Market Research Logo

Trader Joe's and the Natural Food Channel


Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

Trader Joe's and the Natural Food Channel

Rarely is a retailer a “destination,” but in the case of Trader Joe’s, consumers seek and travel long distances to shop there. A quirky personality and unique products have propelled Trader Joe’s to an $11.3 billion phenomenon, a chain of more than 400 boutique-like stores that appeal to both natural food shoppers and gourmets and command intense fandom.

The chain’s retail strengths echo market strategies similar to its competitor Whole Foods, as both seek to capitalize on growing consumer interest in natural and organic products. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods share a consumer base. Yet, the striking differences between the two chains are what keep the same consumers shopping at both. At Trader Joe’s, the focus is a sharply edited assortment of great products at great prices. At Whole Foods, the focus is premium quality and huge selection.

In separate chapters, Trader Joe’s and the Natural Food Channel analyzes Trader Joe’s historical growth and expansion strategies, mission/position, store location and design, product standards and programs, use of private label, pricing, advertising and use of social media, organizational structure, ethical and environmental initiatives, consumer demographics and psychographics, and more.

In addition the Retail Competitors chapter examines the wave of up-and-coming competitors in the natural foods space. In the past two years, several growth-oriented specialty food retailers and natural food chains, including Sprouts Farmers Market, The Fresh Market, Fairway Market, and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, tapped the stock market with initial public offerings (IPOs). Natural Markets Food Group, which owns the Mrs. Green’s Natural Market chain, is said to be eyeing an IPO as well. Then there is startup company Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, backed by Midwest-based supercenter retailer Meijer Co. It also is strongly rumored that billionaire investor Ron Burkle’s private equity firm Yucaipa Cos. plans to revive the Wild Oats Market name, converting the Fresh & Easy stores it acquired from Tesco Plc in November 2013 into Wild Oats natural foods markets. No. 1 supermarket operator Kroger Co., which maintains more than 2,400 stores across the country under regional banners including Kroger, Ralph’s, and Fry’s, is also making a play for the natural and organic food space and considers itself the second-largest player in this market after Whole Foods.

Our sources of information for Trader Joe’s and the Natural Food Channel include primary research entailing interviews with retailers and other members of the industry, and on-site examination of retail stores. Secondary research involved the evaluation and comparison of data from articles found in financial, marketing, and industry publications, as well as on corresponding websites and in consumer social media. Other sources for secondary data include annual reports, 10-Ks, transcripts of earnings calls, and literature from individual companies. Consumer data are derived from Simmons National Consumer Surveys for Summer 2013, from Experian Marketing Services.


  • Executive Summary
    • Capsule Profile
    • Competition from Other Retailers
    • Savvy Group of Consumers
    • Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market
      • Table Trader Joe's vs. Whole Foods Market, 2013
    • Upsurge of Competition in Natural Foods
      • Table Selected Fresh and Natural Foods Competitors, 2013
    • 13% of Adults Shop at Trader Joe's
    • Percentage of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Shoppers on the Ups
      • Table Trends in Retail Shopping, 2004-2013 (percent of U.S. adults)
    • High Socioeconomic Status Characterizes Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market Shoppers
    • AttitudesToward Food
    • Shopping Attitudes and Behaviors
    • Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Environmental Concerns
    • Trader Joe's Shoppers Healthier, More Willing to Grocery Shop Using Technology
      • Organic and Whole Grains Among Labels Most Sought Out by Trader Joe's Shoppers
  • Trader Joe's
    • Capsule Profile
      • Table Growth of Trader Joe's, 2008-2014, estimate A
      • Table Growth of Trader Joe's, 2008-2012, estimate B
    • Founding and Expansion
    • Potential for Online Sales
    • Trader Joe's and ALDI
      • All Growth Is Self-Financed
      • Reputation for Reticence-or Secrecy
    • Mission/Position
    • Stores
      • Décor and Store Layout
    • Carefully Curated Product Mix
    • Product Standards and Programs
    • Trader Joe's Is Built Around Private Label
      • Cheese
      • Frozen Foods
      • Grocery
      • Produce
      • Refrigerated Foods
      • Snacks and Sweets
      • Wines & Beers
      • Most Popular Products in 2013
      • The Cookie Butter that Conquered the World
      • Two Buck Chuck
    • Trader Joe's Pricing
    • Fun Atmosphere Part of its Strength
    • Organizational Structure
    • Purchasing Structure
    • Company Spirit and Teamwork
      • Trader Joe's Cutting Healthcare Benefits
    • Ethical and Environmental Positions
    • Advertising and Marketing
    • No Social Media
    • Community Involvement
    • Criticism and Controversies
      • Trader Joe's Sues Pirate Joes, Unsuccessfully
      • Activists Target Trader Joe's for Allowing Antibiotics in Meat
      • Lawsuit Filed over Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Pretzels
  • Retail Competition
    • Competition from Other Retailers
    • Savvy Group of Consumers
    • Trader Joe's Fans Are Strong Advocates
    • Trader Joe's and Whole Foods
      • Table Trader Joe's vs. Whole Foods Market, 2013
    • Upsurge of Competition in Natural Foods
      • Table Selected Fresh and Natural Foods Competitors, 2013
    • Sprouts Farmers Market Positions as Less Expensive
    • Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Planning Major Expansion
    • The Fresh Market Tries Expanding from Regional to National
    • Fairway Market
    • Fresh Thyme Farmers Market Just Starting Up
    • Will Wild Oats Return?
      • The Fresh & Easy Fiasco
    • Mrs. Green's Natural Markets
    • Kroger Targeting Natural and Organic Foods
  • The Natural Food Store Shopper
    • About the Consumer Survey Data
    • 13% of Adults Shop at Trader Joe's
    • Percentage of WF/TJ Shoppers on the Ups
      • Table Trends in Retail Shopping, 2004-2013 (percent of U.S. adults)
    • High Socioeconomic Status Characterizes Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Shoppers
    • Least Likely Shoppers Have Low Education and Income
      • Table Selected High-Index Demographics of Trader Joe's vs. Whole Foods Shoppers, 2013 (index)
      • Table Demographic Overview of Trader Joe's Shoppers, 2013 (percent, number and index of U.S. adults)
      • Table Demographic Overview of Whole Foods Market Shoppers, 2013 (percent, number and index of U.S. adults)
    • Attitudes Toward Food
      • Table Consumer Attitudes/Opinions Toward Food: All Consumers vs. Any Supermarket/Supercenter, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods Shoppers, 2013 (percent and index of U.S. adults)
      • Trader Joe's Shoppers Both Healthier and More Willing to Grocery Shop Using Technology
        • Table Consumer Attitudes/Opinions Toward Food: All Consumers vs. Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, and Independent Natural Food Store Shoppers, 2014 (percent)
      • Organic, Whole Grains Among Tags Sought Out by Trader Joe's Shoppers
      • 48% of Trader Joe's Shoppers Spend $100 or More Per Week on Groceries
    • Shopping Attitudes and Behaviors
      • Table Consumer Attitudes/Behaviors Toward Shopping: All Consumers vs. Any Supermarket/ Supercenter, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods Shoppers, 2013 (percent and index of U.S. adults)
    • Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Environmental Concerns
      • Table Consumer Attitudes/Behaviors Toward Environmental Concerns: All Grocery Shoppers vs. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Shoppers, 2013 (percent any agree and index of U.S. adults)

Download our eBook: How to Succeed Using Market Research

Learn how to effectively navigate the market research process to help guide your organization on the journey to success.

Download eBook

Share this report