Monday, September 14, 2009

My Problems with Trader Joe's

I'm feeling very bad right now about one of my favorite companies in the world, Trader Joe's. For anyone who lives near a Trader Joe's store, you know the feeling of a visit to TJ's. It's like going to see old friends. Great products, friendly staff, reasonable prices, and I always thought that it was heads and shoulders above the big natural food chains.

That is, until my doctor reminded me to avoid foods that are high in sodium.

Trader Joe's makes its fortunes based upon the impression that anything you buy in the store is going to be natural, organic and healthy. Well, my friends I've got to tell you that this isn't necessarily true, and it breaks my heart. I live in a small town in Northern Arizona, and I have frequently arranged "Trader Joe trips" to the city, two hours each direction to Phoenix, just to pick up groceries for our family and often others as well.

Those came to a screaming halt when I started to look at the sodium content of the Trader Joe's brand foods. I'd suggest that you do the same. Even if you are a diehard Trader Joe's fan, as I have been, it's time to consider giving your local store some feedback about how displeased you are with their level of sodium. Take a look at those wonderful salads and wraps, for example. I would buy these delicious fresh treats and tuck them away for a quick and "healthy" lunch. Then, I started looking more closely.

Trader Joe's plays the same tricks that other companies do with sodium, except they play them even better. A sandwich or wrap that shows 400 mg. of sodium (high, but do-able if you are hungry) ends up being eaten before you notice that this tiny little wrap was TWO PORTIONS, and you actually just consumed 800 mg of sodium! A small tray of "Arabian Joe's" Middle Eastern treats that could be downed in five minutes by one adult ends up being two or three servings, each with nearly 1000 mg of sodium in it.

Crackers, frozen foods, deli items . . . they are all the same at Trader Joe's. As full as you can get of sodium, with no effort to provide a healthy sodium level ANYWHERE in the store.

Readers, it's time to let Trader Joe's know (or any other local store you have which plays the same portions-trickery that these guys do) that we aren't going to take it anymore. Today, I visited a new competitor, a place called Fresh 'n Easy, that seems to offer an alternative. While they aren't ideal, I found a lot of lower-sodium choices.

Let's get the word out.



Anonymous said...

I've started monitoring sodium levels for many of my TJ favorite foods and have been shocked as you have. It's 2011 and this problem still exists. The chip section is the only one that I've noticed where they offer low/no sodium options. Next time you go, check out the levels on frozen pizza, pasta sauces, hummus - and just like you say, look at the portions and multiply appropriately by what you probably would eat during a meal.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a former Trader Joes part timer. Before you think that I'm here to defend Trader Joes, I'm not. I was fired and I'm not exactly happy about it (I think unfairly let go). Anyway, just for the record, you are absolutely correct that TJ's has a lot of HIGH SODIUM products, especially in their FROZEN area. However, you are not correct in your description of what sections of the store actively market low sodium alternatives of the same foods. Case in points, one of the higher sodium products, SOUPS, have several popular flavors with "Low Sodium" written on the box. Unfortunately, after that, it gets harder to defend TJ's. They seem more concerned with GF (Gluten Free) products than they do lowering the sodium content, which makes me laugh because the percentage of people in the latter category (GF focused customers) pales in comparison to those with hypertension and obesity. TJ's is really in desperate need of getting this situation under control.