Trader Joe’s Has Transparency Issues
By Tom Ryan
Writing for The Faster Times, the online investigative website,
Amy Westervelt said private label food items have a “transparency” problem
because consumers aren’t told what firm is actually manufacturing the items.
As part of an ongoing “Generic Foods Investigation,” she has launched
a probe to find out who produces many of Trader Joe’s popular items.
she has so far found, partly through reader’s responses, that Trader Joe’s
Green Goddess Dressing is made by Annie’s; Trader
organic yogurt by Straus Creamery; and Trader Joe’s Spinach and Cheese
Frozen Pizza by Amy’s Kitchen. (Trader Joe’s didn’t confirm the findings.)
She also identified the cost-savings for consumers for a Trader Joe’s item
versus each manufacturer’s comparable item. For instance, Trader Joe’s
organic yogurt is 80 cents cheaper than Straus Organic Yogurt.
according to Ms. Westervelt, is that private label food products at food
retailers are tough to track.
“If you discovered, for example, that there was a meat by-product in
the food, your only recourse really would be to take it up with Trader Joe’s
– -the manufacturer remains obscured,” wrote Ms. Westervelt.
also said consumers should be aware of Trader Joe’s connection
to German supermarket giant Aldi. The chain is owned by a family trust set
up by Theo Albrecht, one of the two brothers behind Aldi.
“What doesn’t sit quite right is the lack of transparency —
the fact that it’s next to impossible for consumers to figure out where
their food is coming from,” wrote Ms. Westervelt.
She promised information
on Wal-Mart’s and Costco’s private label
lines in future installments.
Many online responses to the series praised the
reporter’s efforts at revealing Trader Joe’s manufacturing sources. But a few
were sympathetic to the retailer.
One respondent, Jeanne,
who worked in an industry related to private label products, remarked that
she didn’t think it was fair to compare a manufacturer’s
flagship product to their private label efforts. Recipes/formulas are changed
to “personalize” the final private label offering for each chain.
responder, Daniel B., who said he worked in advertising for many years, said
that while the investigation was said to be about supply chain transparency,
the biggest benefit is “giving the consumers the heads up about which
brands can be purchased for less at Trader Joe’s.”
Still, he believes retailers
who put their name on private label items they didn’t produce “need to
be more vigilant” than if they were just
stocking shelves with national brands.
“By putting their own name on a package, if something goes wrong, it is
the retailer whose reputation is tarnished. And I do believe that is a strong
incentive for keeping things on the up and up,” he wrote.
Discussion Question: Should retailers provide the names of manufacturers
that produce their private label products?
- Trader Joe’s Revealed! – The
- Trader Joe’s Shopping Guide – The TFT Reader Investigation Continues… – The