You don't want to know where Trader Joe's foods come from

Think you're shopping boutique, albeit decently-priced, groceries by shopping at Trader Joe's? Well, think again.

According to this Eater article, much of the packaged foods you're buying at the grocery chain is (disappointingly, imo) mass-produced at third-party manufacturing behemoths like ConAgra, Snyder's-Lance, and Pepsi (and its subsidiary, Frito-Lay Inc):

As a private brand, the California-based Trader Joe's orders most of its products from third-party manufacturers (including giants like PepsiCo. and Snyder's-Lance), which agree to sell some of their items under the Trader Joe's label. Many of these brands sell the same or similar products under their own names for a higher price. The catch is that Trader Joe's and its suppliers all but swear to keep the agreement secret. "Suppliers aren't allowed to say they supply Trader Joe's products," (former TJ crew member/author Mark) Gardiner says, "and Trader Joe's never willingly talks about who their suppliers are."

How then did Eater learn of their secret suppliers?

They simply made Freedom of Information Act requests to "obtain FDA and USDA recalls and alerts that mentioned Trader Joe's in the last 10 years." These requests "revealed dozens of companies that have, at least at one point, supplied Trader Joe's with food."

They also compared ingredients and held multiple taste tests with similar packaged items.

"People don't think of this as generic," Gardiner says. "[They think] 'it's Trader Joe's — that's the brand,' and it's a special brand that you can only get here. The truth is that almost all of this is stuff that you can probably get at another store within a few miles of that Trader Joe's in a different package with a different name."

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photo by Mike Mozart