Re: Trader Joe’s and Discontinued Items, this is a must read/listen


I came across these two links here recently and want to share them for the insight into Trader Joe’s and discontinued products. Now to we consumers, it may be “my favorite item” at Trader Joe’s. But to Trader Joe’s “its just business”. You may think of Trader Joe’s as a supermarket but it is not a “supermarket”. Think of them as a specialty food vendor. Compared to a regular supermarket, which may stock 40,000 items, an average Trader Joe’s store only stocks 4,000 items. So limited shelf space. If a item doesn’t sell enough Units, to the decision makers at Trader Joe’s, that is a found to be a “slow sales item”. These items will likely be discontinued and be replaced with some other product. We, the consumer have little or nothing to do with it, other than the sales numbers. Read the transcript below of the INSIDE TRADER JOE’S podcast to get insight into how they decide these things.

Its not happy news for us consumers. Unfortunate that’s the way it is. Pretty much “don’t take it personal, it’s just business”. This is why even when I love an item, I know in the back of my mind “don’t fall in love”… because it may dissapear one day. Or if I really like it, I may buy a few of them if they can last….

https://www.thekitchn.com/trader-joes-discontinued-groceries-podcast-23444348

This is particularly disheartening!

What can you do if your favorite TJ’s item is discontinued? Honestly, there’s not much you can do to bring your favorite groceries back once they’re gone. However, if you want to talk about it, there’s the Trader Joe’s Discontinued 🙁 Facebook group (and yes, the sad face is part of the group’s name).”

TRADER JOE’S PODCAST

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/podcast


Inside Trader Joe’s Podcast Transcript — ICYMI: Discontinued Products

Tara: Hey, Matt, what happened to the Peach Salsa?
Matt: In case you missed it, Trader Joe’s Spicy, Smoky Peach Salsa, it was discontinued.
Tara: Yeah, I noticed cuz it’s my favorite salsa of all time and now I can’t buy it.
This is a good topic for another I-C-Y-M-I Edition of Inside Trader Joe’s.
Matt: I-C-Y-M-I, in case you missed it.
Tara: These mini-episodes give us an opportunity to address some of the questions our crew members hear from customers most often.
Matt: And keep asking. The crew loves to answer questions.
Matt: Thinking about getting rid of products, discontinuing products. More often than not, it’s not an indictment of the product itself.
Tara: What gives?
Matt: Well, you know, oftentimes we’ll use a phrase and we probably overly rely on it, slow sales. What does that really mean? What it means is that there weren’t enough customers interested in buying the Peach Salsa to have it continue to make sense. Because if you don’t have high volume or growing volume, the costs of producing and handling a slow selling product are such that it doesn’t make business sense for us. And if you think about how small our stores are, and on a relative basis, they’re smaller than most grocery stores. And how few products we have? On a comparative basis, we have a lot fewer products than other grocery stores. We just physically don’t have room to carry things that aren’t popular, as disappointing as that is to hear and experience.
Tara: So there’s another piece of this, Matt, that I think is kind of important. And it’s what we don’t do to put products on our shelves.
Matt: How so?
Tara: So a lot of retailers work with the companies that make their products, the Consumer Packaged Goods Companies, to put products on shelves using something called
slotting fees. So the Consumer Packaged Goods, the CPG Companies pay the retailer, the
grocery store for shelf space. So even if a product doesn’t sell very well, and even if you see
it in the store and it’s covered with dust, it’s not going anywhere until the Consumer
Packaged Goods Company decides it doesn’t make sense to produce that product anymore.
Matt: Ah, now I get it. It’s the classical play of making money anywhere other than
with a customer buying something at the cash register.
Tara: Right. And at Trader Joe’s, the only way we make money is when the customer buys something at the cash register. So apparently I didn’t buy enough Peach Salsa. But that means that that product hasn’t earned its place on our shelves. We’re not getting paid by the producer of that product to keep it on the shelves. And our business model says let’s develop something new that might sell better and make more customers happy.
Matt: And that approach can feel and sound so cold-hearted, and yet it’s important that we maintain our objectivity about what really is or isn’t working, what really isn’t selling because ultimately customers do let us know if they like something or not.
Tara: Yeah, and I’ll be honest, when I went to buy it that one day a few weeks ago, I was just so sad standing there in front of the salsa selection in the store. And then I thought, okay, I’ll try something new. The great thing about discontinued products is it almost always
means there’s something new coming soon. You can always find new things on our
shelves. A lot of our stores have like a new product section where they’ll highlight a whole
bunch of things that have recently shown up in the stores. It’s kind of fun to try something
new.
Matt: So I see why I, and maybe this is the missing salsa edition, but if you’re
looking for the Double Roasted Salsa, which was one of my favorites, which was sadly
discontinued, you might consider trying the Guajillo Salsa, which I find to be a nice albeit
slightly spicier replacement.
Tara: And I also have taken to the Pineapple Salsa to replace the Peach Salsa if
I’m in the mood for something that has a little sweetness to it. So, there are options. We,
you know, we don’t have every product in the world, but we do have some good options.
Matt: We work hard, the product development team, the tasting panel group, they
work on things by tasting them. They think these things make sense. They think that they’re
delicious. They think they’re worth customers’ time and attention. And if that doesn’t pan
out in that way, well, we’ve gotta move on. Of course, there can be reasons other than slow
sales. Um, if there are quality issues or that we determined that the value that we once had
is no longer as strong. If we are facing different competitive pressures on a given product.
And yet, overwhelmingly, the reason for things to be discontinued at Trader Joe’s is a lack of
interest, slow sales.
Tara: Yeah.
Tara: I’m Tara Miller.
Matt: And I’m Matt Sloan.
Tara: In case you missed it. That’s why your favorite product might have been discontinued it. Thanks for listening.

