Trader Joe's
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Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's Company
IndustryRetail (grocery)
  • 1958; 63 years ago (1958) as Pronto Markets
  • 1967 (1967) as Trader Joe's
  • Pasadena, California, US
FounderJoe Coulombe
Number of locations
530 (as of 19 January 2021)[1]
Key people
Dan Bane (Chairman & CEO)
ProductsPrivate label staple foods, organic foods and specialty products[2]
RevenueIncreaseUS$13.3 billion (FY 2017)[3]
Owner Aldi Nord
Number of employees

Trader Joe's is an American chain of grocery stores headquartered in Monrovia, California. By 2015, it was a competitor in "fresh format" grocery stores in the United States.[4][5] By November 2019, Trader Joe's had over 503 stores nationwide in 42 states and Washington, D.C.[1]

The first Trader Joe's store was opened in 1967 by founder Joe Coulombe in Pasadena, California.[6] It was owned by German entrepreneur Theo Albrecht[7] from 1979 until his death in 2010, when ownership passed to his heirs.[8] Albrecht's family also owns the German supermarket chain ALDI Nord,[9] to which Trader Joe's belongs. Another Aldi company, Aldi Süd, also operates in the U.S., but uses the Aldi name and logo. The company has offices in Monrovia, and Boston, Massachusetts.[10]


Store in Hadley, Massachusetts (2007)

Trader Joe's is named after its founder, Joe Coulombe. The company began in 1958 as a Greater Los Angeles area chain known as Pronto Market convenience stores.[11][12] Coulombe felt the original Pronto Markets were too similar to 7-Eleven and the competition would be too much.[13][14]

Coulombe developed the idea of the Trader Joe's South Seas motif while on vacation in the Caribbean.[15] The Tiki culture fad was fresh in the cultural memory and he had noticed that Americans were traveling more and were acquiring tastes they had trouble satisfying in American supermarkets at the time.[] The Trader Joe's name was a spoof on Trader Vic's, the famous tiki-themed restaurant that had opened its first location in the Beverly Hilton in 1955. Trader Vic's in Beverly Hills was notoriously expensive to eat at, but Trader Joe's in Pasadena would provide an irreverent and less-expensive offering of food and drink.[16]

The first store branded as "Trader Joe's" opened in 1967 in Pasadena, California; it remains in operation as of 2021.[12] In the first few decades, some of the stores offered fresh meats provided by butchers who leased space in the stores, along with sandwiches and freshly cut cheese, all in-store.[17]

In 1979, Germany's Theo Albrecht (owner and CEO of Aldi Nord) bought the company as a personal investment for his family.[8] Coulombe was succeeded as CEO by John Shields in 1987.[18] Under his leadership the company expanded into Arizona in 1993 and into the Pacific Northwest two years later.[2] In 1996, the company opened its first stores on the East Coast in Brookline and Cambridge, both just outside Boston.[2] In 2001, Shields retired from his position and Dan Bane succeeded him as CEO.[19]

Trader Joe's, Saugus, Massachusetts

In 2004, BusinessWeek reported that Trader Joe's quintupled its number of stores between 1990 and 2001, and increased its profits tenfold.[8]

In February 2008, BusinessWeek reported that the company had the highest sales per square foot of any grocer in the United States. Two-and-a-half years later and in 2016, Fortune magazine estimated sales to be $1,750 in merchandise per square foot--more than double the sales generated by Whole Foods.[2]

In February 2016, due to customer feedback, Trader Joe's announced their goal "to have all the eggs [they] sell in western states (CA, OR, WA, AZ, NM and CO) come from cage-free suppliers by 2020 and all the eggs [they] sell nationally to come from cage-free suppliers by 2025."[20]

Joe Coulombe, the namesake of the brand, died in 2020.[21]

