by Helen Chade Mahshi
Sandy Kirkham, demo-coordinator
at Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s supermarket, long distinguished for its fabulous wine deals, has become the supermarket of choice for consumers looking for healthy food at a good price. “Value is #1 to us,” said Carrie Hackett, Captain of the Trader Joe’s in San Clemente on Camino de Los Mares. “We always search for the best quality at the best price,” said Carrie. Trader Joe’s offers a wider selection of organic products, and food items with natural ingredients than most full-service markets in San Clemente. According to their website, since March, 2003, the supermarket has made a commitment to carry natural, rather than genetically engineered ingredients on their private label products. In the meantime, the store is working through any products carried in the past that may have been genetically engineered and will not re-stock them.
This commitment to value and healthier products has led many health-conscious consumers to shop Trader Joe’s first. For example, consumer consciousness is rising about the unhealthy ingredient often found in crackers, cookies, cereals and cake mixes: partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This ingredient is known to raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol, and lower the good (HDL) cholesterol. Parents looking for healthier snacks for their kids can find an excellent selection of crackers and popcorn that either don’t carry this ingredient, or carry it in much smaller proportion to bigger, popular brands.
Trader Joe’s carries its own line of private, Trader Joe labeled products in almost every department. Trader Joe private labeled items include fresh and frozen foods, soy products, vitamin and mineral supplements, bath and beauty products, and snacks and cereal items. Their organic, milk and eggs are the lowest priced organic dairy products in San Clemente. Kosher food, fat-free food and sodium-free food is also available at most Trader Joe’s. “We have very good relationships with our suppliers, and we don’t utilize a middle man,” said Carrie Hackett. “We don’t need contracts. Everything is done on a handshake. Our buyers are traveling the world monthly to look for the best new deals.” Many of these new deals or new products can be read about in the Frequent Flyer, the supermarket’s flyer which is available quarterly.
Meat, turkey and chicken that is antibiotic-free can be found at Trader Joe’s. Delicious, wild Atlantic Salmon can be purchased frozen. Soup stocks that don’t contain preservatives or MSG are an excellent alternative found at Trader Joe’s. Shopping at Trader Joe’s is an interesting visual experience because of the way its food items are marketed. For example, in the produce section, green, red and black grapes are all packaged together, and bought as one unit. Dark, light and red potatoes are offered in one bag. Eating fruits and vegetables in the whole spectrum of colors found in nature increases one’s intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. An awesome selection of tasty and healthy salad dressings can be found in this area, as well.
At the end of the produce aisle, is a small section containing gourmet items like hummus. It’s right next to the tasting hut; the highlight experience for many shoppers and employees alike! The free, taste-testing hut is available for sampling from 9am-9pm. You can savor new food items while shopping and watch delicious recipes being prepared with fresh Trader Joe’s ingredients. Sandy Kirkham, Demo Coordinator at Trader Joe’s, is also known as the “Creative Chef”. A friendly, outgoing woman who takes pride in her cooking, Sandy can be found with her colleague, Gary, on Wednesday or Thursday nights at the tasting hut where residents gather round to hone their culinary skills. These free, cooking classes are usually packed full. “The demand right now is for healthy, no-fuss recipes,” said Sandy. “We keep our cooking classes simple with recipes that involve no more than 3-5 ingredients. And we’ve created five, easy-to-follow cookbooks using all Trader Joe’s ingredients,” shared Sandy.
Trader Joe’s has been known for 40 years for its fabulous values on wine. “Two-buck Chuck” is among their fast-selling table wine today. This Charles Shaw wine offered in Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is offered in the San Clemente location for just $1.99 a bottle. This wine is exclusively offered at Trader Joe’s only.
For the consumer on the go, Trader Joe’s frozen foods section is quite a treat to shop. Their frozen meals contain healthier ingredients, are tastier—and more unique—than the typical frozen foods found in large, chain stores. You can’t go wrong with any of the private-labeled frozen pizzas. All are hand-made and cooked in a wood-burning stove. The beauty and bath section is always fun to shop, and at the check-out counter, you can always find a new moisturizer to sample. Like most supermarkets, Trader Joe’s offers some of their most tempting items just when you’re ready to pay. This reporter’s favorite is the Terra Nostra Dark Organic Chocolate Bar!! Stock up on this one because this best-seller is sometimes sold out!
Trader Joe’s is listening to what customers want. Check it out and make sure you tell them what’s important to you. It’s possible you’ll find it available next time around.