A look at the role chain grocery stores play in food deserts.

Illustration by Zoe Peterson, Deseret News

A typical Trader Joe’s is full of chatty employees wearing Hawaiian shirts, products with trendy labels and shopping carts full of pickle popcorn and kale gnocchi.

With no self-checkout counters or delivery services, each of the 500 stores is much smaller than a regular grocery store, to make it feel “like a neighborhood store,” President of Stores Jon Basalone said on the store’s podcast.

“Maybe you bump into somebody or a crew member and can talk about what you’re buying or products or what’s going on in your lives, that sort of thing,” he added.

Long checkout lines and crowded parking lots attest to the store’s popularity, while its secure spot in USA Today’s list of top 10supermarket chains in the U.S. affirms that.

The Trader Joe’s brand draws in customers, and the cheap prices and organic options — like the $0.19 organic bananas or the $2.69 organic hummus — motivate them to come back.

Lower costs can be attributed to their private labeling, said Eva Montoya, 23, a former crew member at the downtown Salt Lake City location.

Catering to an ability to “save every penny,” Trader Joe’s prices are an estimated 16% lower than competing stores. But is the chain willing to be accessible to communities that can greatly benefit from these cost-cutting prices and healthy food options? Is Trader Joe’s really a “neighborhood store” for every neighborhood?

The gap

Trader Joe’s offers affordable options, but mostly to well-off neighborhoods. A recent study focused on Southern California found that the grocery chain had more locations “in regions of upper-middle class income as opposed to lower and upper-class incomes.”

Montoya, who initially worked at a Santa Barbara Trader Joe’s location, also noticed that the two locations in the area were in wealthy neighborhoods.

In essence, Montoya is a second-generation Trader Joe’s employee: Her parents worked for the chain in the early 2000s, as did her uncle in the ’80s. The Montoya family has often wondered why lower-income folks didn’t shop there …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


Trader Joe’s locations: Why are they often in wealthy neighborhoods?

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