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Published on Thursday, February 21, 2008, by Bernice Yeung
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Eighty percent of Trader Joe's products are sold under the company's private label, but TJ's doesn't
make them.
When you see that Trader Joe's packaging, the item is actually produced by a third-party supplier
whose identity is kept secret from the consumer, and who also makes other, name-brand products.
Sometimes the manufacturer tweaks the product a little for Trader Joe's audience, but usually the
food is kept remarkably similar to the original product, even down to copy and photography on the
box. In some cases, TJ's sells both its own version and the rumored producer's. But the grocerystore giant's versions are always astronomically cheaper. Although it's impossible to confirm who's
producing the goods, you can make a pretty good guess. Doing so has become sport on the
Internet (see comments at the bottom of the page). CHOW tasted some of Trader Joe's privatelabel products against the real-world versions rumored to be the source. Here's our take on who's
behind the TJ's label.

TJ's Pita Chips Parmesan, Garlic & Herb
vs. Stacy's Parmesan Garlic & Herb Pita Chips
APPEARANCE / TASTE
Similar taste, though Stacy's chips tended to be more toasted and
TJ's had a more even coating of seasonings.

vs.

INGREDIENTS

IN COLLUSION?

Yes.

Nearly identical ingredient list, including sunflower oil, sugar,
yeast, and malted barley flour.

COST
TJ's: $1.99
Stacy's: $2.99 at Whole Foods

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99 Gordon Biersch: $9. But TJ's brand was sweeter and less sharply spicy. and the beers had the same amber color. same exact description: "Braised eggplant cooked in a distinctively flavored sauce". IN COLLUSION? Definitely.99 Annie's: $3. INGREDIENTS IN COLLUSION? Definitely. INGREDIENTS Exactly the same. COST TJ's: $1. Annie's Naturals Goddess Dressing APPEARANCE / TASTE The exact same flavor and consistency.99 at Whole Foods TJ's Vienna Style Lager vs. COST TJ's: $1. from the expellerpressed canola oil down to the xanthan gum. onions.99 at the local liquor store TJ's Indian Fare Punjab Eggplant vs. But TJ's adds pumpkin and a smidge more cumin than ginger. vs. Neither lists the ingredients. same silver space-age pouch.99 Tasty Bite: $2. but TJ's was a little maltier and sweeter. although TJ's had a foamier head. vs. vs. The beers tasted similar. Gordon Biersch Märzen APPEARANCE / TASTE Same wheat-frond logo. and spices. tomatoes. for the identical logo alone. and in the same proportions. similar goopiness.49 at Whole Foods . COST TJ's: $5. Same proportions of eggplant. INGREDIENTS IN COLLUSION? Yes. Tasty Bite Punjab Eggplant APPEARANCE / TASTE Same product shot on the box.TJ's Goddess Dressing vs.

fennel seed. 2012 06:14 PM It doesn't necessarily mean that the brands are colluding with TJs. TJ's has more baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). fenugreek seed. but its corn flakes were too sweet. so TJs is probably using the same suppliers in a lot of cases. vs. . INGREDIENTS Tom's contains xylitol (for plaque prevention) and zinc citrate (tartar control). Tom's of Maine Peppermint Toothpaste APPEARANCE / TASTE Tom's had a mintier.69 Peace Cereal: $3. or TJ's is a really good knockoff. INGREDIENTS Varying proportions of milled corn and oats. dried berries.99 at Trader Joe's « PREVIOUS POST Like 114 NEXT POST » ALL Of Jamón and Birch Wine Tweet 10 FEATURE 0 Eat Your Lawn Email 73 Comments POST A COMMENT | 73 Comments COMMENT Comment SUBMIT Who makes the Trader Joes Bars By UHSUSA on March 12. and nutmeg. more pleasant flavor. COST TJ's: $2. generous oat clusters. IN COLLUSION? COST Not definitive. Peace Cereal Wild Berry Crisp APPEARANCE / TASTE TJ's had unsweetened corn and multigrain flakes. vs. TJ's was too salty. Peace Cereal also lists cardamom seed. TJ's: $1.99 at Whole Foods TJ's Peppermint Toothpaste vs. The big brands often source from other suppliers. Peace Cereal's berries were too tart. and sweetener. and better-tasting berries.99 Tom's: $3.TJ's Very Berry Clusters vs. IN COLLUSION? Maybe.

