Trader Joe's meta-discussion

As someone who created a number of consulting offerings over the course of their career only to have them eventually “appropriated” by other companies, not sure how I feel about tj’s practices in this regard. To my eye it’s unfortunate but the way of the world.



My thoughts exactly.

Goodness, I wasn’t expecting this level of jaded, small ethnic / minority entrepreneurs are idiots, TJs is just mainstream capitalist type whaddya expect responses here.


Sorry I missed it. (That’s”achaar” sauce was not very good as I recall, and didn’t last long.)

I find the recipe detail copying more appalling than most else. That’s really all the IP the little guys have. And it feels like takes a lot more personal risk to venture into a minority food business.

I had heard from folks who know some of the entrepreneurs involved that it takes a LOT for small, ethnic food brands to get into places like Whole Foods (Brooklyn Delhi, Malai ice cream, for eg) but not so much about recipe thievery and brand copycatting.


Me neither. If Trader Joe’s were just buying a competitor’s product and trying to replicate it, I would chalk that up to normal business practices. But to pretend to partner with a company just to steal their recipe and package design is shady AF.


Same. And thanks for sharing the article. TJ’s can and should do better, but I won’t be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.


I’m not sure where anyone in this thread referred to small ethnic entrepreneurs as “idiots,” but it seems that everything online these days is hyperbole :roll_eyes:

I found the article to be informative, and will reevaluate whether I will continue to shop there :woman_shrugging:


TJs has a lot of international foods that are private label but produced for them by minority / ethnic businesses — all the indian frozen stuff I think (some in India, more in Canada), some mexican stuff (tamales for eg), etc.

So with sauces and condiments, my natural instinct is not to assume a rip off. Their chilli crunch (not asian - italian leaning) is one such — I didn’t know there was another product until I was at family’s and they pulled out the original jar and we tasted them side by side. The other one was definitely better, I had just never seen it near me.

I don’t know if they are supplying a slightly different product to TJs at lower price, but that was my guess as the original was about 50% bigger for 2x the price — so they could certainly have been private labeling it by tweaking ingredient cost and jar size so as not to lose money.

Now I’m wondering about some of my other favorite condiments like the calabrian chile paste, the Tunisian harissa, and more.

I think I’ll be even more irked if the European / mediterranean products are not being ripped off but private labeled, vs the “less mainstream” ethnic minority products. More research to be done.


They are very secretive where everything is produced so I wouldn’t assume they are made by small producers.
There are a number of (older) articles touching on this, like

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Everyone who is surprised, or shocked, at TJ’s modus operandi, did you ever stop and think how TJ’s maintains such competitively low(er) prices?

Did you think they were just being poor business people? Losing money on every item sold?

Costco can do it because they are selling based on volume and quantity, but at TJ’s it’s anything but – they of the “you can buy one banana in a bag” store.

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Same with Aldi in Germany (and, presumably, wherever else they exist).

I’d assumed most of it was common knowledge, thus my lack of surprised outrage.

Being good business people does not equate to being dishonest or cheating small businesses.

If that’s your only definition of capitalism or business success, it’s pretty limited.

Costco’s business model is pretty well studied. Their membership fee is a good component. Brands will change sizing for Costco so it’s not directly comparable.

If I judged only by the one TJs I shop at, volume is certainly their friend. There are lines out the door at most popular times, and the shelves are usually empty between popular shopping days and the next restock.


There’s a difference between busy (volume in number of total sales) and volume per sale, which is what Costco excels at and how it makes the majority of its profits.


It is well known that Costco makes most of their net profit from membership fees.

Their net markup is no more than 15% on any private or branded product.

There are lots of case studies on them. Here’s one.


ISTR reading that Costco’s primary profit center is the membership fee itself, and the margins on product are comparatively little. Also, if we’re comparing Costco with TJ’s, bear in mind that Costco is not hostile to the unions or their employees in general.

ETA: Yeah, what @Saregama said.



It is because of their membership fees that they can have low prices.

TJ’a uses no such model.

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A New Kind of Trader Joe’s Store Just Opened