Categories
Packaged Food

Trader Joe’s Stocks Shelves With New Garlic Onion Pistachios

Photo Courtesy of Trader Joe’s

I’ve been looking for new snack options in the past few months, because there’s only so many Sweet Maui Onion Hawaiian Chips a guy can eat.

Enter one of Trader Joe’s newest arrivals: Trader Joe’s Garlic & Onion Pistachios. Man, this sounds like heaven to my palate.

With this new snack, California grown pistachios are dry roasted and dusted with a hearty blend of garlic, onion, and sea salt. The shells are intact and ready for you to simply pop into your mouth to get a full burst of flavor.

You can find a 13-oz bag for $6.99 at your local Trader Joe’s. Not gonna lie, this bag could very well be gone by the time I get home from the store.

Categories
Grocery Opinion

Grocery Stores Should Implement Reservation Systems To Curb Panic Buying

For the past couple weeks, the scenes inside of grocery stores can best be described as chaotic In the grocery trips I’ve been to, plus those of many of my co-workers and friends who have shared on social media, entire sections of stores have been cleaned out by everyone stockpiling food and supplies. Lines of customers looking to get extra cases of water or toilet paper form hours before opening.

Unfortunately, this situation has made it hard for many others, including several who are immunocompromised or otherwise can’t shop due to the dangers of exposing themselves to the coronavirus, to obtain just the basics they need to get through the week. Many stores are offering “Elderly-only” hours as one way to fix this, but the store shelves still continue to be wiped out.

This is deeply concerning because it threatens the food security of many people, especially those who may not be able to get to grocers first thing in the morning. Those who can often travel to multiple stores to get just what they need on a short-term basis. Meanwhile, many essentials, including milk, eggs, and other in-demand items, continue to remain out of stock.

However, it’s not a concern of whether we have enough food. Grocery stores have made it clear that is not the case, and are hiring en masse to try to get shelves stocked and supply chains sped up as quickly as possible. At this point, what we need is a drastic solution in order to ensure that more people, and those in need, have the same access to food as those who are stockpiling.

There is a model that some companies and stores have followed that could present a novel solution: creating a reservation system for shoppers to use to shop for the groceries they need, rather than allowing people to stockpile.

A system like this has already been used before by companies like Nike and Disney. Nike will set up reservations to purchase shoes for any hype sneakers they do limited drops on. Disney, meanwhile, had been utilizing “boarding groups” that are called throughout the day for admission to its Rise of the Resistance rides in Disneyland and Disney World before both parks closed.

Disneyland’s system works by opening up reservations for each day at the park’s opening, then cutting them off once a certain number is filled. Anyone who gets a boarding group can then head to the ride when their number is called, and have a two-hour window to enter.

A system like this could work for grocery stores because it would control the amount of people in stores at a time. Combined with the limits some stores are imposing on how many goods you can buy, and it gives stores enough time to restock some major goods or ensure that there’s enough to go around.

Doing this online could be problematic for those without internet access or that show up in person, so it would probably need to be a combination of physically signing up in person as well as online sign-ups, with limits to each.

Could grocery stores be convinced to move to these reservation systems? It’s likely that they would have to set them up themselves (which would require development work) as well as regulate/maintain them. There’s also the possibility that it reduces the amount of purchased goods overall each day, although given that stores tend to run out by lunchtime anyway, that may not be the case.

Whichever the case, there’s clearly a need for some kind of system, as grocers have already started to implement limitations. Some local Trader Joe’s stores, for example, are asking customers to limit the amount of items they purchase. Costco is also informing people that it won’t accept returns on items like water and toilet paper, in addition to other items they run out of regularly these days.

The biggest question of something like this is who would pay for it. Chances are that the government won’t, as they’ve got bigger problems they’re addressing like trying to provide much-needed relief to small businesses (including restaurants).
My guess is that it’s going to have to come from the grocery chains themselves, and they may not want to unless they think such a reservation system is essential to business operations. One can definitely make the argument that it is essential, or at the very least, may help prevent grocers from running out of food daily.