Esp stuff that reads "distributed & packed" . Let's face it. 2010 11:17 AM Re: TJ's products tasting "unfinished. +READ By drunkenatheist on February 24. In response to winterzeit. 2010 08:32 AM Who cares who makes their products. so thats very interesting! I am a label reader. while I buy what I think I need. Then TJ's would either re-label the bottles or sell it as their own brand. I'll stick to TJ's. +READ By lantzalot on January 21.. The creamy tomato/roasted red pepper soup is in dire need of seasoning and Rooster sauce. I've only bought the lentils there.they are just different).appreciate that you do the work. what I'm most interested in is how much of it is sourced from China. 2010 01:54 PM I recently made my first visit to a TJ's. 2009 02:23 PM If I may..where's that from? So far. But it was late. the Trader Joes and the Whole Foods of the world with their in-house private labels are putting .. 2011 11:29 AM I love TJ's. Duh.. 2010 09:51 PM Did you know that many companies "private label" and don't even tell you? All kinds of products. I wasn't impressed. some diced potatoes. By Sampaguita on July 23.. so if questinable.. I forget how at the moment but the canned items are also traceable using codes. I'd drink it anyway. 2011 08:49 AM A better way to check foods is by factory codes.By waggabu on August 4. I was visiting Washington. packaging and distributing. They are known in Germany for starting with small orders. which is easy with dairy. By docgradusadparnassum on August 7. By rare commenter on August 18. your post is exactly what Walmart has been "accused" of. By lilminky on December 15... Also. That's just how distribution works. +READ By ShellMel on September 14. then going bigger. and (if not veg*n) some bacon. what the hay. So.. 2011 09:18 AM Do they put corn fillers in all their prepared products? Do they coat their frozen fish with a preservative? By jeanteam on April 20. +READ By ellen s on July 20. 2010 12:54 PM They do get the good stuff. and the standards there are different. Where is my milk from dot com shows you how to look up dairy codes. and I needed something for dinner. Not that I care. yes. I got some kind of sweet/sour chicken in a bag and some kind of microwave rice and some snack stuff.Nothing to complain about there =) By flwrchld65 on November 27.... I found the prices very high compared to what I am used to at home.. from clothing to electronics do this. I was tired. A lot of our food in the USA is." I haven't noticed it at all. DC and it was close to my hotel.. TJ's markets some "unique" specialty items all in one place and for me that's one stop shopping. (Which. (no judgment . The Black Bean soup would be delicious with the additions of a half can of black beans. and when the factory finally invests in bigger equipment to fill their orders they start renogotiating the contracts or threaten to pull the orders completly. too. their prices are cheaper than whom ever is manufacturing. this is common industry procedure across numerous industries. takes it.. By winterzeit on November 18.They are super high quality at a much lower retail price. there were 2 items I. for the record.. The chile is Hormel.with the exception of their boxed soups. 2009 04:06 AM Keep this coming! Very informative and much needed. Among the snack stuff. bigger and bigger. 2010 08:03 PM I knew someone who worked in the wine industry and his company sold wines that didn't pass quality standards to TJ's. 2010 11:26 AM got to agree w/docgradusaad etc above. Maybe a little heat.