Trader Joe’s PEANUT & CRISPY NOODLE SALAD KIT


“CRISPY NOODLE SALAD KIT: The crispy part of the kit includes a package of tiny fried rice “CRISPY NOODLES”. The problem? After you put on dressing? These become “Not Crispy” Noodle bits.

Pros: The Asian style Peanut Dressing they give you is tasty. It’s a bit similar to TJ’s Organic Sesame Dressing (so you could make something like this yourself using that dressing)

Cons: Cabbage as the first ingredient in the salad. I thought it was cut way too big so the salad is a bit tough and too chewy. The softer Romaine lettuce, not cabbage, should have been the first ingredient IMO, plus this cabbage should be sliced thinner. However the main problem with this whole idea for a “Crispy Noodle salad kit” is obvious. The moment you mix in those “crispy noodles” (which are tiny, see pic) with the dressing and mix it all in, the “crispy noodles” become not crispy, of course. Maybe if they used some larger kind of crispy noodles, maybe like the kind you get in a Chinese restaurant? For me, these little fried rice noodles are a Fail. We both though this salad just wasn’t good. I won’t buy it again. Its goes for $3.99. You want crispy? What might work is add some lightly crushed PLANTAIN CHIPS to this. Or croutons.

Trader Joe’s caught red-handed SHRINKING SOME ITEMS ! (Shrinkflation / Inflation)


I’ve been hearing a lot about how stores are shrinking some items as opposed to an outright price increase to kind of disguise price increases from us consumers. This is “Shrinkflation”

Look carefully at the sign. The sign says the jar of this (very good!) marinara sauce contains “26 ounces”. If you look at the label on the jar, it says “24 oz“. Clearly a jar of this marinara use to contain 2 more oz. I assume this change was fairly recently since they didn’t have time to change the sign.

Shrinking packages and the amounts in them is one way vendors try to hide a price increase – by giving you less even thought they didn’t raise the price hoping you won’t notice. This is referred to as SHRINKFLATION. Someone clearly goofed up at my TJ’s and forgot to change the sign but no doubt they will soon lest you know what really happened to the missing 2 ounces of sauce!

Have your parents ever said, “I remember when you could make the kids three sandwiches from a can of tuna”? Its true. Cans of tuna are famous for shrinking and shrinking and shrinking over the years….

UPDATE: Another one – a reader reports TJ’s Orange Juice is now 52 oz, less than it used to have.

