Exposed: Those Quirky Trader Joe’s Products Are Made by PepsiCo, Frito-Lay

Two seniors shop at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017.
People shop at Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. Eater recently released an article were they uncovered some of the food suppliers for the food sold at Trader Joe's grocery store chain. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Every now and then, a fantastic piece of journalism is released. It digs deep. It asks the tough questions. It gets us the answers we have all been seeking.

Eater, “the source for people who care about dining and drinking in the world’s best food cities,” according to its Twitter bio, brought us such journalism this week.

On Wednesday, Eater played the role of David, and California-based Trader Joe’s was Goliath. Although the war still wages, this time, the battle goes to David.

For years, journalists have tried to answer a simple question: Who is supplying the cheap, delicious food sold in the Trader Joe’s chain of grocery stores? For just as long, Trader Joe’s has been notoriously evasive.

But now, after ingredient comparisons and an impressively creative Freedom of Information Act request for public records about recalled food involving Trader Joe’s from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, we have some answers.

Who Supplies Trader Joe’s Food?

Unfortunately, Eater doesn’t have all the answers.

Eater provided a list based on manual ingredient comparisons and items that have been recalled at some point in the past 10 years. Because the list is incomplete, we still can’t tell you who supplies Trader Joe’s cookie butter.

But here are a few of the more interesting ones we do know about:

  • Trader Joe’s dry-roasted and salted pistachios are made by the same company that makes Wonderful Pistachios.
  • PepsiCo-owned Naked has supplied Trader Joe’s with beverages in the past. Eater notes that the TJ’s mango smoothie and Naked’s mango smoothie have the same ingredients. The Trader Joe’s Very Green juice smoothie is also suspiciously similar to Naked’s Green Machine.
  • The ingredients in Trader Joe’s pita chips match perfectly with those in Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips. Stacy’s is owned by Frito-Lay Inc.
  • Finally, TJ’s pretzel slims and its dark-chocolate pretzel slims are nearly identical to Snack Factory’s pretzel crisps.

Generally speaking, Trader Joe’s products are cheaper than the name-brand foods you get from other grocery chains. So this list should prove that you are not sacrificing the quality for low prices.

To see the full list of the Trader Joe’s products we’re now pretty certain are made by big brands, head over to Eater.

There are still many more products that have not been matched to a supplier. So keep fighting the good fight, Eater and Vince Dixon.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She has a deep appreciation for journalists who don’t give up when a company refuses to answer your questions.