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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Open Letter to Trader Joe

Posted by on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 4:17 PM


Dear Trader Joe,

You know I love you, but your salted caramels are terrible. Why is the salt so large-gauge? TOO BIG, Joe! That is cow salt or ice-cream-making salt, not people salt, and certainly not candy salt. And it does not adhere to the candies properly at all (which is a good thing given its wrong size, but still). Further, the filling in these is, well, loose, and also a bit gritty, like an icky butterscotch cream rather than a caramel.

Go to Fran's and have a salted caramel. Then let's talk. Even the bottomless candy-pit that is the offices of The Stranger rejects your salted caramels. I have never seen any form of sugar sit around like this here, and it's unsettling.

I still (of course!) look forward to my next encounter with one of your chiles rellenos. Who knew a frozen chile relleno could be so good?

Yours truly,


Comments (40) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
It's German style chocolate. You do know it's really a German GmbH pretending to be a US company, right?
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 14, 2014 at 4:27 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 2
OMG loose and gritty filling! DId you ever eat Soviet era chocolate candy from the USSR? Yeah loose and gritty. We elect a socialist to city office and look what happens.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 14, 2014 at 4:27 PM · Report this
seatackled 3
Get rid of the word "your" in the first sentence and you might be onto something.
Posted by seatackled on January 14, 2014 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Madskillz80 4
gritty? You might have gotten a bad batch, my coworker and I downed a whole box in about 40 minutes last week. You ARE correct about the salt though. I kept licking the candy and sticking it in the salt.
Posted by Madskillz80 on January 14, 2014 at 4:40 PM · Report this
most chocolates need more salt, not less.

take your tastes elsewhere and stop your fucking whining.
Posted by campe on January 14, 2014 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Sheree 6
File a bug report.
Posted by Sheree on January 14, 2014 at 4:54 PM · Report this
Bethany TJs are like 6 dollars for a box compared to 10 dollars for just a few Frans. Obviously Frans are much better, but this is a good cheap knockoff
Posted by albatross2 on January 14, 2014 at 5:23 PM · Report this
They're making them crappy on purpose so that you are forced to eat healthy!
Posted by high and bi on January 14, 2014 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Thanks for the warning. I don't want to get fat on subpar salted chocolates.
Posted by wxPDX on January 14, 2014 at 5:28 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 10
BTW, the salted caramel donuts from Top Pot are fucking vile too. Salted caramel can be tasty, but it's easy to screw up.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on January 14, 2014 at 5:31 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 11
I enjoy the larger salt crystals on my salted caramels.

@1: "It's German style chocolate. You do know it's really a German GmbH pretending to be a US company, right?"

It's not a German-style chocolate, they partner with American companies. You seem to be confused, the Albrechts aren't trying to shoehorn German food onto hapless Americans.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 14, 2014 at 5:44 PM · Report this
sperifera 12
Trader Joe's = commodity grade products in upscale packages.
Posted by sperifera on January 14, 2014 at 5:58 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 13
@12: Groceries are a commodity, yes. I'm not going to pass on that package of frozen edamame rangoon to my imaginary offspring.

If you skip the wan produce and barely-resistible snacks, you can get a fairly decent deal on some things.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 14, 2014 at 6:15 PM · Report this
Dr. Z 14
@12: upscale? TJ is dirt cheap in comparison to Whole Foods, New Seasons, etc where you can't even purchase a can of fucking beans for less than five bucks.

TJ desserts are a signature product but that doesn't mean they're uniformly terrific. The "Caramels Caught in a Blizzard" are better IMO.
Posted by Dr. Z on January 14, 2014 at 7:19 PM · Report this
You also might want to skip Trader Joe's sugar-free dark chocolate bar: the non-sugar "sweetener" doubles as a laxative.

Unless that's what you want from a chocolate bar.
Posted by judybrowni on January 14, 2014 at 7:21 PM · Report this
I hope you sent this "letter" directly to Trader Joes. Every time I've used their webform for comments or complaints, I've gotten a response from a real human being. And from some of the responses I've gotten, they actually reformulate products based on customer comments.
Posted by SRodgers on January 14, 2014 at 7:40 PM · Report this
Fnarf 17
@11, it's Will in Seattle. He doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. "German chocolate" my winkle dinkle pinkle pie.

@14, you should look again. Whole Foods has expensive food, but their own-brand stuff is better and cheaper than the equivalent products at QFC, Safeway, or TJ. Cans of beans in particular.
Posted by Fnarf on January 14, 2014 at 7:40 PM · Report this
pragmatic 18
Trader Joe's is 7-11 for yuppies and hipsters.
Posted by pragmatic on January 14, 2014 at 7:53 PM · Report this
19 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
word3 20
I dunno…..I don't love Trader Joe's. Their whole business model gives me the creeps. Repackaging leftover, overrun foods from other suppliers with their own labels. Seems a little tricksy tricksy. Also, the TJ in Ballard is absolutely full of Mars Hillers clutching their little books - don't go there on a Sunday.

