Thursday, September 21, 2017

What's the Deal with Trader Joe's and Sugar?

Why does Trader Joe's put so much sugar in their products?

Trader Joe's is a fun place to shop, and their prices are far lower than that of Whole Foods and other upscale gourmet food stores. And of course, they are home to the Infamous "Two Buck Chuck" line of inexpensive wines, which are now pushing $4.

Some of their other products are not such a bargain. For example their beers are very interesting to look at but very expensive to buy. They have a lot of obscure microbrews which probably are very good but they often cost $3 or $4 a bottle which is kind of ridiculous. I'm not sure why they can't have their beer selection as inexpensive as their wine selection.

Trader Joe's is also a very small market if you think about it, and most of their products are packaged foods, which ironically have fallen from favor in the general marketplace. Trader Joe's gag is that they use house-branded products only, rather than brand names.  Some Trader Joe's fans have gone online and tried to figure out who actually makes these house=branded products by using things like recall notices which list the same product under different brand names.

Trader Joe's uses this kitschy Polynesian theme to imply that they are importing most of their goods, although some of the goods are actually made here in America and just re-branded with her own Trader Joe's name.  And many of these products are very good and are reasonably priced.  Other things are not such bargains and I think they are counting on you buying some of the more expensive items to offset the loss leaders.

Since they don't have a butcher or deli, their packaged meats are somewhat expensive.  I generally steer away from their organic deli, as it is usually twice the price of deli meats in other grocery stores.  Their cheeses are no particular bargain either.

But what aggravates me is that Trader Joe's seems to be very fond of putting a lot of sugar in a lot of their products - where sugar is not needed.  Granted, they use cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup which most other manufacturers of packaged goods use.  But oftentimes we buy a product from them that seems to be ruined by an overly generous amount of sugar.  Sometimes sugar is the first ingredient on the label or second or third.

For example, I just opened a jar of roasted red pepper spread.  Roasted red peppers don't contain a lot of calories and they have a very rich and smoky taste.  That is, unless you lace them with sugar. The third ingredient after red peppers and eggplants is cane sugar in the Trader Joe's spread, raising the calorie content and also changing the flavor from smokey and savory to sweet and bland.

Similarly, a garlic and onion chutney was somewhat short on garlic and onion and very heavy on cane sugar.  In fact, it was the first ingredient.   Now granted, chutney is supposed to be sweet and I understand that, but it could have used a lot more garlic in a lot less sugar.

The packaged foods at Trader Joe's are akin to what we saw on the IGA supermarket in the 1960s, at least in terms of sugar content.  And yes, they do have a lot of cookies and sugary cereals as well.  Healthy eating this ain't.

I'll still continue to go to Trader Joes for various items which can't be found elsewhere and are also good dargains. However in the future I'm going to read the labels more carefully as some of the products have ended up being somewhat disappointing due to the sugar content.

But they know their market, and I guess the typical Trader Joe's customer wants sweet not savory.  Sort of like the vegetarian aisle at Wegman's - all candy!