Trader Joe’s Isn’t Always The Healthiest

Trader Joe’s Isn’t Always The Healthiest

The clock strikes five. I’ve just finished a day’s worth of class lectures interspersed with some brand consulting work, and I’m starving. I open my freezer and reach for the first thing I see: Trader Joe’s Frozen Gnocchi al Gorgonzola, a quick ready-made meal purchased from my local store. When I bought the 16 oz. package, it was just one item in a basket filled with organic vegetables, antibiotic free chicken, and gluten free rice crisps intended to take the load off of preparing a meal on the busiest day of the week.


I would describe the dish as being rich, filling and delicious, but not healthy. Dang nabbit, I fell for it again: their clever brand centric marketing. This time, however, I wasn’t the only one who fell for the delusion that all of the products inside the hip urban grocery store were good for my diet.

Trader Joe’s, a privately held grocery chain with over 455 domestic locations, prides itself on high quality and private label offerings. The fact that the company controls nearly all of its entire horizontal and vertical supply chain ensures delivery of quality ingredients to consumers at a significant price discount compared with Whole Foods, a direct competitor.

Trader Joe’s private label food brands

In a recent qualitative study by iModerate Research Technologies (see the full study here), consumers listed Trader Joe’s top benefit as having “healthy”, “organic” offerings. Batter me up and deep-fry me! Did consumers (like me) perceive that a majority of the product offerings were healthy, when in reality they weren’t? Why yes. Yes we did.
New iModerate Study Reveals Differing Perceptions of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (Courtesy of iModerate)

Trader Joe’s pioneered the specialty food store space by offering high quality ingredients not available at typical grocery stores. The frozen meal options are attractive to millennials shopping on a budget for ready-made meals holding the belief that the pre-made food won’t completely ruin their diets. The product offering meets this demand, except for one little problem: the macro ingredients used in some of their frozen meals aren’t healthier just because they come from Trader Joe’s when compared to their name brand competitors.

Alongside the freezer chests full of fresh-frozen vegetables and unseasoned brown rice sit diet landmines such as corn dogs, fried macaroni and cheese bites, and General Tso’s chicken. These products share the same packaging style and design as their healthy counterparts, but they are no healthier than the traditional offerings in the freezer aisle of any other local grocery store.

Trader Joe’s Fried Mac and Cheese Bites

During my first few trips, I’ll admit that I was convinced that a bag of cheesy pasta had to be healthier from Trader Joe’s than from Stop & Shop. In reality, I was confusing the benefits of certain product lines, such as their Trader Joe’s brand frozen vegetables without additives or preservatives, with the entire store’s offering. The lack of doors in the freezer and refrigerated section replicates the allure of a farm stand in which the consumer reaches directly into the bin and selects a specific product. I encourage all of my readers to shop at a Trader Joe’s’ sometime in the near future. You will be amazed at how simple packaging and marketing initiatives can create the impression of a healthy product when in reality the ingredients are the same if not worse for your health.

Trader Joe’s Frozen Display Cases

So buyers take heed. When shopping at any supermarket, be aware of a product’s ingredients and nutritional information. Marketers are involved from product conception right up until the moment of purchase (and even post-purchase, too!) Marketers cleverly influence buying decisions and perception. If it seems to be true that fried macaroni and cheese bites are “healthy”, it probably is too good to be true.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand manager based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

At The Peak of Marketing Automation, A Thank You Note Won My Business

At The Peak of Marketing Automation, A Thank You Note Won My Business

As I a college student, I can often be described as the two dreaded “b’s”: busy and broke.

With all of the demands placed on us students from both their educational and financial responsibilities, it is sometimes hard to justify spending little, if any money on enhancing our style and standard of living. Having taken a trip to Europe recently, I was reminded that life is worth enjoying, whether it is drinking a handcrafted cocktail, having a nice shave in the comfort of your own home, or showing up to the party looking as dapper as possible.

When I saw an ad on social media for Bespoke Post, I was immediately drawn by their approach of monthly-curated box shipments that enhance one aspect of a man’s daily style or routine one month at a time. To top it off, they are one of the only companies in the space that allow you to skip that month’s selection if you don’t think it fits your personality, or to choose another package that better fits your needs, all for $45.

A few of Bespoke Post’s Monthly Box Selections

Whoa. Did the hungry college student who enjoys selecting the chicken over beef flavored ramen noodle packets just say that he was drawn to a monthly box subscription totaling over $500 annually? You betchya.

Was it the persistent social media remarketing, the nurture emails, or the easily identifiable content that reassured me that I made the right decision in enhancing my style? No, quite frankly it was none of that. Rather, it was a long forgotten marketing communication tool that stopped me from canceling my membership: a handwritten thank you note.


Today, over 79% of top-performing company websites use some sort of marketing automation software to capture customer data, and nurture potential buyers into customers. While Bespoke Post employs these tools in their arsenal, they also align their communication channels seamlessly with their brand using the very underappreciated thank you note.

This handwritten note arrived in my mailbox shortly after my first monthly box subscription arrived, and immediately brought back the nostalgia of my grandfather following up his tri-annual visits with a handwritten thank you note.

The class and eloquence that Bespoke Post portrays in their brand’s product offering is represented across their delight phase of the buyer purchase cycle, and seamlessly integrated into their customer communications program. They could have easily chosen to follow up my box receipt with a stock thank you email; instead their handwritten thank you note sealed the metaphorical deal in justifying my monthly box subscription.


It is easy for digital marketers to assume that sending a follow up email is “enough” after a sale, but when you curate high class products and accessories, is there any other way to better deliver your brand promise and message to the customer?

Marketers: take note. Bespoke Post is a prime example of a company that expertly integrated their USP and brand promise into their marketing communication mix. This ensures customer retention (for me at least) via an extension of their style into their post conversion communication strategy.

Garrett Meccariello is an aspiring brand manager based out of NYC. In his free time he can be found building the next great brand, exploring the city, and eating a lot of cured meat and cheese.

Disclaimer: I was not paid nor compensated for this blog post.