Who Is Trader Joe’s

When you walk into a Trader Joe’s past the beautiful cut flowers and shelves full of artisan breads back to the small sample area staffed by a friendly employee dressed in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt you feel like you are walking into your neighborhood grocer. Employees are all kind of laid back, everyone seems at home and, if you are a regular, chances are they know your name. It’s just that kind of a place.

On the surface, that is.

Truth is Trader Joe’s is big business for a trust owned by by mega discount chain Aldi’s co-founder Theo Albrecht, Sr.

“Aldi has its roots in Germany and operates 7,500 stores internationally in a dozen countries. The first U.S. store opened in 1976. Aldi has annual U.S. sales of about $5 billion, according to business research company Hoovers.”

Albrecht bought Trader Joe’s in 1979 when it was a small California specialty grocery store chain. It was a very good investment for Albrecht. In 2004 sales “were estimated [at] $2.1 billion, or $1,132 per square foot, twice that of traditional supermarkets, according to the Food Institute, a nonprofit research group in Elmwood Park, N.J.

Trader Joe’s magic is a combination of its low prices and “feel good” atmosphere – plus, in the words of one consultant, “they have no competition.”

Via Business Week Online

Giving Joe and the Albrecht Family Trust their due, it must be said that Trader Joe’s is known for treating its employees better than the average grocery chain. This fact makes their reluctance to use their leverage to make a statement urging better conditions for farmworkers all the more difficult to swallow.

What do you say Joe? Are you going to do the right thing?


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bookfraud
    Jul 02, 2008 @ 20:34:33

    that’s because if they actually fought for better farmworker rights, it would be an implicit acknowledgment they’ve been selling foodstuffs made by exploited workers. they have very little to gain; only if people like yourself keep the heat on will they do anything.

    why people are ga-ga over a grocery store is beyond me; then again, i’ll eat processed cheese for dinner and call it haute cuisine.

    It is a terrible dilemma once you realize the human cost of our disposable culture. Dealing with unemployment and feeding my family makes buying at Wal-mart or Trader Joe’s so appealing, but I can’t make myself shop at W-M and at Trader Joe’s now I feel compromised. I am addicted to TJ’s Irish Breakfast Tea and it is cheap, cheap, cheap; when my current box runs out do I go back knowing what I do? Or do I buy from another grocery chain (who treats their employees poorly incidentally) and pay twice as much. Once you start looking at all this stuff it makes your head explode.

    I grew up on Valveeta cheese melted over macaroni – it was the haute cuisine of my childhood!


  2. Cheryl
    Jul 05, 2008 @ 18:34:05

    I shop almost exclusively at TJ’s… 1) b/c they don’t use chemicals, additives, corn syrups, etc. in MOST of the foods they sell, 2) they are DIRT CHEAP on items that I need every day like milk, eggs, cheese, etc. *and* those items aren’t laden w/ antibiotics or hormones and 3) the staff at TJ’s is friendly, helpful, knows their product line AND can actually bag groceries properly. A lost art IMO.

    With the exception of fresh produce, which I buy at local Farmer’s Markets or at Whole Foods, and paper products which I buy at Target, there is no reason for me to ever step foot in a Von’s, Ralph’s, Albertson’s, etc. again.

    Just sayin’.

    But thanks for the info about the company. A native CA Girl and I had NO idea they weren’t still a locally owned company.

    Cheryl ~

    Cheryl – I hear what you are saying and I understand. I think just as the pulled eggs off the shelf from a supplier who video showed was abusing chickens, they should make a statement reinforcing safe working conditions for the farmworkers who tend vines for the Franzia family.


  3. Walter
    Apr 24, 2009 @ 12:26:57

    I shopped the original Trader Joe’s location in Pasadena back in the mid-Seventies, back then, a small convenience store on South Lake Avenue.

    Having shopped occasionally shopped at the Santa Fe, NM store, I found it to be just another name for Wal*Mart; a grocery store for wealthy people too cheap to buy better products. I find their products un-edible due to the multi ingredients in them that have no place in some products. Eggs and peanuts in particular seem to be in everything.


  4. Sandra
    Oct 15, 2010 @ 12:53:50

    I agree. They should use their power as leverage to make people aware of the horrible conditions tha farmworkers work AND live in. The giant corporations make money off of mostly migrant workers and just contribute to the exploitation of human beings. It’s modern day slavery.


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