RANT: TUSCANO MARINARA SAUCE (discontinued) + Marinara RECIPE


“Trader Giotto’s” Low Fat Tuscan Marinara

RANT

Ode to yet another discontinued Trader Joe’s product, a classic rant about an excellent TJ product, which they discontinued! Some people thought this was the best marinara sauce on the market. Many were bumbed to learn TJ’s Discontinued their favorite tomato sauce! So why am I writing about this now? Well the other day I happened to be clearing out my pantry and found I had a can of this Marinara way in the back. I opened it and tasted it and was pretty shocked to see how good it was. This marinara is, or should we say was, a terrific sauce. For one thing it’s not super smooth, it’s full of chunks of tomatoes like a homemade sauce you had put together. The current glass jars of Marinara sauce that Trader Joe’s replaced this with are smooth. I made a pasta dish using this Marinara and the dish turned out really well. I made a pizza with it a few days later which also turned out great. So yes, it’s a crime TJ’s got rid of this great and very useful sauce. Mind boggling. So just posting this Rant and sorry you won’t be able to find this really great product anymore . At least TJ’s still sells the 28 oz cans of crushed or diced tomatoes which will make you a great sauce with little effor. I always have cans of tomatoes in the pantry as well as tomato paste (can and/or tube) So if you are inclined to make your own sauce, which is not hard and I think is worth the little effort it takes. Here’s an EASY HOMEMADE MARINARA RECIPE from NatashasKitchen, link below.

TIP (1) IMO adding a tablespoon of tomato paste at the start will make it even better (2) My mom taught me useful advice: Just double up the recipe when you cook some things because for the same amount of effort you will have another meal. You can also freeze the extra batch.

Pizza from scratch; made using this terrific marinara sauce

Sriracha Ranch, GONE !?! Say it isn’t so Joe!


RANT

Reported Discontinued during the Summer of Covid-19, Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing. The one and only super versatile stuff, which I just adore, well, make that adored (big sigh!)

This is one of Trader Joe’s best products which I previously reviewed with a RAVE– so I find this particularly shocking! WTF, Trader Joe’s?! Just to make sure it was not just out of stock for a long time, I when to my store’s Captain to ask him to check the status. Unfortunately he confirmed my worst fear – “It’s been  Disco’ed”(discontinued)

Other than start a campaign to bring it back (has this ever worked?) I will be stingy using the little bit left of the bottle in my fridge now. I may experiment with a DIY version. Some TJ’s RANCH DRESSING mixed with Sriracha or Green Dragon sauce. I won’t be as good but maybe better than nothing

If you are as shocked or mad, please leave your opinions about this in COMMENTS. Things like this were the reason I started this site in the first place.

RECIPE for something in the ballpark. Not the same, but not pretty good. I mixed some TJ PERI PERI sauce with some Suzie’s MAYO and it was pretty tasty, in the Sriracha Ranch ballpark.

TJ ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA



Trader Joe’s (Giotto’s) ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA

 

Normally we eat pasta in my house at least once if not two or more times a week. My wife and I adore pasta. I’m good at making it. Or I should say “we used to” eat it that often! Recently my wife decided to try going “Gluten Free” and that has changed things not just for her but for “Us”. To keep life simple as far as eating and cooking, whats happened is basically we stopped eating pasta, much to my chagrin as you could say I’m a bit of a pasta freak. As Italians usually do, I could eat pasta almost every day. Really, I could be happy as a clam eating pasta every day, in fact I’d be super happy eating Linguine with clams!

So I really wanted to try something in the pasta department that we both could eat together, meaning I would give “Gluten Free Pasta” a try.

So I saw this Red Lentil Pasta at TJ. Unfortunately I was not impressed with this for cooking as a substitute for regular pasta. For me at least – that is someone who can eat gluten and wheat products – this lentil pasta would not be something I would willingly sub in for my “normal” pasta.

TJ Red Lentil Pasta is made from “red lentil flour”. Its even made in Italy! (I can imagine them rolling their eyes at making this stuff for all those crazy Americans) Uncooked, it looks quite nice, like a beet colored pasta. It has an interesting shape I was not familiar with, “sedanini”, a ridged, curved long ziti type shape.