Food shortages aren’t the problem plaguing our grocery stores. People panicking and overbuying in obscene amounts are what’s causing store shelves to go barren. If you find a way to curb that through a reservation system, then you can not only serve more customers, but also ensure those who need food at this time have access to it.

Categories
News

Joe Coulombe, Founder of Trader Joe’s, Passes Away at 89

Joe Coulombe, founder of Trader Joe’s, the revolutionary grocery store that focused on high quality items at low prices, has passed away at the age of 89, according to the Associated Press.

Joe’s curiosity, philanthropic generosity, and irreverent sense of humor were woven into the fabric of the culture that defines Trader Joe’s stores.the company said in a statement over the weekend. 

Known for its Hawaiian shirt-wearing employees, fair wages, and a focus on serving “overeducated and underpaid people,” the store amassed a cult following soon after its original Pasadena, CA location opened in 1967.

Five years after its opening, Joe introduced a granola to the store that he considered to be a “game-changer,” in that it was the first time the company had acquired a product at the wholesale level and sold under the Trader Joe’s brand name. 

The snack was a preview of the business model that would propel the store to its current popularity. This, along with a policy of discontinuity that insisted on only buying prime items at a good deal, no matter if that meant switching suppliers, allowed the store to maintain its low prices and continue attracting the struggling conscious consumer whom Coulombe originally envisioned the store to serve.

While Coulombe sold his interest in the company to Aldi Nord in 1979 — when there were only 19 stores — his vision and mission still lives on in each and every one of the 500+ locations across the nation.

For that, pour a two buck Chuck out for Mr. Coulombe today.

Categories
Packaged Food

Trader Joe’s ‘Everything But The Elote’ Seasoning Bottles The Magic Of Street Corn

With the ever-popular Everything But The Bagel seasoning Trader Joe’s released not too long ago, the grocery store chain has decided to keep their seasoning blend momentum going with their newest addition to the spice aisle: Everything But Elote.

You can find a typical elote, seasoned corn on the cob, from street vendors in Mexico as well as some cities sprinkled throughout the United States. The corn on the cob is covered in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chili powder, and finished with some lime juice.

Trader Joe’s seasoning blend boasts some salt, chili pepper, parmesan cheese, chipotle powder, dried cilantro, and cumin. Trader Joe’s mentions the idea for this item came after the success of both the Everything Bagel seasoning as well as the Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers.

You can find this new blend at all participating Trader Joe’s locations across the US. We picked up a bottle ourselves, and so far its tasted fantastic on tacos, instant ramen, leftover chicken wings, and some strawberries Elie forgot to put his name on. It’s pretty amazing.

Categories
Grocery Health Packaged Food Plant-Based Sustainability

Impossible Burger Has FINALLY Arrived In Grocery Stores

Photo Courtesy of Impossible Foods

Impossible Foods has been making waves the last few years as they rapidly make themselves an imposing plant-based alternative for meat. Now, Impossible is bracing to hit another major milestone in their vegan empire.

The brand recently announced on their website and Instagram page that the Impossible Burger will be arriving to grocery stores today.

 

To be specific, the Impossible Burger will make its worldwide debut in grocery stores on September 20 at 27 outlets of Gelson’s Markets in Los Angeles, marking the first time that the general public can experience cooking the Impossible Burger in their own kitchens.

Until now, Beyond Meat has been one of the more popular plant-based meat alternatives that can be purchased in stores. Impossible Foods, however, has stayed exclusively in the restaurant scene, but is now making the jump to grocery. This is monumental because many have considered Impossible’s faux meat to be the closest replica out there to the real thing.

Categories
Food Trends Grocery Products

The State of the Meal Delivery Space: Who’s Thriving, Who’s Been Bought Out, and Who is Closed for Good

Over the past few years, the meal delivery space has matured from a quirky idea into a booming industry. 

CNBC reports that more than 150 companies are competing “nationally, regionally and locally, all fighting for their share of the $1.5 billion market.”

If you like to stay up to date on the latest industry trends, or if you’re thinking about trying a new meal kit yourself, here are three things you should know about the state of the meal delivery space.

