Judging by the constant lines, folks just love Trader Joe’s, but it turns out a lot of people don’t really know that much about the store, other than their favorite items to buy. Well, in a recently launched “Inside Trader Joe’s” podcast, executives and employees are spilling the beans on some of the most commonly asked questions, and some of the details may surprise you.
Among the revelations:
- Prices are low because of private-label products – Most folks love Trader Joe’s because of their low prices and the reasons why they are so low is because, more than 80% of the products are “private-label,” which means they are manufactured by someone else but licensed to sell under the store’s name, and using their own name keeps costs low.
- They sell bananas individually because of a former customer – Trader Joe's used to sell bananas in packages of four or five until Trader Joe's CEO Dan Bane visited a store close to a retirement home and had an encounter with a customer. The woman looked at the package and chose not to buy it, and when Bane inquired why, she responded, “Sonny, I may not live to that fourth banana,” and they’ve been selling single bananas ever since.
- There is a real Joe – The company is named after its founder Joe Coulombe, who was its first CEO. He was running a chain of convenience stores in Los Angeles and in 1967 decided to open his first store in Pasadena, California, which is still open today.
- The stores' nautical theme has a (brief) backstory – The nautical theme and Hawaiian shirts employees wear was Coulombe’s idea, and was inspired by a book he’d been reading, “White Shadows in the South Seas” and a Disneyland jungle trip.
- Crew members taste-test everything – Every product on store shelves has been taste-tested, even pet food (by pets, not humans). The test kitchen is “shrouded in secrecy” though, with Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing product at Trader Joe's, noting, “It's like a cold war interrogation booth because we want the products that succeed to go through."
- Trader Joe's has "product innovators" who travel the world in search of new food ideas – “Product Innovators” reveal they’ve traveled everywhere from France to Tokyo and more for food ideas, with marketing director Tara Miller noting that they look for “things we don't know we want or need until we taste them and then we need them."