Awards and honors

In May 2009, Consumer Reports ranked Trader Joe's the second-best supermarket chain in the United States (after Wegmans).[22] In June 2009, MSN Money released its annual Customer Service Hall of Fame survey results, in which Trader Joe's ranked second in customer service.[23] From 2008-2010, Ethisphere magazine listed Trader Joe's among its most ethical companies in the United States, but it did not make the list in 2011.[24][25][26] In 2014, Consumer Reports again ranked Trader Joe's a top-scoring supermarket chain.[27] The company ranked #23 among the 2019 Glassdoor best places to work in the US,[28] and #14 in 2020.[29]


Trader Joe's is known for its unusual store locations.[] This Trader Joe's store in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York, is in a converted bank building.

As of January 19, 2021, Trader Joe's had 530 stores in the United States with stores being added regularly.[30] In 2017, Trader Joe's opened 14 new stores nationwide.[31] Most locations averaged between 10,000 and 15,000 sq ft (1,400 m2). California has the largest number of stores with 183 open in the state.[]

Each location is designed to represent its respective area. Every store has its own staff members that create artwork to represent the surrounding neighborhood. Some store locations have their own "find the mascot" and children can obtain a prize when they tell a staff member where it is "hiding".

Trader Joe's is a tiki-nautical themed establishment but locational stores may include props to blend into the local area; for example, a surf theme for a store near the beach. Along with their interior, stores supply products that are specialized to the people of that location.


Interior of Trader Joe's in the Alabama Theatre in Houston

While a typical grocery store may carry 50,000 items, Trader Joe's stocks about 4,000 items, 80% of which bear one of its own brand names.[2] Trader Joe's describes itself as "your neighborhood grocery store". Products include gourmet foods, organic foods, vegetarian foods, unusual frozen foods, imported foods, domestic and imported wine and beer (where local law permits), and "alternative" food items, such as vegan and vegetarian options

Many of the company's products are environmentally friendly.[32] In October 2007, amid customer concerns, Trader Joe's began to phase out foods imported from China, and from February to April 2008, Trader Joe's phased out single-ingredient products from China because of customer concerns.[33] Between 2012 and 2013, Trader Joe's moved from 15th on Greenpeace's CATO (Carting Away the Oceans) scale to third by removing six unsustainable species of fish from its shelves and getting involved in efforts to protect the Bering Sea Canyons.[34]

Trader Joe's discontinues individual products based on customer reactions more often than larger grocery chains to free up space for new items.[35] Some products are exclusive to certain regions (e.g., Midwest, east coast) of the United States depending on availability and popularity.

"Two Buck Chuck" for sale at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's sells many items under its own private labels, at a significant discount to brand-name equivalents, and requires its brand-name suppliers not to publicize this business relationship.[2] Trader Joe's labels are sometimes named in accordance with the ethnicity of the food in question, such as "Trader Jose's" (Mexican food), "Baker Josef's" (flour and bagels), "Trader Giotto's" (Italian food), "Trader Joe-San's" (Japanese food), "Trader Ming's" (Asian food), "JosephsBrau" (beer), and "Trader Jacques'" (French food and soaps). By selling almost all of its products under its own labels, Trader Joe's "skips the middle man" and buys directly from both local and international small-time vendors.[36]

Trader Joe's is the exclusive retailer of Charles Shaw wine, popularly known as "Two Buck Chuck" because of its original $1.99 price tag in California (local prices vary).[37][38][39] Of the wine selection at Trader Joe's, Coulombe has said, "We built Trader Joe's on wine first, then food. I tasted 100,000 wines, and most weren't wonderful. They were submitted to us by desperate vintners". Along with Charles Shaw, Trader Joe's is known for stocking a very large selection of California and New World wines.[40]

Trader Joe's has said its private-label products contain no artificial flavors, no artificial preservatives, no colors derived from anything other than naturally available products, no genetically modified ingredients, no partially hydrogenated oils (adding trans fat), and no MSG.[]