1. Grocery stores have joined the party.

Photo: I5 Design & Manufacture

When early movers like German-based HelloFresh and U.S. competitor Blue Apron burst onto the scene, grocery stores saw them as a threat. Meal kits were promising a simpler way to serve home-cooked meals — by delivering pre-portioned ingredients right to your door. 

But as the industry has matured, grocery stores have actually proven to be very synergistic with meal kits. It turns out, while many people can’t break the habit of driving to the supermarket, they do love the idea of easy-to-prepare meals with pre-portioned ingredients. This has led many supermarket chains to actually start offering meal kits in their stores. 

For example, Publix created their own Aprons line and Costco ran a pilot program selling Blue Apron kits. 

In May of 2018, Kroger went so far as to acquire Home Chef, in a deal reportedly worth $200 million “with an additional $500 million in incentives if certain targets are met.”

And Plated, a meal delivery service that got its start on the TV show “Shark Tank,” sold to Albertsons for a rumored $200 million plus growth-based “earnout payments.”

2. Lots of niche services have sprung up.

While the more traditional meal kits (HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Plated) continue to enjoy success with mainstream customers, numerous smaller services have popped up, targeting niche audiences. 

  • Sun Basket and Green Chef both offer organic ingredients, with specialized menus like Paleo, Keto, and Gluten Free.
  • Purple Carrot is an all-vegan meal kit that was able to convince legendary food writer Mark Bittman to leave his 13 year column at the New York Times and join their content team for a 6-month stint.
  • Takeout Kit promises to transform your kitchen into a global café, scouring the planet for “hard-to-find ingredients and authentic recipes.” With each meal, you learn about the culture and background behind the dish, and the company even suggests music playlists and drink pairings to enhance your experience.
  • Dinnerly and EveryPlate have stripped away the frills and are instead competing for the title of cheapest meal delivery service, with prices per serving beginning at only $4.99. 

And as meal kits continue to grow in popularity, so does the spin off delivery industry of fully prepared meals. Freshly is a mainstream leader with lots of meal options to choose from. Veestro offers fully prepared meals for vegans. Factor75 features paleo and keto friendly meals. And MealPro is targeting fitness junkies. Because fully prepared meals usually come in single serving sizes, they’re a nice alternative for solo diners, since meal kit dishes almost always serve a minimum of two people. 

3. Many companies have been struggling.

Photo: Chris Campbell

With so many meal kits springing up, several companies have been struggling to survive the fierce competition. Two significant examples are Chef’d and Munchery. 

Munchery, a provider of fully prepared meals that differentiated itself by offering same day delivery, announced they were shutting their doors in January of this year. This came less than a year after a significant round of layoffs, despite raising over $120 million and reaching a valuation of $300 million.

Chef’d, which made a name for itself as one of the first meal kits to not rely on a subscription model, abruptly ceased operations — laying off over 350 employees. This happened even after the company raised $35 million in funding and announced a pilot distribution partnership with 30 Duane Reade and Walgreens locations in New York. 

Two more casualties are high-end food delivery service Sprig and also Din, which partnered with popular restaurants for recipes and delivered customers the ingredients they would need to recreate their favorite restaurant meals at home.  

And it isn’t just smaller companies that have struggled to grow sustainably in this highly competitive environment. Over the last year, even Blue Apron has seen its stock price drop from a high of $58.80 to an alarming $6.79 per share. 

There’s never been an easier time to start a meal delivery service — or a harder time to sustain one. 

4. What to expect moving forward. 

With over 150 players in this space, we can expect more consolidation to come. In early 2018, mainstream delivery giant HelloFresh bought out Green Chef, an organic meal delivery service designed for more health-conscious diners. This follows in the footsteps of the restaurant delivery space, where early mover Grubhub merged with Seamless and acquired Eat24 along with a slew of smaller companies. 

The good news is, as the demand for timesaving services continues to grow, it looks like meal delivery will be around for decades to come, and meal kits will become increasingly available through retail partnerships. 

We don’t yet know which brands will survive and which will come crashing down, but the future looks bright, tasty, and convenient — filled with easier ways for consumers to serve home-cooked meals and stick to health goals. Good for us. 

Categories
Grocery

Australians On High Alert Over Finding Hidden Needles In Their Fruit

When you go to the grocery store and buy fruit, you usually check it for quality, color, and other key attributes. In Australia right now, folks also have to take the disturbing step of checking it for needles.