I used to go to TJ for grade B syrup - but now you can get that anywhere.
Posted by word3 on January 14, 2014 at 8:47 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 21
@18: I'm okay with that. I can even eat pretty healthy there if I skip the junk food.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 14, 2014 at 8:59 PM · Report this

Your statement indicates a lack of familiarity with Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's operates small, neighborhood markets that sell mostly private label products.

Trader Joe's negotiates a cash price for everything in its store, which is a very unusual model in a nation where most commercial grocery stores pay for the stock in their store with a multiplicity of credit and debt financing.

They appeal to budget-concious consumers who understand that paying more for the same product in name brand packaging isn't a good value.

Much of the private label products in Whole Foods come from the exact same companies as Trader Joe's. In fact, much of the brand labeled products are also manufactured and distributed by the exact same companies as the private label products. The industry is largely consolidated into a few companies.

The difference in products is primarily in the proprietary formulations/recipes and in the quality of raw materials that each company is willing to pay to have procured and manufactured for them...oh, and in the perceptions fostered by the brand beliefs that are reinforced by clever marketing.

Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have impressive private label products that are really good values for the informed shopper.
Posted by Private Label Junky on January 14, 2014 at 9:03 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 23
"Their whole business model gives me the creeps. Repackaging leftover, overrun foods from other suppliers with their own labels. Seems a little tricksy tricksy"

It's not Grocery Outlet or Big Lots, though. Don't they make arrangements for the overrun ahead of time? It's always fresh, never stale or past-its-prime. Especially their non-novelty, more traditional products. Their meat and dairy products are pretty great.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 14, 2014 at 9:03 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 24
Really, the only thing that grosses me out consistently at TJs is the corn syrup-ladened Orangina, which they stock for some bizarre reason.

And when I found some sort of industrial grommet from an extruder from their sesame snacks, but I don't hold that against them.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 14, 2014 at 9:06 PM · Report this

See #22.

Your statement shows an amazing lack of understanding of Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's sells private label products with their store brand on the product.

A private label product is the same or similar as a name brand product except with a store brand label.

Hershey's chocolate in a Trader Joe's branded container is the identical product. The box of Cheerios in a Trader Joe's box is the exact same product. Exactly the same in every way except the packaging. The only difference is your perception based on beliefs born of clever, manipulative marketing.

Posted by The More You Know on January 14, 2014 at 9:16 PM · Report this
stinkbug 26
"Repackaging leftover, overrun foods from other suppliers with their own labels"

You should maybe learn more about TJs. Yes, they do have relationships with brand-name suppliers and then TJs sells those items via their own labels, but they aren't "leftovers" in the traditional sense of the word.

Posted by stinkbug on January 14, 2014 at 9:17 PM · Report this
I feel the same way about Theo.
Posted by treehugger on January 14, 2014 at 10:07 PM · Report this
Oh, and Molly Moon's salted caramel sucks too.
Posted by treehugger on January 14, 2014 at 10:09 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 29
I love Trader Joes. And chocolate. And caramel. And salt. Yet these sat for a year in my pantry. Clearly they appeal to someone, as I've seen quality products come and go at TJ's but these have stayed on the shelf.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on January 14, 2014 at 10:37 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 30
Oh, and if you scrape off the salt they're edible.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on January 14, 2014 at 10:38 PM · Report this
raku 31
It's so bizarre that seattleites choose to shop in national/international garbage chain grocers. If you go to Central Co-op a 30 second walk away, nearly all the comparable products are cheaper, and not garbage.

The people who scream "$5 for a can of beans" at local grocers must have only shopped at chains their entire lives. There are no cans of beans for anywhere close to $5, and many less than $1.50, and they're not made in South America by chopping down a rain forest and spraying the remains with chemical poisons.

Walk into Central Co-op and look at the clientele - lots of immigrants who can't handle gross food at American chain stores, healthy people, progressives, queers, etc. It's not rich people blowing money on overpriced crap. Those people go to crappy overpriced chains like Whole Foods, Metropolitan Market or, yes, Trader Joe's.

There is really no legitimate reason to shop at Trader Joe's unless you're making a pro-international corporation political statement, or you value cutesy ads over your money, your health, social justice, and the environment (which seems to be most of Seattle). I guess if you have to have something that is technically a bottle of wine for no more than $4 (their best advertising gimmick) regardless of the social or environmental consequences - fine. But you can actually get a good bottle of wine for $7 next door, unlike at Trader Joe's.

