How Trader Joe’s Tests New Products

Trader Joe’s regularly adds new products to its assortment. Recently, they added a Mango Blueberry Chia
bowl to their store shelves I wonder how it tastes, and I have been assured that a team of insiders wondered the same thing and made sure it tasted good before it was ever offered to customers.

In a recent podcast co-hosted by marketing Vice Presidents Tara Miller and Matt Sloan, the conversation focused on the tasting panel that Trader Joe’s has formed to assess new items submitted by manufacturing partners. Here is a quick overview of what the panelists look for when tasting products and how the process proceeds after the panel reaches its conclusion.

The tasting panel tries out everything, and Trader Joe’s does not sell anything unless it passes muster with the tasting panel. That’s good news for customers as it assures that the product has the panel’s approval before it ever arrives on a store shelf. Sloan said that a product makes the cut only if at least 70% of the panelists vote in favor of adding the particular product to Trader Joe’s assortment. He indicated that other grocery companies “do not do that.”

Trader Joe’s tasters must keep in mind many factors. Every product meet pass several tests to earn a slot on a store shelf.

· Taste is a top priority. Every product must taste good and satisfy a customer.

· Product appeal. The product itself must also have strong customer appeal. There must be satisfaction from how customers would perceive it, which was described by Tara Miller as “eating with intention.” What she meant was that Trader Joe’s ultimately wants to provide products that make the store a destination in a very competitive food retailing marketplace.

· Looks count as well. It is not only the sensory perception, but if products are to make Trader Joe’s a destination, they have to look appetizing. Bananas are a good example; they must be blemish free and look tasty.

· The price-value equation is another part of the taster’s evaluation of a product. Sloan said, “It is not just price on its own, the lowest being the best. It’s price relative to what you get for it,” said Sloan.

Trader Joe’s has over 500 stores in 40 states now. In the 2023 Progressive Grocer list, it ranks 27th. It is owned by Aldi Nord, the German discount grocer but has its own management team headquartered in Monrovia, California.

POSTSCRIPT: The Trader Joe’s stores in New York City are always busy. The popularity of their stores reflects the fact that customers recognize and appreciate the quality of the groceries. There is an ever-changing produce selection and exciting additions that entice customers to try new items. The friendliness of the associates is an extra plus. They are helpful when customers approach them. This is retailing at its best.

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