On May 1, 2018, Trader Joe's launched their first podcast, Inside Trader Joe's. This podcast has[when?] five seasons and 24 episodes and features crew members, store captains and executives. Listeners can learn about the way the retailer does business, where and how they discover new products, get answers to frequently asked questions, and more.[41]


February 2012 protest at Trader Joe's Headquarters in Monrovia, California

Trader Joe's ranked poorly in a 2013 Greenpeace report on sustainable foods. According to an article titled "Trader Joe's Gets it Easy?":

The chain ranked low on Greenpeace's sustainable seafood report card. The packaging is excessive, with even the produce sealed in plastic. The business model forces consumers to buy in quantities large enough to encourage waste. And most of Trader Joe's products are made on equipment shared with everything you might be allergic to (dairy, nuts) or philosophically opposed to eating (dairy, meat).

-- Cameron Scott, San Francisco Chronicle, 2013[42]

The retailer has been characterized as "notoriously secretive"[43] and it has also been criticized for a lack of transparency by management about the sources of products such as organic milk.[44][45] Trader Joe's scores the lowest on Green America's chocolate scorecard, as the retailer shares very little about addressing child labor or deforestation caused by the chocolate it sells.[46]

In a 2016 settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, Trader Joe's violated the Clean Air Act by emitting high global warming potential (GWP) and ozone-depleting refrigerants.[47] The company was tasked with reducing its emissions and creating a process to track and repair refrigerants, and was required to use refrigerants with an ultra-low GWP in 15 stores. Since then, the company has not shared its progress to reduce leak rates or publicly report its climate emissions.

More recently, Trader Joe's received the lowest score on the Environmental Investigation Agency's (EIA) Climate-Friendly Supermarket Scorecard[48] which assessed the company's actions to reduce its use and emission of high-GWP, hydrofluorocarbons in its refrigeration equipment. Despite Trader Joe's 2016 settlement, it does not publicly disclose what steps it is taking to address the climate impact of its refrigeration.

Trader Joe's inaction on issues pertaining to climate and labor led to the 2020 launch of "Don't Discount Our Future, Trader Joe's"[49] by EIA and Green America. The campaign asks Trader Joe's to publicly report the climate impact of its operations and to end the use of child labor throughout its supply chain.

In September 2013, in response to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trader Joe's stated that it would require part-time employees to work an average of 30 hours per week in order to qualify for medical insurance (with free coverage for basic dental and vision care still being available for all crew members who work an average of 15 hours or more per week). Part-time employees who were not qualifying for medical insurance would now be eligible for plans which were available under the ACA (but they would only be made available to those employees whose employers do not offer them an insurance plan). Those employees who were working full-time were unaffected.[50]

In 2016, employees in New York City contacted the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union because "conditions deteriorated" at their store (the Trader Joe's on Manhattan's Upper West Side). One employee who was involved in the unionization effort was "repeatedly reprimanded because managers judged his smile and demeanor to be insufficiently 'genuine'". He was fired in September of that year for what the managers described as an overly negative attitude."[51]

Controversial international food branding

In 1977, the company began introducing international-sounding variants of its brand for some of its private label ethnic food items, such as "Trader José," "Trader Joe San," and "Trader Giotto" for Mexican, Japanese, and Italian products. The company also referenced other cultures with branding like "Trader Ming's," "Arabian Joe's," and "Pilgrim Joe" for Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Thanksgiving-themed American products.[52][53] In July 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing nationwide protests, an online petition signed by 5,300 people asked the company to rename these products, criticized their labeling as "racist" and accused the company of promoting "a narrative of exoticism that perpetuates harmful stereotypes."[53][54]