Also, sorry Bethany, it's shameful for a food writer to keep promoting chain store garbage, presumably for free. It's bad for the world, bad for people's health, and gross. At least talk about the ingredients and where they come from -- like, you know, a food writer.
Posted by raku on January 15, 2014 at 1:29 AM · Report this
Christampa 32
Hey Raku, some posters were looking for your input on possibly the only people more insufferable than you on the Internet over here:…
Posted by Christampa on January 15, 2014 at 2:09 AM · Report this

1. We don't all live on Capitol Hill. So, Central Co-op isn't an option for everyone, Reverend Raku (a title to befit the sermon). However, when I did live in CH, my experience was as a member of the coop that Central Co-op's pricing was only lower than others on some sale items and on bulk foods (bins). Everything else was either in line with other grocery stores or was at a higher price. You can argue the "morality" of the coop, but the same international food conglomerates that are behind the labels at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and others are also behind most of the name brand labels on the shelves at the Central Co-op.

2. PCC is closer to me these days. PCC has a broader selection of organic products, and no other coop or grocery store beats their selection of locally sourced produce. However, Trader Joe's pricing on the organic products and produce that they carry is actually lower than a comparable item at PCC or any other grocery store, coop or corporate, with the occasional exception of a sale price at Fred Meyer.

3. My fresh produce comes primarily from local sources, including local coops, farmers markets and the garden. But, quite a bit of the remainder of my grocery list comes from Trader Joe's because the quality and price are a really good value.

4. As a vegetarian, I don't eat meat; so, I've no helpful advice by way of comparison for those who do.

5. As a life-long member of coops, I strongly support them, but not blindly like a religious sycophant or sacrificially like a foolish steward. Central Co-op would close tomorrow if it were to limit the products it sells to only those sourced locally or to those produced by another, socially-responsible coop.

You're a hothouse madam preaching chastity in a whorehouse, Rev Raku. Good luck with that sermon.
Posted by Not a Martyr for the Cause on January 15, 2014 at 3:14 AM · Report this
I have found the quality of Trader Joes private label products to be consistently disappointing. I cannot say that about Safeway, QFC/Kroger or Whole Foods.
Posted by WestSeven on January 15, 2014 at 6:46 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 35
@31: "If you go to Central Co-op a 30 second walk away, nearly all the comparable products are cheaper, and not garbage. "

I do, and aside from bulk goods, which aren't available at TJs, they aren't cheaper. IF they were, I'd buy from them first.

@34: WF's house brand is okay, but Safeway/Kroger? I can't see how they're better than TJs.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 15, 2014 at 8:12 AM · Report this
@35 Safeway Select, O Organic and Kroger Private Selection have all been consistently better than TJ. I fail to see the allure of TJ's - all I have ever obtained there are inexpensive products that are of lower quality than what I get at my usual sources.
Posted by WestSeven on January 15, 2014 at 8:44 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 37
@31- " If you go to Central Co-op a 30 second walk away..."

Actually Central Co-op is an eight mile bike ride from the nearest Trader Joe's to me and way the hell out of the way on my commute. I might go to it if there was one in my neighborhood, though the few times I've gone there the produce has fruit flies.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on January 15, 2014 at 10:53 AM · Report this
TJ's really only excels at frozen dinners (nom shepard's pie!) and the wide variety of <$5 wine. Their fresh food is crap.
Posted by ishf on January 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM · Report this
raku 39
37- Try PCC which are in the outlying neighborhoods. It's the biggest local grocery co-op in the country and a great benefit of living in Seattle.

35- I can't find it, but someone on the Seattle Livejournal a few years ago and did an apples-to-apples comparison, with Madison Market the cheapest overall, TJ's second, and QFC/Safeway by far the most expensive. Of course you won't get apples-to-apples with factory farm meat or cheese at Trader Joe's, or maybe with commodity produce. Surprisingly, Madison Market (aka Central Co-op) produce is much cheaper for anything but the mass imported bananas and avocados, even when comparing the co-op's organic local produce vs QFC's garbage chemical produce from across the country.

It would be intetesting to do an updated comparison on The Stranger. I wouldn't trust Bethany to do it because I don't think she can tell the difference between Campbell's soup and local/organic/chemical-free soup. I'd volunteer to do it if The Stranger would post it or link to it.

32- Done! Sorry my sentences barely make sense there, did a quick comment on my phone bc I don't really care about feminist infighting.
Posted by raku on January 15, 2014 at 1:26 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 40
@39: I don't generally concern myself with "organic" produce so the "apples to apples" is probably not going to make much of a difference with me unless I'm making something fancy.

When I'm buying non-factory farmed meat/cheeses/produce price is rarely the most important consideration, anyway. I just grab those from the farmer's market.
Posted by undead ayn rand on January 17, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Report this

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