Wednesday, June 26, 2013

If this is true, it's interesting news on Trader Joe's policies re: national brands

About 85% of the branded products sold in Trader Joe's stores issold under Trader Joe's own brand(s).

Trader Joe's jealously guards the sources those products. Some of them, like yogurts made by Stonyfield, are produced by big companies that also sell their own brands in other stores (and produce other chains' private-label brands, too.) Where possible, though, TJ's likes to be the suppliers' only customer.
That said, there have always been a few exceptions on TJ's shelves, in the form of national brand products. Examples: the idiosyncratic Dr. Bronner's soaps, a few wines, and cut cheese.

I have always been bothered that TJ's sells Fiji brand bottled water, perhaps the most overpriced and evil player in the generally evil bottled water category. I'm struggling to imagine a more wasteful use of resources, than shipping water from Fiji. What's the bet that average Fijians don't have access to safe drinking water?

Another name brand product TJ's sells is Zico Coconut Water.

If this somewhat garbled post from the food blog is accurate, TJ's relationship with Zico is taking a new turn. Apparently, Zico's making a new flavored coconut water, that will be sold under Zico's brand, but made available exclusively through Trader Joe's.

What makes this interesting is, Zico's is not some small supplier that Trader Joe's can bully into an exclusive deal. It's owned by Coca Cola.

I don't know what to make of this news, and of course one thing we can be sure of is, Trader Joe's won't talk about it. It's possible Coke's just using Trader Joe's as a test market. It's also possible, however, that this represents a new strategy on the part of Trader Joe's, which has always relied on the sense that it's product mix -- all of the Trader Joe's-branded products -- are exclusive.

Is Trader Joe's now going to begin telling customers that it's a source of exclusive national-brand products, too?


  1. Interesting, just ordered your book! I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on TJ's pricing strategies with national brands in general...if they are just there to make the prices on their own brands look better as seems to be the case with their wine: Trader Joe's Week Wine at The Reverse Wine Snob


    1. Hi Jon,
      Thanks for reading! Your theory is interesting. I don't know; I don't think there are really enough national brands to make comparisons effective, and some of the 'national' brands they do carry are themselves relatively obscure. Where else can you even get Dr. Bronner's soaps, for example? I'll keep an ear to the ground, for information about how the odd national brand SKU is picked up, and what the pricing strategy is, especially in the wine department.