When I cooked this, well this gluten free pasta just didn’t do it for me. This could never replace pasta for me, but again I don’t have to be Gluten Free. I had made a nice meat sauce sauce to go with this, a kind of Ragu for the lentil pasta, and cooked it up a bit with some some sauce just as I would normally prepare regular pasta. When we ate the finished pasted with the sauce we both kept commenting on that it was just not the same as eating pasta. Honestly we didn’t really enjoy it due to the somewhat odd texture we found. It didn’t have the chew of pasta. It seemed to get kind a bit grainy or granular when chewed, not smooth like real pasta.

To top things, the GF pasta’s at TJ are a bit expensive as well. A 12 oz package goes for $3. This is about 2 to 3 times the cost of TJ’s extremely good “regular” pastas made with semolina flour.

So I wanted to like this but didn’t, as I don’t have to eat this. it was a choice. On the other hand, my “gluten free diet” wife, found it to be not great but OK as in it was kind of “acceptable” if you can’t eat normal pasta but you want to eat something like pasta. If you HAVE to be on a gluten free diet, then you may find it OK too. I can’t think this will fool anyone as an excellent substitute for real pasta. For me, its kind of fake pasta frankly. A knock off.

Still I will try some of the other gluten free pasta products TJ sells, and see if they work better than this one made from lentils. TJ does have a few gluten free pastas: a black bean ziti, and a spaghetti made from brown rice and lentils. So if you must be gluten free, try all three and see which you like best out of what they have to offer. So just saying if you must be gluten free, then there are a few choices. Everyone raves about the Cauliflower Gnocchi (frozen). Again I tried it. I found it pretty good, but I still prefer TJ’s regular gnocchi. If you don’t need to be GF, like me, I find regular pasta and related products are superior to any GF ones.

If you are not gluten free and want an excellent pasta, get TJ’s Organic Spaghetti or Ziti. That is excellent high quality pasta, made in Italy, and is the equal to top Italian import brands sold in the US for 3-6 times what TJ’s sells it for, $1.29 for 1 lb, which is an excellent value.

If you are GF then this may be OK for you with a lot of sauce.

 

Trader Joe’s GYRO SLICES


This looked like an interesting idea when I saw it. Despite some trepidation if it could possibly be any good I decided to give it a go.

So what’s “gyro” anyway? Its the Greek version of a certain style of cooking and a street food found in many cultures and parts of the world.

Shwarma, Gyro, Doner Kebab and Tacos Al Pastor are pretty much the same thing: meat, sometimes lamb, sometimes beef, sometimes chicken that is seasoned quite a bit, then placed and layered onto a rotating spit, that is cooked upright as it rotates (get it, gyro?) Oh, and by the way, the way to say Gyro with its Greek name would sound like “Yeero”.

The Gyro chef slices off meat getting the nicely browned outside layer onto bread or a curved metal thing as you can see in the picture below. The slices of goodness are then usually arranged in some type of bread … Pita, Pide or other Arab bread or a in Mexico a tortilla, with veggies (tomatoes, lettuce, cukes) and a sauce of some type (tzaziki, tahina, salsa…)

Turkish, Greek, or Lebanese in origin? Mexico’s dish called Tacos Al Pastor originated from Lebanese who had emigrated to Mexico City, and had opened restaurants, made a type of food that was from their homeland and adapted that dish to a Mexican palate (and they used pork!). Its is hugely popular in Mexico, and delicious. Traditionally there is a pineapple roasting at the very top which is sliced off onto your Taco Al Pastor

images

Making one of these towers of meat is complicated. The link below shows all the many steps involved to make a real “GYRO” just in case you wondered or have never seen one of these types of restaurants with a huge rotating “trompo” (spit) in the window.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-greek-gyro-is-made-4121890

 

Above: here’s a gyro cook slicing off some meat to make a Gyro… This looks pretty amazing, right?

Now look below at whats actually in the Trader Joe Gyro Slices package! Ugh! Cooking it only improved the look slightly. And it shrunk a good deal, as lots of fat came out.

Read the ingredient list : Beef, Water, Breadcrumbs…   Bread crumbs is the third ingredient listed. Its a binder to hold some ground stuff mixed together which is then pressed into a form, cut into slices, and packaged. Already you can kind of get this is an attempt to make something in a factory setting that’s not at all similar to the real thing – which as you know is just meat with spices layered onto a spit and cooked vertically.