The company reacted by stating that it was already in the process of reverting a number of international foods back to Trader Joe's branding (e.g., "Arabian Joe's" and "Armenian Joe's"), stressing that this decision had already been made several years earlier. Trader Joe's later clarified that the other branding referenced in the petition will remain, stating: "We disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions," and "Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate those products with name variations that remain in our stores ... If we find certain product names and-or products are not resonating with customers, we won't hesitate to make changes."[55][56][57] According to the company, the branding is a lighthearted attempt with the purpose to "be fun and show appreciation for other cultures."[57] The petition itself has been criticized on social media for promoting cancel culture and for "wasting time on a trivial issue."[57]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Where in the dickens you can find a Trader Joe's?" (PDF). Trader Joe's. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 28, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kowitt, Beth (August 23, 2010). "Inside the secret world of Trader Joe's". Fortune. Archived from the original on August 16, 2014. Retrieved 2010.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lutz, Ashley (October 7, 2014). "How Trader Joe's Sells Twice As Much As Whole Foods". Business Insider. Archived from the original on June 30, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ "Whole Foods Is Slowly Killing Traditional Supermarkets". Archived from the original on September 20, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ "Our Story". Trader Joe's. 2017. Archived from the original on November 16, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  7. ^ "Theo Albrecht: One of the two brothers behind the Aldi supermarket empire". The Independent. London. August 14, 2010. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Armstrong, Larry (April 26, 2004). "Trader Joe's: The Trendy American Cousin". BusinessWeek and Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved 2009.
  9. ^ "Theo Albrecht, Jr. & family". Forbes. Archived from the original on March 12, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ "Trader Joes Store Boston East Coast Headquarters Boston MA". Trader Joe's. Archived from the original on April 13, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ Gardetta, Dave (September 2011). "Enchanted Aisles". Los Angeles. Archived from the original on October 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  12. ^ a b Tyler, Jessica. "There is an actual 'Joe' behind Trader Joe's -- here's how he founded the grocery chain". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ "For Trader Joe's, a New York Taste Test" Archived October 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, March 8, 2006.
  14. ^ "Joe's Joe: Joe Coulombe". Los Angeles Times. May 7, 2011. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ "Trader Joe's targets 'educated' buyer". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Associated Press. August 30, 2003.
  16. ^ "The History of Trader Joe's". The Daily Meal. April 17, 2014.
  17. ^ "Trader Joe's turns 50 with customer deals". KGTV. August 17, 2017. Retrieved 2020.
  18. ^ Vitello, Paul (November 9, 2014). "John V. Shields Jr., Who Turned Trader Joe's Into National Chain, Dies at 82". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020.
  19. ^ Harris, Jon. "Here's what Trader Joe's is looking for in a new location, and why it's not (yet) in the Lehigh Valley". Retrieved 2020.
  20. ^ "Announcements | Trader Joe's". February 12, 2016. Archived from the original on December 6, 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^ Trader Joe's founder Joe Coulombe dies at 89 Associated Press, February 29, 2020
  22. ^ Kroll, Kathie (April 6, 2009). "Consumer Reports ranks top supermarkets". Archived from the original on February 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  23. ^ "10 Companies that treat you right" Archived February 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, MSN Money, June 10, 2009.
  24. ^ "2008 World's Most Ethical Companies". Ethisphere. 2008. Archived from the original on January 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  25. ^ "2009 World's Most Ethical Companies". Ethisphere Magazine. April 2009. Archived from the original on January 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  26. ^ "2010 World's Most Ethical Companies". Ethisphere Magazine. April 2010. Archived from the original on April 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  27. ^ "Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Publix, Costco & Sprouts Top Consumer Reports Supermarket Ratings". Consumer Reports. March 26, 2014. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  28. ^ Glassdoor Just Announced the 100 Best Places to Work for 2019: Bain, Zoom, In-N-Out, Procore, BCG, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, lululemon, and Southwest all made Glassdoor's top-10 Best Places to Work for 2019 Inc., Peter Economy
