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The five-part series takes us behind the scenes at the iconic grocery store.

Elisabeth Sherman
May 01, 2018

Hoping to get a peek behind the curtain at Trader Joe’s? Well, buckle up, because the iconic grocery store has launched a five-part podcast series which delves into what makes Trader Joe’s such a special place, and offers insight into why it has inspired such a loyal following.

Tara Miller, Marketing Director, and her colleague Matt Sloan, Vice President of Marketing Product, host the show. Right off the bat, Sloan promises that the podcast is not going to be “a long ad,” for the grocery store (which, unlike most grocery stores, doesn't have TV commercials), but actually promises to answer customers’ burning questions about how Trader Joe’s picks its products, the store’s day-to-day operations, and even why the store sells individual bananas. Here are ten things I learned about Trader Joe’s from the podcast:

  • According to Dan Bane, the company’s chairman and CEO, Trader Joe’s has an unusual approach to selling bananas: Bane once spotted an elderly woman in a grocery store. When he asked her why she had passed over the bananas, which were sold in bunches of four, she informed him “Sonny, I may not live to that fourth banana.” At the moment, he knew Trader Joe’s had to sell individual bananas for 19 cents each.
     
  • Trader Joe’s VP of Product Innovation, Lori Lotta, actually flies around the planet, testing new flavors in places like Paris for the grocery store chain.  
     
  • The Trader Joe’s tasting kitchen is a place “shrouded in secrecy,” which is decorated with little more than “fluorescent lighting, gleaming white countertops, and no fun inspirational posters.” It’s set up like a “Cold War interrogation booth,” so that new products can be subjected to harsh critical evaluation before hitting store shelves. It's a stark contrast from the fun, laid-back vibe at any Trader Joe's store.
     
  • Sloan insists that the Trader Joe’s staff tries everything—even the dog biscuits, which he says taste like salmon and sweet potato.
     
  • The Mandarin Orange Chicken has been the “overall favorite Trader Joe’s product in every Customer’s Choice Awards” for nine years running.
     
  • 80% of products sold at Trader Joe’s are “private label,”—meaning not produced by an outside brand—which is why the grocery store is able to keep its costs so low.
     
  • According to Sloan, Trader Joe’s donated 70 million pounds of food to causes which combat hunger, rather than throwing it in the garbage.
     
  • Crew members who work in the wine department often enjoy “really, really long wine tastings,” during which the group opens as many as 12 bottles of wine and discusses each one.

  • Employees call out the fresh salmon, jackfruit yellow curry, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and Charles Shaw wine as some their all-time favorite Trader Joe’s products.
     
  • In the early days of the company, Trader Joe’s sold sandwiches by the inch.

You can listen to the entire five-part series here and on popular podcast platforms.