2008 02:50 PM I have always found it great fun to try to figure out whether TJ's was using the exact same manufacturer as the product they were trying to knock off. 2008 06:33 PM TJ's pickles are made by Strub's of Brantford. and then we don't get the recognition for it. Require more of yourselves!!! By buylocal on June 22. but sustain the viability of your city and small business..coffeehabitat.many small to large brands completely out of business. Its strange then that a co-worker who. many people don't realize that many many food companies don't even have their own production. depends on where you live.com/2009/02/trader-joes-cof. 2009 01:27 PM Does anyone know if the now TJ labeled "Judy's breadsticks / lovesticks" are still from Judy's or if TJ copied the recipe? (this is a SF bay area question) By gourmandadventurer on November 5. but I had no idea that TJs was an Albrecht store! By katrinkala on March 22. 2008 05:04 PM I visited a large raw milk dairy farm outside Fresno.. Canada. +READ By Ray_704 on June 3.. I pick up packages. 2008 03:23 PM For some reason... if/once it goes away. 2008 09:54 AM What is the standard mark-up in a typical store? What is the mark-up at TJ? By Gio_2000 on August 4. 2009 09:54 AM Great article. compare them. many grocery companies choose to keep their corporate ownershiop quiet. By breakaway on March 27. Great American Foodstores had an official story they told about being the result of many mom-and-pop stores joing together to increase their profits. 2008 02:50 PM . They told me that they had already had negotiations with TJ's.. Thanks By Jamiegirl on February 10. As has been mentioned in the above thread. +READ By Peter G on June 15. By Gator Chef on January 7. or whether they were using a different manufacturer.. which TJ's sells under its original name and in its original packaging.. "We do all the hard work. In her words. Pay a bit more.. it's a lot of fun. 2009 09:47 PM Does anyone know who makes their trail mix? By brian1173 on May 28. 2008 03:34 AM Why is it that the makers of Mochi. +READ By Mr Taster on October 9. 2008 12:02 PM @Pillsburydoughboi . but that TJ's wanted to rebrand the milk and they refused to allow them to do that.there are Aldi stores in the US as well. 2009 07:40 PM Here's who roasts their coffee: http://www." Too bad. 2009 04:10 AM Does anyone know who is the grower and/or processor/manufacturer of the TJs canned butternut squash puree. whereas other flavors are supplied? By Janko on June 2. I'm out of luck. It's definitely tastier than other bns purees and I am worried that.. CA last year (Organic Pastures) and suggested to them that they pitch their product to TJ's. won't supply TJ's with its mocha flavor. They gave the impression that they were unique to the Central New York Area. Buy local foods from local manufacturers in locally run grocery stores.html By Nuthatch62 on February 6. I worked for two different retail chains.. Ontario..

they make a wide variety of name brand products and follow the specs selected for that company.most vendprs don..t sell enough of anything to. +READ By nitsuj on March 15.. It's like they made packages of all the too thin and too thick pieces and sold them to TJs... it is interesting speculation. 2008 07:19 AM This is exactly what the discounters ALDI do in Germany.. By PillsburyDoughboi on March 14.. This is the way that Trader Joes got. I've got it down to a monetary science for basics..... +READ By dfetwne on March 18... SHOCKED I tell you! Someone talk me off the ledge! By bobmakarowski on March 17. supplies and BEER. great food... This clearly isn't intended to be an earth-shaking expose about the fact that rebranding exists. Oh well. Same product. but a different label. the consumer saves heaps of money.. +READ By hog on March 15. +READ By pactourvet on March 19. By jessheslin on March 18. Makes sense. it's FUN to shop at any TJ's AND the real biggie that I didn't see anyone comment on is that they package foods for the single person.. Who else does that?? At the end of the day it's still big biz but certainly not like little ol' sallie mae sitting in her rocking..not sure I understand the point. They also state that they take excess product inventory and make it their own.. 2008 02:43 AM I honestly wonder how many of those criticizing bothered to read (or were capable of understanding) the article. great innovative labeling. I'm happy to save a couple bucks for some inconsistently sized fake meat. Their prepared frozen food is very good and . a discontinued item. I shop at TJs for the items I can't find in the supermarkets.there is a cpmpany named Nations Pizza in Chicago. 2008 05:53 PM They have a brilliant business model. 2008 02:51 PM Some things one just has to buy at Whole Foods. I agree with the frustration in TJ's constantly changing items you make part of your weekly repetoire. I've noticed the Morningstar Farms "Bacon" that I get for such a great price varies significantly in the thickness of the pieces. It is not econimocal to make your own products. one would hope. The tub of organic feta from Denmark. 2008 12:55 PM I think some of the name brand things they carry are seconds... would imply knowledge of the practice's existence). from the same company. 2008 06:26 AM Anyone who thinks Trader Joes has a big factory or plant manufacturing all the products they sell is pretty naive..... Mention is even made of the popularity of internet discussion on this topic (which..for example. Rather. 2008 11:02 AM You mean my Food Emporium toilet paper is NOT made by Food Emporium? My Pathmark canned tomatoes are NOT grown and canned by Pathmark? I'm absolutely shocked. 2008 05:21 AM If only there was a TJ's in Maine By mainehound on March 13.. By landrew on March 13. others at TJ's.. is.. 2008 11:24 AM Isn't this nothing new? I thought the story on the side or back of their bags explains how they get overstocks and stuff from others.. so the "whole paycheck" idea held by many is really ignorance. The 365 brands compare to grocery chain pricing.. +READ By sodagirl on March 14. In their sale brochure Trader Joes' states on the description of many foods that they went to the supplier of some popular food and got them to make a TJ's version.. 2008 07:20 AM Your headline and story seem to sensationalize this as something wrong with how Trader Joes works.It is a complete mystery to me as to how anyone could be amazed that TJ's outsources their house brand foods. considering TJ's is owned by the german Aldi brothers. I don't think anyone should be surprised.

