Trader Joe’s is a unique company. While there are dozens of grocery store companies in the country, Trader Joe’s simply has a different feel. Part of that is most likely because it started in my backyard and is incredibly popular throughout southern California, but that’s why I chose to write about them. Their principles and mission are clear: it’s all about value and the customer. That’s what makes them unique – they make grocery shopping seem personal and almost even fun, and the customers know they’re getting the highest quality ingredients.

Trader Joe’s mission statement reads:

At Trader Joe’s, our mission is to bring our customers the best food and beverage values and the information to make informed buying decisions. There are more than 2000 unique grocery items in our label, all at honest everyday low prices. We work hard at buying things right: Our buyers travel the world searching for new items and we work with a variety of suppliers who make interesting products for us, many of them exclusive to Trader Joe’s. All our private label products have their own “angle,” i.e., vegetarian, Kosher, organic or just plain decadent, and all have minimally processed ingredients.

From that statement, it is apparent that Trader Joe’s values their customers and genuinely cares about them. The same can’t be said for most grocery chains. Their stores have a bright, happy feel and all of their employees wear Hawaiian shirts to give a relaxed vibe. They exist for their shoppers, and the way they operate their stores show that. As they explain on their website, they do whatever they can to create low prices and offer delicious, fresh ingredients. It’s no coincidence that my mom and most people I know from home shop at Trader Joe’s whenever possible. You get better ingredients at similar or lower prices, and it’s guaranteed that they are high quality.

I think that Trader Joe’s is one of the best companies out there right now. Not only do they have admirable values, but they are also a very well-run company with smart management. They somehow manage to make grocery shopping enjoyable, and they have a mission and stick to it adamantly. That combination results in a loyal customer base and public acclaim, and shows us that sometimes, the nice guys do win.

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4 responses »

  1. hannahglos says:

    When I came to Bucknell, I hadn’t even heard of a Trader Joe’s (yes, I pretty much live under a rock), and I will admit that I set foot into my first Trader Joe’s store this past summer when I moved to New York City. Everything that Jeff said is true. All of their food is great, they have a variety of selections that I hadn’t never seen before, and the employees actually do care about the customers. Even when I was checking out of the store at the busiest time of the day with the line going out the door, the checkout clerk still seemed happy and asked how I was doing in a chipper manner. They are also one of the most efficient grocery stores I have seen; I thought I would be waiting in line to check out for 20 minutes and I was out of there in less than 5. It really is nice knowing that I could go there and get good, fresh, organic food from a city (I’m a little picky given that I come from a farm town where everything literally came out of the ground the day before), so I have to say I was pleased!

  2. KCasty says:

    Nice, Jeff. Three things:

    1) There are more than dozens of grocery store companies in the country!! Try hundreds?? Thousands even??
    2) I took Marketing last semester, and if I remember correctly I am pretty sure Trader Joe’s was included in the textbook as a company with excellent attention to customers in the store.
    3) At the risk of generalizing, do you think companies in California are more likely to be genuinely concerned about being socially responsible?

  3. Jim says:

    I’m from Maine and we just got a Trader Joe’s near me so they have obviously been experiencing great success if they’ve expanded that far. I’ve been once and it was definitely really different from normal grocery shopping which made it interesting. One thing that your post made me thing about though, was that Trader Joe’s attempts to sell products with high quality ingredients at low prices which makes me think back to the part of “The Story of Stuff” about how companies externalize costs in order to compete on price. I have to wonder how Trader Joe’s is able to keep their costs so low just by “bargaining hard” as they say.
    One thing I found particularly interesting on their website is that because they are the manufacturers of the products on their shelves, there are not fees associated with shelf space. I guess I find this particularly interesting because this summer I worked in market research for consumer packaged goods and how much shelf space could be commanded by a particular product or extension was always one of the biggest issues facing CPG companies. In that way, their low costs do seem to make sense to me. The only thing I wonder is how they actually manufacture the product they sell (outsourced or not) and where the factories are located?

    • Jordi says:

      Great comment, Jim.

      Let’s see…most CPG companies externalize some costs. They also compete in a sector where there are “disagreggated” supply chains creating more pricing opportunities. In other words, in a simple way, we can say your cereal price is “cheaper” because the cost of environmental impact and disposal is not there. But, on the other hand, it is “more expensive” because of all the marketing costs, from logos and ads to shelving strategies are included.

      Now Trader Joe’s comes along and offers me tasty crispy bits without the normal grocery store costs as they have internalized the production and distribution.

      That is an interesting way to think of it. I wonder which is greater: the externalized social costs or the externalized marketing costs (now internalized at TJs)?

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