NYT: For Trader Joe’s, a New York Taste Test


I just found this interesting New York Times piece from 2006 about Trader Joe’s by Times food writer, Julia Moskin. I don’t think I saw this before. I found it on another blog about TJ’s (linking text just in case you may not have access to the online paper anymore).

The article has some very interesting points about the company.
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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

TJ Oatmeal & Honey Soap


soap

Trader Joe’s Oatmeal and Honey Soap

RAVE – 
Now I should start with that I’m a guy. Meaning I am not that into soap. I usually buy Dalan soap at the dollar store, 3 bars for about $1. My wife on the other hand, buys soap at L’Occitane de Provence for herself that goes for $10 a bar. I feel guilty using it (was that 10 or 20 cents worth just now down the drain?)

But shopping at TJ’s a few weeks back I notice this soap: Trader Joe’s Oatmeal and Honey Soap (“pure vegetable soap”) in their Health and Beauty area. I smelled the package; hmm pretty nice. I could almost eat this. Cost? OMG, this nice looking package of soap goes for only $1.50 for 2 good size bars. Immediately my “wow even I can afford this” part of my brain says, “Buy it !” The low down when I actually tried it? TOTALLY GREAT STUFF. Wonderful. LOVE IT. This soap smells fantastic, and has such an incredibly creamy lather. My skin actually feels better, less dry. We know oatmeal is one of the best things for skin, incredibly soothing (Aveeno?). I can actually see oatmeal flakes in the soap as I use it. Did I mention how amazing it smells? I mean yummy. Another TJ’s item I tried once and immediately said, “Wow this is an amazing product. I’m going to buy this always from now on!”*. It doesn’t melt fast, but lasts a long time, truly an excellent value.

OK I get it now. Good soap is important, and this stuff is worth every penny. PLUS my wife also loves it. Yes, she still loves her $10 L’Occitane soap but now keeps the $10 soap solely for washing her face, so it lasts much longer. We actually now agree on buying soap. Amazing.

Trader Joe’s Oatmeal and Honey Soap WAS $1.49 NOW $1.69, 8 oz (two 4 oz bars). Ingredients include “…Glycerine, Essence of Oatmeal, Oatmeal Flakes, Honey…” TJ’s also sells a Tea Tree Oil Soap for a wee bit more. It looks good too. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will. Other TJ Beauty Stuff you’d recommend? Leave some suggestions.

*How many times do Trader Joe products have that effect on you? There’s a reason. They  have great buyers whose sole job is to scour the world for good products for Trader Joe’s.

One of Trader Joe’s best products: A RAVE!

FOLLOW UP: PRICE INCREASE – This product recently went from $1.49 to $1.69 (a 20% increase)

I’ve seen LOTS of price increases at TJ’s now.

TJ’s Sesame Sticks


TJ Sesame Stick snacks $2.29 (1 lb bag)

RAVE

I don’t know if these are a new item at Trader Joes’s or my store (NYC) just started to carry them. But after trying them once; there is now another item that I’ve “discovered”, which is on my Must Buy and the “Dangerously Addictive” list. Once you start eating these tasty crunchy sesame morsels its hard to put them down; Seriously I have to hide the bag from myself, lest a one pound bag mysteriously get emptied muy rapido.

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call this a “recipe” but here is a great flavor combo: A Sesame Stick or two with a bite of your favorite TJ chocolate (mine, dark of course). Result is one outstandingly tasty treat; you know the salty,  sweet, tastes like a chocolate covered pretzel kind? Even more dangerous this way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Trader Joe’s Sesame Sticks $2.29, 1 pound bag; good deal. “All natural, no preservatives”

Have you tried these? What do you think?

TJ’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks


nori

RAVE

Wow these are good! But what is “Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack”? If you don’t have a clue, these are basically Japanese nori (seaweed dried into sheets) – actually these are “yaki” (roasted) nori, however I can tell these are not Japanese but the Korean version (and no doubt come from a Korean supplier). Korean ‘nori’ have other ingredients, such as sesame oil added which gives a wonderful aroma and nutty taste. They are also ‘looser’, more delicate and not as dense structurally as Japanese nori, so break apart very easily. Therefore they are harder to roll stuff up in, the way you would do with sushi for example. But I do find the Korean kind tastier. And these “Roasted Seaweed Snacks” are so delicious. Yes you can eat them as “snacks” as named; eaten like this, a package will vanish FAST! They are addictive. However they are good any way you would employ nori. I have made sushi hand-rolls with them (very carefully so they don’t fall apart). Fantastic.

A pack of these goes for the magical TJ price of 99 cents (and yes I’ve seen better prices for similar ones at Korean supermarkets but you might not have one of those near you) Its still not a bad deal at all as they give you a good number of these small square sheets.

Now I have read this is a “polarizing Trader Joe’s product” meaning you either love it or hate it. Huh? Me, I love them and would say if you haven’t tried these, pick up a pack and check them out for yourself. They are a “healthy snack”. As with so many TJ items, you may be instantly hooked and grab them every time you see them (and no I don’t get paid for this folks, or get free samples. I wish!) My local TJ’s is actually putting them right by the Checkout line… next to the chocolates! That must mean something!

Do as the Japanese do: Try making thin strips of them. Take 2 or 3 sheets. Cut into strips as thinly as you can. Sprinkle strips on top of…. well almost anything. They will add interesting flavors to: rice, salads, fish, chicken, meats…experiment! Try wrapping some food in them too, instead of bread or a taco (maybe two together for added strength?) I love them with “Spicy Tuna” and some sushi style rice. Put a sheet in your hand, top with some rice and top that with some Spicy Tuna. Gently fold into a tube and pop that tasty morsel into you mouth. Yum Yum Yum!

