Trader Joe’s Has Big Plans for Making Its Produce Aisle More Environmentally Friendly

updated Jul 22, 2019
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In recent years, more and more businesses have been answering the call to protect the environment by pledging to reduce plastic pollution. Plastic straws and plastic bags have been banned in many places. It should come as no surprise that Trader Joe’s is charging ahead when it comes to reducing their plastic packaging. In the most recent episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast, hosts Matt Sloan and Tara Miller, gave listeners an inside look at all things produce, and broke down how exactly the store is becoming more environmentally friendly. 

Jack, whose title is “category manager for produce,” at Trader Joe’s joined the hosts to give some insight into how the produce department operates, but he also outlined how the grocery store plans to cut down on plastic packaging in the coming years. 

“We made an announcement at the beginning of the year about changes we were making to packaging throughout the store and I know that a big piece of that work is happening in the produce department,” Miller points out. 

To reach their goals, Jack talked about how the produce department is reimagining how fruits and vegetables can be sold. For instance, there are many items that have long been sold in plastic bags that simply don’t need to be contained. More than ever, Trader Joe’s is opting to sell potatoes, onions, and apples loose. Garlic also used to be sold in what Jack calls a “pouch,” which upon closer inspection he found to be completely pointless. Now garlic too will be sold loose. That’s also great news for us, the consumers, because sometimes all you need for a recipe is one or two onions or cloves of garlic, not an entire bag. Plus, cutting down on all that extra packaging cuts down on cost for the store, too. 

Of course, there is some produce that simply can’t be sold loose, like blueberries. Luckily, Trader Joe’s has come up with a solution for that, too. It will start using a new package called a “fiber till.” The material is similar to cardboard, and unlike plastic is it compostable and biodegradable. 

Jack also points out that Trader Joe’s doesn’t use any chemicals to speed up the ripening process for fruits and vegetables. The store is trying to reduce waste as well, by donating “less than perfect” produce to food banks. Its coolers and storage areas are also small by necessity (because they don’t have room for anything bigger) but that also means that all the produce in the store must be sold fresh. These combined efforts make Trader Joe’s one of the most environmentally friendly stores you can shop at. 

Here’s another tidbit for you from the podcast: Jack reveals that the top-selling produce items are strawberries, blueberries, and avocados. Just last week (at the time the podcast was recorded) Jack says Trader Joe’s sold 1.9 million avocados. That’s enough avocados to fuel your avocado toast obsession many, many times over.