Sriracha Ranch Dressing, where art thou?
As any longtime Trader Joe's shopper knows, the chain is known for releasing dozens of new and inventive products each year. While that means you're in for a new experience each time you go grocery shopping, every once in a while you'll realize that a product you once loved is no longer front and center on TJ's shelves. TBH, I still haven't gotten over the abrupt disappearance of the Salted Caramel Gelato.
Sure, you could argue that the occasional MIA status of a product you've only just fallen in love with and learned to incorporate into your weekly meals is just part of the adventure of shopping at TJ's, but there's no denying that it can also be incredibly frustrating. After all, Trader Joe's has an entire page on its website dedicated entirely to discontinued product feedback.
In the latest episode of the Inside Trader Joe's podcast, co-hosts Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing, and Tara Miller, marketing director at Trader Joe's, delve into exactly why some of your favorite TJ's products have been discontinued. Keep reading to find out why Matcha Joe-Joe's, Popcorn in a Pickle, and other foods are no more!
According to Sloan, when an item is discontinued it's typically "not an indictment of the product itself." Instead, slow sales are often to blame for products that are no longer available. "What it means is that there weren't enough customers interested in buying the Peach Salsa [or another discontinued product] to have it continue to make sense," Sloan explained. "If you don't have high volume or growing volume, the costs of producing and handling a slow-selling product are such that it doesn't make business sense for us."
Space Matters Too
Sloan also noted that space—both on the shelves and inside a given store—helps to determine whether or not a product will be discontinued. "If you think about how small our stores are, and on a relative basis they're smaller than most grocery stores, and how few products we have—on a comparative basis we have a lot fewer products than other grocery stores—we just physically don't have to carry things that aren't popular, as disappointing as that is to hear and experience," he shared.
No Shelf Space Fees
While some larger grocery chains may accept money from brands to stock their products, Trader Joe's pointedly doesn't engage in this practice. "At Trader Joe's, the only way we make money is when the customer buys something at the cash register … but that means that product has earned its place on our shelves," Miller explained. When a product doesn't work, Miller noted that Trader Joe's business model dictates that the team should "develop something new that might sell better and make more customers happy."
Customer Feedback Matters
While Sloan acknowledged that Trader Joe's approach to discontinuing items might seem "cold-hearted," he noted that it's important for the company to "maintain objectivity" about what really is or isn't selling. To that end, Sloan stressed the importance of feedback from Trader Joe's shoppers. "Ultimately customers do let us know if they like something or not," he shared. The best way to show your approval of a product? Buy it often!
While seasonal favorites like Snowman Hot Cocoa Bombs and Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli aren't discontinued, they typically only appear for a few weeks or months out of every year, when demand for that particular item is high. Some seasonal products are so popular, such as Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, that shoppers know to stock up accordingly so they can enjoy them all year round.
Occasionally, a Trader Joe's product might be discontinued because of quality issues, meaning that particular item is no longer available or up to TJ's standards, noted Sloan. "[A product may be discontinued] if there are quality issues or if we determine that the value that we once had is no longer as strong—if we are facing different competitive pressures on a given product," he shared. "And yet, overwhelmingly, the reason for things to be discontinued at Trader Joe's is a lack of interest."
Discontinued Products Are (Sometimes) a Good Thing
Due to how Trader Joe's business model works, a discontinuation doesn't necessarily mean the end of the road for a particular item. "The great thing about discontinued products, is that it almost always means there's something new coming soon," Miller explained, noting that products are often reworked in an effort to create something that's even more appealing to TJ's shoppers. "You can always find new things on our shelves."