trader Joe’s sells is private label and they really care about quality, so people keep coming back. There are always new items, too, so going shopping can be like an adventure. For those who like to know what’s coming up, there’s the Fearless Flyer, which comes out eight times a year telling shoppers about what’s new.
Trader Joe’s also knows about trends. This makes sense considering how Joe himself saw changes coming and opened a different kind of store. Trader Joe’s knows what busy millennials want, like healthy snacks with natural ingredients, more international flavors and spices, plant-based food, and healthy microwavable meals. Of course, the affordable prices help a lot, as well, especially when compared to alternatives like Whole Foods.
Younger people also care a lot about the ethics and sustainability of companies. Trader Joe’s pays everyone well; even their part-time employees get around $20 an hour with full benefits. Their private label is GMO-free without preservatives or artificial flavors, and they donate food about to expire.
Products: the best and the newest
A quick flip through the Trader Joe’s story reveals that the store goes through a lot of different products in a year, but some are staples. The Mandarin Orange Chicken frozen meal is really popular, as is the cookie butter, triple ginger snaps, premium olive oil, and dark chocolate peanut butter cups. In 2019, here are some examples of the products customers got to try:
Organic yellow lentil & brown rice pasta
Butternut squash crust pizza
Organic spicy avocado hummus
Mango and cream bars
Crispy crunchy mochi rice nuggets
Pumpkin spice almond beverage
Autumn maple coffee
2019 is almost over, so let’s take a look at the trends Whole Foods predicted back at the beginning of the year. Do you think they got it right?