although the bread gets tossed within a day or so. By pitu on March 9. I might as. a big chain in Chicago: Apple Blossoms (very good Canadian apple pastries) and individual Chocolate Lava Cakes (wonderful).goodhealthgournet... +READ By remez on March 10.not all. (The bread can't be. I've commented to some of the employees when frantically trying to track down some freshly discontinued item that it's like doing business with a drug dealer. 2008 12:54 PM :) pitu. 2008 06:44 AM . +READ By goodhealthgourmet on March 8. 2008 10:12 PM Some of the TJ frozen desserts have turned up at Dominicks.you can just do a search to read it...p.. and I think I may have provided an article link. 2008 10:43 AM mmmmm. 2008 01:06 PM http://www. By EricMM on March 9. you can rest easy on the China issue. It also claims to have been thoroughly inspected. 2008 01:46 AM The only thing that bothers me about TJ is that on many of their products they do not list where the product is made. +READ By brendastarlet on March 9. I've had conversations with the staff at the WF in my town... TJ's actually released a statement earlier in the year that they would no longer carry any items or ingredients that are made in or sourced from China due to all the recent health & safety concerns.... 2008 09:51 AM Here in Minnesota I know that they are contracting with Sno Pac for packaging frozen foods.. and the products so similar. In the bakery department. the cakes and pastries can remain in the case for up to five days. 2008 10:21 AM @lavagirl: sorry. that I can't imagine they're not made by the same manufacturer. but I've got to disagree on Whole Foods..... you made me laugh! By puffj on March 7. but this is news? By MikeG on March 10...com/topics/488680 earlier thread about TJs and Chinese imports By pitu on March 9. or too salty. While I'm here. sort of.. 2008 10:32 AM The peeled garlic (at least what's sold at the Forest Hills/Glendale TJ's) clearly says China as the country of origin.... but I think the Soycatsh is the same.. you sure? Did TJs issue a 2nd more restrictive policy on China? They recently said they'd not carry products (like the garlic) but that did not include the sourcing for ingredients used in their prepared foods...their nut & coffee depts are extensive... By 67.. The agony of discontinuation is the thing that drives me crazy about TJ's.as in country of origin. By Querencia on March 8. where they get you hooked. 2008 12:59 PM My spouse is another who thinks that TJ's sells food seconds--maybe a batch of something that's too spicy. I also don't believe that TJs is selling "seconds".car on March 7. 2008 09:35 AM Pollo. +READ By RichardCrystal on March 11.if it's made in China I don't want to buy it...period! By Pollo on March 7. 2008 04:17 PM Yes... and then leave.. and how long the stuff sits around..chowhound. (It's sort of like Whirlpool manufacturing washers and dryers for Sears Kenmore)... because I'm concerned about the overstocking of their prepared food cases.. the "guesswork" comparisons are kind of interesting. I actually posted a thread about it. Both are so distinctive.

