First, I would like to profess my endeared, if not nostalgic love for you Trader Joe’s. I feel like you are the first stop for people who are newly committed to living a healthier life. It’s so easy to shop your aisles, everything is packaged so simply, and you even have non-frozen Ezekial bread for us to dabble with. To boot, you have ingeniously developed your own line of products, many of which are organic, that are a landslide cheaper than their organic Whole Foods counterparts. And if all that weren’t enough, your people wear Hawaiian shirts, and always smile. Still, I need to clean the air, Trader Joe’s, for I have been deceived.
I’m a long time Trader Joe believer. In shopping excursions, and even in doing “health food” tours, I usually turn to Trader Joe’s. It’s non-intimidating for the newbie because the prices are right and emloyees are happy. As I’ve ventured a little further into the growing world of health food stores, gourmet products, boutique-ish condiments and snacks though, I must air a grievance. Fearful that I was speaking too soon, I even checked with some friends and family to see if I was being a bit too foodie persnickety. Low and behold, they’d had a similar experience in one way or another.
With its low prices, and self-brand, it would appear and taste as if, well, you get what you pay for. And truth be told, had I not experienced other options–more expensive options–at other places, I might not have noticed! For instance, coconut oil and raw honey. They are two specialty items that are REALLY expensive! But at Trader Joe’s, they are each about half the cost of what you would find elsewhere. So I’ve been buying these items from TJ’s for years! I decided to branch out recently, just out of curiosity. WOW. First of all, worth every penny of the additional cost. Why? Because second of all, the TJ’s brand of each tastes like water compared to the flavor of these other brands. It even made me wonder what types of checks and balances are in place to make sure what you see is what you get at TJ’s! I was mad. Were the health benefits I had been relying on even there? But the ingredients…the nutrition panel…it all reads the same! How could this be that the taste is so unequivocally different? Herein lies the Trader Joe’s fallacy. I had a similarly disappointing/awakening moment with whole grain mustard, salsa and lentil chips. I started to look at the veggies a little differently too. They’re all really too big to have been picked in a sustainable way. They claim to be organic, but even they do not taste as they should. True, no oen really goes to TJ’s for the produce, but they do seem to be increasing their selection in response to that sentiment all the time. And I don’t like how there is a liner in the bottom of the organic blueberries preventing the fresh test (looking on the bottom to see that there isn’t any juice or old ones), because almost without fail, the ones on the bottom actually are mushy!
I’m not boycotting…yet. I’m just saying. I’m saying it’s still a great option in a lot of ways. But I’m also saying that there is a bigger grocery world out there. You’ll pay more, but you’ll smile more when you eat it. And Mr. Joe, answer me this–how organic are you?