I had a Doner Kebab in Vienna and it was fantastic. I had Tacos Al Pastor in Mexico City, ditto. I’ve had this in many Greek places in NYC and its great. They slice it in front of you and hold the bread to catch the juices as they run off. Yum!

This TJ stuff is not even close.

If you look at what the stuff actually looks like, when you open the package up, you will probably be a bit surprised at how unappealing it looks. . Its a bad idea to begin with. I made it as they suggest on the package, I put the cooked slices onto a pita with some tzatziski sauce with lettuce, onions and tomatoes and it tasted just OK if you ignored the main ingredient – the “gyro slices”. It would not fool anybody. It was OK as far as the the pita, sauce, veggies… but the main ingredient was quite lacking in taste and texture, especially if you ever had a real Gyro Sandwich from a greek joint.

So I give this product an F for FAIL

$4 a package.

RANT

TJ’s High Protein Organic Super Firm Tofu


 

Let me begin with saying Trader Joe’s Firm Organic Tofu is very good. I always buy that. That’s the one that comes packaged in a red/pink plastic container and is in water. This product, HIGH PROTEIN SUPER FIRM TOFU is quite different. For one thing (unusual for tofu) it does not come floating in water, it’s packaged in a tight fitting green plastic wrapper. I saw this and thought I’d give it a try for the blog here. So here’s the shortest review I’ve ever given “I didn’t like it” (but don’t take just my opinion, other’s here have written in to say they like it a lot)

 

 

Super firm? They are not kidding when they say “super firm tofu”. I say more like super- duper firm. If I drew a picture in my mind what “Shoe Leather made of Tofu” might be like…then you will have some idea of the texture of this. Have you ever cut firm Tofu? Sure, your knife glides right through it, so easily. Well this stuff, your knife has to be pushed with a little pressure to cut through it. Kind of the texture of a soft tofu rock. To me, the package should read “HARD & TOUGH TOFU”. I guess thats the “High Protein”?

Its sounds kinda good when you look at it and think “Oh High Protein, that must be better” but the reality is this extra protein must be the thing that makes the texture so hard. 

When I cooked it for dinner, we found the finished dish so tough and chewy to be barely edible. We barely choked it down chewing our cud so to speak and only ate this due to the fact that we were starving at the time and had nothing else at hand to eat for dinner. Man did my (Japanese) wife take it out on me for buying this. As she said, “I come from tofu country”. She made me swear to “Never, ever buy that stuff again”. 

Having said all that from our take on this, some readers have Commented they like it because it is so very firm. Go figure. To each his own, right? 

Here’s TJ’s own take on Super Firm Tofu, via Fearless Flyer archived post. 

For me, I will stick to TJ’s ORGANIC FIRM TOFU (in the red pack) which I love and have reviewed with a RAVE

 

RANT

 

 

NYT no-recipe recipe idea. Soba/Tofu and Kimchi

Get some firm tofu; some soba noodles; some jarred kimchi. Make a sauce of minced garlic and ginger, some soy, hoisin or oyster sauces, a splash of maple syrup, another of sesame oil, a lot of red-pepper flakes, all whisked together. Boil water for the soba. Cut the tofu into manageable pieces, and pat dry with paper towel. Heat a good quantity of neutral oil, like canola, in a big sauté pan, then add the tofu in a single layer and fry it over medium-high heat, turning to get every side. Meanwhile, cook the soba. Remove the crisp tofu and toss with the sauce. Serve in a bowl, the hot soba arranged to one side of the tofu and the kimchi to the other, along with the sauce. Oh, man. You could put some roasted asparagus on top. A soft-boiled egg. It’s so delicious.

DISCONTINUED: Trader Joe’s Rice Sticks (Boo Hiss!)