com/ By DiveFan on March 5. There's a texture difference. I don't think they are the same product. and compared side to side.why are you shocked people? By dnt4get2luvme on March 5. But they don't make Gingermint for TJ brand. etc. um. +READ By Billow Fair on March 6. 2008 06:03 AM There are certain products that I always buy at TJs: goat cheese. tj in those areas leaves us IMHO a little dry and selection in comparsion is second rate By foodperv on March 5.trackingtraderjoes. mascarpone. you'd have thought you'd uncovered another Watergate. The accusatory tone of "collusion" is ridiculous. 2008 01:54 PM Wow. a taste difference. so when I can find similar products for. I love TJs low prices.. soy milk. Their frozen pizza is great! I'd say it's best frozen pizza around.. +READ By pitu on March 7. crackers. NO it's not great wine. Pickles from India. etc.. 2008 09:21 PM TJ's is wonderful! I love it for great dairy prices (and the only place I can find cream that's NOT ultrapastuerized). Italian and French cheeses..how cool are they?) $2 Chuck has always amazed me. tortillas. most fruits and vegetables.. Keep it coming! All this does for me is validate all of the reasons that I shop (and love) Trader Joes and why I rarely shop at Whole Foods. 2008 09:22 AM I think its the American way. Bernice Yeung and Chow need to go back to. Some of their other products are a little. only Tom's of Maine. 2008 04:30 PM the only thing is you still have to go to whole foods for the fresh stuff. 2008 11:30 AM I use the toothpaste. 2008 04:44 PM Unfortunately In the last few years Trader Joes has been sourcing much more of their stock from outside North America. Their shaving cream is fantastic!!!! No parabens and nonaerosol! By Marsala on March 5. see http://www.. TJs offers the EXACT same products you can over pay for at Whole Paycheck Foods. I think I actually like the TJ version better.Anybody that's been paying attention to their groceries already knows that there isn't a TJ factory somewhere in California churning out all this stuff. They write about it their flyers for pete's sake.. 2008 05:49 PM I love TJ's products. Wait. TJ's has a lot of really good health and beauty products. 2008 02:15 PM I agree with Jennalynn. they definitely have different textures. produce/dairy/meat etc. what with all the breathless hyperbole! You say it like it's a bad thing. unusual.. But I do think that Whole Foods is a better company to support.. And that's a super toothpaste! .. As a grad student on a budget... for less!? Whoo Hoo! That's FABULOUS not SCANDALOUS.. but it's flaws certainly don't make it undrinkable. By Jennalynn on March 5. I agree about the toothpaste. but I find them fun to try (like the Mochi ice cream balls . I've had far worse wines that. I use TJ's toothpaste and Tom's. And there are certain things I always buy at Whole Foods: olives.. +READ By lavagirl on March 6. what?? Can you say negative-balance-of-trade? For more links to TJ's related sites. and TJs doesn't hide the fact that they source from different popular brands for their store brands. By CorinneM1 on March 5.