  29. ^ Best Places to Work 2020 Glassdoor
  30. ^ " Joes-USA/". ScrapeHero. Retrieved 2021. External link in |title= (help)
  31. ^ "Trader Joe's Opens Fewer-Than-Average Stores in 2017". Progressive Grocer. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ The American Way of Aldi Archived March 6, 2005, at the Wayback Machine, Deutsche Welle, January 16, 2004.
  33. ^ Hirsch, Jerry (February 12, 2008). "Trader Joe's halting some Chinese imports". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  34. ^ "Carting Away the Oceans 7" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 21, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  35. ^ "Why does TJ's frequently discontinue products?". Trader Joe's. Archived from the original on January 22, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  36. ^ Thayer, Warren (June 1, 2002). "Trader Joe's is not your 'average Joe!' With perhaps 85% of sales coming from private label, this secretive bi-coastal chain has a playful - and highly effective - formula". Private Label Buyer. Archived from the original on February 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  37. ^ "Walmart vs. Trader Joe's wines: Whose are better? | Produced by Advertising Publications". July 18, 2018.
  38. ^ "When Mixing Wine and Marlboros Makes Creative Sense".
  39. ^ "Arsenic in Trader Joe's Wine?". March 23, 2015.
  40. ^ Franson, Paul. "The Origins of Trader Joe's and Why Americans Don't Drink More Wine". Novus Vinum. Archived from the original on December 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  41. ^ Joe's, Trader. "Trader Joe's Launches First-Ever Podcast. The podcast was rated #9 in Apple Podcasts: United States of America: Food and #62 in Apple Podcasts: United States of America: Arts. It talks about how they grew from a small Southern California convenience store to a national chain of 490 (and counting) neighborhood store. It also goes into detail regarding their seasonal products, going all the way back into the history of the item. In one of their episodes, they discuss how they are managing and taking preventive manners against the novel Coronavirus. The podcasts discuss everything new that is happening with the store, new items, details about their products, history, and questions from the listeners. Series". Archived from the original on May 17, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  42. ^ Cameron Scott, "Trader Joe's Gets It Easy?" Archived October 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2009. Accessed March 30, 2013
  43. ^ Julia Moskin, "For Trader Joe's, a New York Taste Test" Archived November 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, March 8, 2006. Accessed March 30, 2013
  44. ^ Tracy Moore, "That Not-So Fresh Feeling: Why Is Trader Joe's Tight-Lipped About Its Food Sources?" Archived April 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, The Nashville Scene, May 24, 2010, quoting a report in Sustainable Industries magazine. Accessed March 30, 2013
  45. ^ MSN Money, May 2, 2013 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 4, 2013. Retrieved 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  46. ^ "Chocolate Retailer Scorecard | Green America". Retrieved 2020.
  47. ^ "United States Settles with Trader Joe's to Reduce Ozone-Depleting and Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Stores Nationwide". June 21, 2016. Retrieved 2020.
  48. ^ "Climate-Friendly Supermarket Scorecard | EIA". Retrieved 2020.
  49. ^ "Don't Discount Our Future, Trader Joe's | EIA and Green America". Retrieved 2020.
  50. ^ Denver Nicks (September 17, 2013). "Trader Joe's Explains why its cutting health benefits for part timers". The Washington Post (reprinted at Archived from the original on September 20, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  51. ^ Scheiber, Noam (November 3, 2016). "At Trader Joe's, Good Cheer May Hide Complaints". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019.
  52. ^ Our Story. Trader Joe's (retrieved July 25, 2020)
  53. ^ a b de Guzman, Dianne (July 18, 2020). "Trader Joe's removing 'racist packaging' after online petition". Retrieved 2020.
  54. ^ "Trader Joe's to change product branding after petition calls it 'racist' - ABC News".
  55. ^ Waller, Allyson (July 19, 2020). "Petition Urges Trader Joe's to Get Rid of 'Racist Branding'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020.
  56. ^ "A Note About Our Product Naming". July 24, 2020. Retrieved 2020.
  57. ^ a b c "Trader Joe's says no to changing ethnic-sounding label names". NBC News. Retrieved 2020.

External links

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