An unknown party is hiding the needles inside of strawberries and other produce all around the country, according to news.com.au. Over 100 different incidents have been reported to date, since becoming an alarming issue around two weeks ago. The activity has even prompted local supermarket giant Woolworth’s to take needles off their shelves entirely until the crisis is resolved.

So far, the fruits involved also include mangos and bananas, and police have caught at least one suspect they believe to be a copycat criminal.

It’s unclear at this point why the needles are being hidden and why strawberries have been the chief fruit targeted by the perpetrators. But Australia is taking drastic steps to try and mitigate their threat.

For starters, they’ve cracked down on food tampering, imposing a 10-15 year sentence to anyone caught committing the crime. There’s also a social media campaign encouraging people to smash their strawberries. This way, they can still enjoy the seasonal berry without the fear of biting into a needle.

It’s outlandish and bizarre that this type of serial criminal activity is happening, but until the needlers are caught, Australian grocers and consumers are going to be on their toes when shopping for fruit.


Featured image courtesy of the USDA on Flickr, CC 2.0.
Categories
News Opinion

Trump Stamps Out SNAP Production for Unfinished Proposal

With the newly proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, President Donald Trump is attempting to steer America’s hungry population down a road with no pavement, speed limit, or direction.

The newly proposed, “America’s Harvest Box” project, aims to deliver all that a family would need, in terms of nutrition, without the hassle of choosing your food for yourself via food stamps. It seems making America great again means controlling even the most basic of human functions — finding your own food.

By taking that one factor of agency away from the people that might need that freedom the most, Trump is effectively force feeding a nation with these “Harvest Boxes.”

Fiscally, it’s fraught with doublespeak and underlying costs.

Reducing the Department of Agriculture’s budget by nearly 30 percent, or over $200 billion, in the next 10 years, with only four pages of text is reckless. Changing the way people eat their food should take a little longer than a college newspaper’s length to be deemed a considerable amount.

The idea alone seems Orwellian; having a pre-packaged box of food delivered to your doorstep instead of being able to choose for yourself makes the recipients seem like inmates.

Recipients of food stamps have long since adjusted to the workings of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), yet the entire system is up for a rehaul with this new proposal.

While SNAP doesn’t live up to its idealistic standards, it got the job done. One of the problems with SNAP was the restrictions on what families can and can’t buy from certain stores. Things like diapers or other hygienic household supplies seem to be missing from the list of available purchases for these families.

However, that one problem doesn’t require a complete overhaul of a system that’s been helping families survive and thrive. Such families were still able to buy what foods they personally needed, accounting for allergies and certain nutritional needs.

But with the Harvest Box, these particulars are dismissed entirely. Each house will be receiving the same box full of, “shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables,” according to the USDA.

It seems President Trump’s already assumed detached perception of reality is verified as he sees the over 16 million households to be identical in their diets.

The idea, as quoted by the White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, is akin to that of the Blue Apron program, whose stocks fell lower than Trump’s approval ratings in 2017, and hasn’t been able to keep a customer longer than 2 years.

With more than 41 million people eligible for the box, this plan needs to get some fine tuning and have some questions answered, like whether or not the shipping costs will be covered, or whether or not it can accommodate food allergies or religious specificities.

Though the nutritional and food security these SNAP recipients have been granted thus far hasn’t been stellar, it still has been working for them.

Seeing as the amount of people receiving SNAP benefits has lessened since 2016 shows that despite controversy, the program is helping those in need of it, and that’s something to be optimistic about.

The administration posits that the change is due in part of the rate of fraud going on with the cards that SNAP recipients use. However, the rate of fraud in these cases is less than 2 percent, or less than $3 billion, according to the USDA.

With no consideration to specifics or attention to the public, these changes are nothing more than the transcribed pontifications of an old, delusional and out-of-touch President.

Thankfully, this proposal is just that, a proposal, and any chance of it actually coming to fruition lays in the hands of Congress, which hopefully has enough sense to see through this feckless idea.

Photo: Salvation Army USA West // Flickr