Movies, songs, and books can all fall into the category of cult classics.

What about grocery stores, though? It might seem odd to consider a grocery store chain as having a cult following, but that’s precisely the case for many diehard Trader Joe’s shoppers. 

Whether it’s their fresh offerings, unusual demeanor, or just their quality products, it’s clear that Trader Joe’s is doing something very right. 

Value and Variety

Every successful business needs a strong vision, and Trader Joe’s certainly has that taken care of. At the center of this vision is a single concept: value. There are a number of ways that Trader Joe’s offers customers superior value, and chief among them is that they buy from suppliers directly. 

What’s more, Trader Joe’s buys in high volume to receive discounts, and simply stops carrying products that don’t sell well. All of these efforts save the company money, which in turn allows Trader Joe’s to charge lower prices for their items. 

Character in Spades

There’s no mistaking Trader Joe’s for your run of the mill grocery store—as soon as you walk in, you can see that employees are dressed in colorful Hawaiian shirts, and the entire store seems to have a brighter ambiance than you’re used to.

That’s because Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe loved the “high seas” aesthetic when he first leaned into developing Trader Joe’s in the 1960s. The first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena California performed well for its first few years of business, but really took off in the 1970s when they began selling private label items. 

Since then, Trader Joe’s has expanded their private label offerings significantly. In the late ‘70s, Trader Joe’s was actually purchased by Theo Albrecht, who also owns Aldi. His direction has obviously served the chain well, as they now have nearly 500 locations in more than 40 states, and a fanatical following. 

New Competition

Most people have a favorite grocery store that they love for reasons like product offerings, convenience, or price point. Historically, Trader Joe’s has maintained a reputation for value while Whole Foods has developed one for luxury.

However, Whole Foods recently realized that they were missing out on a large part of the market, and developed a spinoff chain with prices only slightly higher than Trader Joe’s. Though Trader Joe’s is still going strong, this could spell trouble if Whole Foods’ new initiative picks up steam. 

For now, Trader Joe’s significantly outsells Whole Foods simply because they gain visibility through superior products at low prices. 

Sustainability and Success

In an age where everyone is thinking about the environment, Trader Joe’s has faced criticism for their unsustainable practices, like sealing many of their items in plastic unnecessarily. This is an issue shared by their sibling company Aldi, but one that shoppers seem willing to overlook.

This is evidenced by the fact that Trader Joe’s was ranked the top grocery retailer in 2019. 

Whether you shop at Trader Joe’s or not, you can’t deny that this quirky chain is obviously making all of the right moves.