I found a very good post about them on this blog; take a look.

If you are want more information including the Nutrional Info, I found TJ’s product description for them online (PDF) – turns out I was right about guessing Korean origin.

Here’s what TJ’s has to say:

THE ROASTED SEAWEED SNACK STORY

It all started under the sea with an edible red algae (genus Porphyra), which is now commonly known as nori. Around the 8th century, evidence of nori surfaced in Japan as a type of culinary paste. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603-1868) that sheets of nori were invented through a method of paper-making. Skip forward a few hundred years, and nori becomes a sensation across the globe—for sushi, snacking and seasoning. So Trader Joe’s knows, it’s now or nori. Our Roasted Seaweed Snack features nori from Korea that is roasted with a touch of oil (sesame & canola) and sea salt, then cut into strips. That’s it. It’s light, crunchy, ocean-salty and nuanced with an intriguing nutty flavor. It’s so good, it proves hard to keep in stock. Especially at 99¢ for a package.

UPDATE!

PS – I found this and had to add it…. this is hysterical!

“Korean flavored nori is increasingly popular in Japan, also as a topping for white rice. You could also eat flavored nori just on its own, but you should resist the urge to do it when in polite company: eating flavored nori as a snack is considered fairly vulgar (which doesn’t mean people don’t do it!)”

 see mid page about flavored nori ; original post:    http://kanakoskitchen.com/whatyouneed/seaweed/

TJ’s Chocolate Minis


Notice anything different?

choc

(RANT)


TJ’s Mini Chocolate Bars: 99 cents. Yeah TJ’s!

HOWEVER there is a little fishy story here. The original version of this product (left) recently ‘vanished’ from my Trader Joes’s (NYC/72nd St). I basically got hooked on these little mini chocolate bars. I used to pick up a bag of them every time I went shopping there (hey, they’re strategically placed right near the end of the checkout line to encourage this behavior, so why fight it?) Even my Checkout Guy bagging me tells me he buys a bag of these daily.  Says he goes through a bag a day. Me, I tried to control myself so the bag of 28 chocolates lasts almost a week. Well guess what? They simply vanished. Out of Stock. No. Even the sign vanished…which I’ve now learned from experience generally means bye-bye to a product.

So a week or two later I see there are once again bags of mini chocolate bars on the shelf. BUT they look different. They don’t look like they are for little kids anymore (OK by me) But the“old version” (left) seems to have been replaced by the new version (right). Notice the difference in quantity? Now yes before, they only came as milk chocolate; now you have a choice of milk or semi-sweet chocolate (which I greatly prefer). BUT other than that, the new version of this product seems exactly the same. Both say “Made In Columbia” on the package. The bars are the same size as they were in the yellow package. So WTF, Trader Joes ?! You used to give us 28 bars for 99 cents, but now you give us 12 for the same price?!

Do the math, and you will see TJ’s has more than doubled the price of these chocolate bars. Look, for the price its still pretty good. Never the less I find this a bit fishy on Trader Joe’s part. Does TJ’s think we’re not going to notice this kind of STEEP price increase – or downsizng in product quantity? Don’t they have a motto about how they only raise prices as their costs go up? So did the wholesale price of chocolate in Columbia go up 70 per cent? I’d find that hard to believe.

This is akin to the old “Hersheys effect” going way back in Marketing. How Hershey’s kept the price of their chocolate bar 5 cents for years and years but kept decreasing the size of the bar. The customer is not supposed to notice.

UPDATE: AUG 2011

They 12 bar chocolates appeared erratically on the shelves. Gone, then I’d seen them again. Went on for weeks. Finally, I see them in a tub with a sign “99 cents” literally at the head of the Checkout Line at my local TJ’s. I bought some but had a feeling that tub was the last of them. I was right. I inquired about the “12 pack 99 cents chocolates” status and the Captain told me “They’ve been discontinued”

BUMMER TRADER JOE! What is it with this product? Its fantastic.Don’t tell me they weren’t selling.  I bought one or two bags every time I shopped at Trader Joe’s. So why DISCONTINUED??!!

RANT

Trader Joe’s Price Increases


RANT:

Lately I’ve noticed Trader Joe’s has increased prices on quite a few items…sometimes not in “obvious” ways. Here’s one recent example:

Until a few weeks ago, thier BANANA CHIPS (very good) came in an 8 ounce bag and sold for 99 cents. Great product at a great price. I pretty much bought them every time I went to the store.

Then recently I saw they were out of them, except there wasn’t even a sign anymore on the shelf where they always were. When asked, I was told “we’re out of stock” and were on re-order. OK. But a week or two later I see BANANA CHIPS are back on the shelves…BUT now they are in a larger bag. Instead of 8 oz. it now comes in a 16 oz bag (1 lb). bag Double the size, but is it $2? No, the sign lists $2.99.?!? Ergo the BANANA CHIPS price went from $2/lb to $3/lb? A 50 % price hike?! Yikes, thats pretty steep isnt’ it? We are not supposed to notice a 50% price increase? Did TJ’s costs go up that much??

TJ’s has a motto about how “we only increase prices according to our costs”.  Is this national or just in New York City? Comments?

Found any other Trader Joe’s price increases? Please post them as comments.

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