2008 06:03 AM this same practice (private label or in house brands) is common beyond the grocery circuit . In my estimation. it's the speculation on who's doing what. TJ's is not. just me).. I shopped there for years for my daily sandwich lunch makings and started noticing this strange unfinished aspect to a lot of their food. it's common in the garment industry and housewares too. I would have refrained here. +READ By Susquehanna on March 4.e. 2008 07:16 AM Having been a VP of purchasing for one of the regions of Whole Foods. By oliveoyl on March 4.. I am lucky that most (not Whole Foods) are in small radius of me so I know I save a lot of money." as it is a term that implies unlawful fraudulent intent or dishonesty. as stated above. 2008 10:33 AM Yes I truely believe this as I am a shop at TRADER JOE's first then go to other stores. then Ralphs then Whole Foods for the meats and seafood. It may even be common knowlege that TJ's doesn't manufacture all or most of their products. however. 2008 02:18 PM I agree with deangold. Great article. 2008 05:59 PM This is common practice amongst all mass retailers. since they don't want to cannibalize their own brand). Maybe that's how they get it so cheap! . 2008 09:23 PM That balsamic vinegar reduction was one of the best things I ever purchased at TJs! Wonder why it is no longer available.. then FOOD FOR LESS.By leek on March 5. By Boscompb on March 3.I'm still mourning the loss of that balsamic vinegar reduction. 2008 07:42 AM To be more clear. Does anyone else think the pita chips taste completely different from Stacy's? They're saltier. from using the term "collusion. they only have pretzel "bits". I doubt everyone knows. there is. Nobody could afford to have a 1. 2008 05:58 AM the point of the story is not the fact that they're doing it.. By davina on March 3. By Susquehanna on March 4. By ThEater on March 3. and one day may. 2008 07:18 PM I always feel like Trader Joe's stuff is the seconds of the food industry. love ya! and don't change.i. or their processed food is missing some key ingredient that makes it not taste "finished". with a somewhat heartier texture.. THANK YOU TRADER JOE's. How does TJ's get their low prices? There are several aspects: .. it is apparently lawful for TJ's to sell items that came from the same production line as name-brand items.e. +READ By deangold on March 2. By ganacher on March 4. though.?? By erica on March 4. nothing surprising that TJ's doesn't make their own food. champion of the underdog operation rather than the large scale food company they are. +READ By nfo on March 4. not whole pretzels.000 different factories producing everything from soap to sushi. and things like microgreens and maitake mushrooms seem to attract a teeny following (i. I am very surprised that this became a genuine topic of discussion. They have done a great branding job so that many people think of them as a little mom & pop. TJ's ability to offer the same (or similar) for less has less to do with the rebranding (although this is necessary from the producers' perspectives.. TJ's customers understand that there's a good chance their favorite items will be out of stock. It's more about their relationship with their customers. 2008 04:31 PM Yes -. 2008 06:23 AM @Davina: Agreed and it's really interesting to learn about the taste test results..

cereal producer. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Ray is absolutely right! Trader Joe's deserves kudos for the quality of their private label goods -and. | PRIVACY POLICY | AD CHOICE | TERMS OF USE . Inc. Their base line brand is "Food Club" You'll probably find it in a number of smaller chain supermarkets all over the U. 2008 07:16 AM » RECIPES » DISCUSSION » STORIES » VIDEOS » Classic Vanilla Marshmallows » Easy Mushroom Broth » Outdoor wood pizza oven » Chefs' cookbook ghost writers » Easy New England Clam Chowder » Easy Waffles » Irish soda bread from Harvest Restaurant » NY Pastrami sandwich technique » Light(weight) Roasts from Peet's and Starbucks » The Next Big Drink You're Going to Hate » Why Chefs Sell Out » How to Pour the Perfect Pint of Guinness from a Can » How to Open a Beer with Another Beer » How to Make Marshmallows » Share Photos of CHOW Recipes. +READ By zin1953 on March 1. Get Featured on CHOW! » Obsessives: Cookbook Peddler » We Get It: Tip Skimming Is Different from Tip Sharing » Mitt Romney's Grits Conversion » The Perfect Prawns » Easy Beef Stew » Crazy DIY Flavored Nuts for March Madness Visit other CBS Interactive Sites Select Site Go » Top Chef: where are they now (ongoing) » What's for Dinner #132 FOLLOW CHOW » How to Hack Your Slow Cooker ABOUT/CONTACT CHOW | FEEDBACK | SITE TALK | CHOWHOUND : GUIDELINES : MANIFESTO : FAQ CBS ENTERTAINMENT | ABOUT CBS INTERACTIVE | JOBS | ADVERTISE © 2012 CBS INTERACTIVE INC. Most of the items are commodities. like brown sugar. 2008 09:58 AM Retail Grocers have done this for years. 2008 05:58 PM every store contracts out for their private label we all know that By foodperv on March 2.. One company that springs to mind is Topco. brewery. They make a deal for specified quantities of a range of products. +READ By Ray_704 on March 1. 2008 11:53 PM I love this... formagerie.. then they get to specify the packaging and other details. 2008 04:27 PM Is Chow[hound] SURPRISED that Trader Joe's doesn't make their own private label goods? What supermarket chain/retail does? Trader Joe's isn't a HABA (Health And Beauty Aids) manufacturer. S. winery. chocolatier or anything else OTHER than a retail grocer. Macaroni.By ephramzz on March 2. More please! By smittys on March 1.