RANT

TJ’s Rice Sticks. I tried them once, and wrote a Rave post about them including a recipe. What happens next? Not a week later do I notice I don’t see them on the shelf anymore. At TJ’s, you know that feeling, uh-oh is this item going bye-bye? Sure enough I inquired at the front desk a week after that and the TJ’s manager looks them up on the computer. He tells me, “Sorry but the Rice Sticks have been discontinued’. Damn, damn, damn. Another fave gone bye-bye. Had I known, I would have purchased a dozen packs and squirreled them away for the future.

Discontinued and Trader Joe’s. Two words that seem to go hand and hand, huh?

STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH (the TJ website)…

5. Why does TJ’s frequently discontinue products?

Our mission is to bring you the best quality products at the best prices. To do this, we have to manage our store space well. Each of our products must “stand on its own,” meaning it must pay its own way. Each product passes certain criteria in order to earn its way onto our shelves – including a rigorous tasting panel.

There may be several factors that determine why we discontinue products:

  • It may be a seasonal product – for example, strawberries, which are in season only specific times of the year.
  • The gang way factor – because we introduce 10-15 new products a week, we have to eliminate 10-15 items in order to give our newest items a fair chance.
  • The cost of producing the item may increase, which would in turn increase the cost to you – if the item is not a strong seller, we may choose to discontinue it.
(Whatever TJ’s. If I want THAI RICE STICKS in future, I will go back to getting them at Asian markets like I used to before I met you.)
POSTSCRIPT: Lots of comments on this item. Especially from Gluten-free diet folks…

TJ’s Uncrystallized Candied Ginger M.I.A. for months and months!


ginger

Uncrystallized Candied Ginger 8 oz bag $1.49 (if you can buy it)

TJ’s Uncrystallized Candied Ginger has been M.I.A. for months now!

When I first tried this product, it was love at first bite.

I love ginger and most any candied ginger is a real favorite of mine. Trader Joe’s candied ginger is quite different from most of these, its not hard and tough like some candied ginger. Its is much softer, chewier, nice sweet spicy morsels made from “just” pure natural ginger. Its naturally very very spicy, and well, ginger-y. This product is made with good quality natural ginger and it has just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the heat. This is yet another TJ product I tried just once, and was instantly hooked on! It is delicious eaten on its own but I can tell you it is even more delicious eaten with a bite of dark chocolate (eaten together this is better than most chocolate covered ginger candy sold). You can dice it up and add add it to various things (like yogurt, cereal…). I use it in cooking too, even in a pinch adding it to dishes I’m making that need ginger. If you like ginger spiciness, this is so so good. They sell it for a great price, compared to rock hard stuff you might find that is the more “crystallized” version – hence why TJ specifically calls this ‘uncrystallized’.

Unfortunately though I haven’t seen it on the shelves in months now! Its gone Missing In Action!

When I’ve inquired about it at the front desk, they’ve told me they are “expecting to get more next month”.  I’ve heard this same thing for the last four-five months. Has it been (shudder) Discontinued, added to that infamous list of TJ’s products?! I hope not. This is a great product. If you like ginger candy and ever see this again, its a must try.

Uncrystallized Candied Ginger: PLEASE COME BACK!

A SPLIT DECISION:  a RAVE for the product / a RANT for being missing in action

UPDATE-1 (June 1 2011) I’M STILL WAITING; Just checked with TJ staff and they confirm, its not discontinued; they can’t get the product. Out Of Stock.

UPDATE-2 – (July 2011) I asked Manager; She said they finally got it in. It was on the shelves for one day before they were told to remove it because of some “label issue” WTF!!

UPDATE -3 (Oct 2011) I spoke with the Front Desk manager at my local TJ’s. She said officially “the product has NOT been discontinued” and that’s its one of the most requested items to get back on the shelf. According to her the problem is Trader Joe’s can’t get the ginger! She told me TJ’s has had trouble with their regular source’s ginger crop (in Indonesia?). Oh well. It can’t hurt to “pester” them! There can’t be only one source for ginger in the entire world, can there?

UPDATE-4  (Dec. 2011) Interesting update – Again spoke with another manager at Front Desk. This guy time told me. a) Confirmed again Product NOT discontinued; b) The Product has had an issue with its formulation. He said something like “Sulfites” and that it needed to be reformulated by the producers. Hmm… see update-2 above, right?

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE 3/16/12 – ITS BACK in stock. Check this post

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