12 Brands That Actually Make Your Favorite Trader Joe’s Items, According to a Former Employee
Shopping at Trader Joe’s is a delicious version of déjà vu, when you really think about it. That’s not just because favorite seasonal items come back year after year, but also because the grocer offers tons of your other grocery store favorites under its own brand, often at a much lower price. We all love a dupe moment — especially when it saves us $$$.
Why is that, you ask? Well, the short answer is that Trader Joe’s cuts out the middleman entirely by working directly with some of the biggest food manufacturers across the world, who then make products under Trader Joe’s specifications (down to price, flavor, and size) for its store brand. What this means is that Trader Joe’s has more control over not only what goes on its shelves, but also how much it costs to make — and that extends not only to snacks and meals, but also to household items and even wine.
While Trader Joe’s is notoriously secretive about the makers behind its store-brand products, as someone who used to work for the grocer, I’ve eaten (and unpacked) my way through hundreds of items. Combined with finding nearly indistinguishable differences in my own side-by-side taste tests, I dug through the bowels of the internet (you can match up products with their recalls, oftentimes). On top of that, I’ve polled other employees on their best guesses as to who is behind some of your favorite Trader Joe’s items. Can you guess any? Some might surprise you/
1. Naked Juice
This revelation genuinely shocked me. Shook me to my core, in fact. Why did it take me so long to make the connection that Naked Juice, the mothership of all things juice, is the company we can thank for Trader Joe’s Very Green Juice Smoothie? I’m not sure, but you don’t even need to taste-test these to see that they, like Hayley and Annie, are not just sisters, but twins. Check the essentially carbon-copied nutrition information and list of ingredients. First ingredient for both? Apple juice. After that, you’ll notice cascading progression of the exact same fruits, greens, and vegetables composing both smoothies (like banana, kiwi, mango, pineapple, spirulina, and broccoli, amongst others).
2. Boba Bam
The Trader Joe’s Instant Brown Sugar Boba Kit was one of my first instances of flavor-induced déjà vu. You see, I’d just picked up a similar kit from Costco — Boba Bam Instant Brown Sugar Boba Kit — and thought for a moment that I’d accidentally consolidated the packages in my freezer to save space. But no! Both kits are that perfect middle ground between the super-sweet Milk Bar cereal milk and a “regular” Dunkin’ iced coffee. When sampling, I used whole milk for both and it was the perfect vehicle for their essentially identical caramel-y brown sugar flavor.
3. Taylor Farms
This theory behind Taylor Farms being the maker of most of Trader Joe’s salad kits (including the Lemony Basil Arugula Salad Kit) has made the rounds on the world wide web, and I stand with it. Like other likely connections people have made between Trader Joe’s and its collaborators, this one was founded in the very public records of product recalls, which often reveal what company makes what item, as was revealed in a food engineering trade publication. Plus, both Taylor Farms and Trader Joe’s sell a dill pickle salad kit, with Trader Joe’s version being a bit Joe-ified with the addition of its iconic Dill Pickle potato chips, naturally.
4. Snack Factory
In a blind taste test, I’d put down serious dollar bills that you can’t tell the difference between the Thin & Crunchy Pretzel Slims sold at Trader Joe’s and Snack Factory’s Pretzel Crisps. Side by side, both pretzels have similar ingredients and you can truly taste the sameness. In fact, Eater found that Snack Factory likely makes another Trader Joe’s pretzel-y product, too, as Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Slims are also identical in terms of nutrition and ingredients to Snack Factory’s version. Coincidence? I think not.
5. Pirate’s Booty
Beloved as far as the eye can see, both Trader Joe’s World’s Puffiest White Cheddar Corn Puffs and Pirate’s Booty are my chosen co-pilots for many a road trip and day at the beach. They’re both cheesy, irresistibly crunchy, delightfully puffy, and just have to (have to!) be made in the same factory. Outside of the fact that their ingredients do slightly differ (Pirate’s Booty contains rice flour, while Trader Joe’s version only uses corn flour), I can imagine in my heart of hearts that Trader Joe’s contracted this other sailor of the culinary high seas to make a white cheddar version of the classic Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar. And I’m so glad they did; it’s a lot easier on the wallet and my pantry always looks a bit empty when I don’t have a bag in there, at the ready.
6. Bitchin’ Sauce
This Almond Chipotle Dip is a newbie on the scene at Trader Joe’s, but likely not for all the dip aficionados out there. Why? Because there’s no way this isn’t Bitchin’ Sauce’s chipotle flavor hiding with a little disguise on, like a villain from Scooby Doo. Both dips are creamy, smoky, and vegan (made with an almond base), with a subtle build of heat. Even their nutritional stats and ingredient lists are identical, save for which oil each dip uses (Bitchin’ uses grapeseed oil; Trader Joe’s uses sunflower oil). I rest my case!
7. Wonderful Pistachios
The Trader Joe’s nuts selection is wonderful in more ways than one. I always knew Trader Joe’s nut section was full of steals, but I’d yet to connect that all the pistachio varieties you can get at Trader Joe’s are produced by none other than the folks behind Wonderful Pistachios. As reported by Eater, U.S. food recalls spoiled this one; both brands had products that were recalled at the same time and Wonderful was listed as the supplier.
These twin products are two of my new favorites in recent memory, and not just because I love all things noodles. After one bite of TJ’s freshly launched Squiggly Knife-Cut Noodles, it became clear: Trader Joe’s must be in cahoots with A-Sha (which also makes incredible knife-cut noodles, amongst others). Although this is by no means confirmed, both noodles are supremely ruffly and air-dried, perfectly chewy and with enough heft for dinnertime riffing, complete with their own little pack of soy and sesame sauce for tossing with your favorite toppings (like a jammy soy-sauce egg, edamame, and a confetti of chopped green onions). Sure, my noodle cabinet runneth over, but when I do inevitably run low on my A-Sha noodle stash, I like that I can still pick up some hiding in plain sight at Trader Joe’s.
This comparison is a tale as old as time, but it’s worth repeating. Again, if I was a betting woman, I’d put my life’s savings on the fact that Stacy’s must be the maker behind Trader Joe’s own Pita Chips. Both bags are similarly buttery, crackle-crispy, and ready for a dip in some hummus. If you don’t believe me, it’s well worth doing a side-by-side experiment of your own. I have a good feeling you’ll be very happy with either version, although the ones at Trader Joe’s are basically half the price.
10. Desert Essence
Admittedly, this one was an easy one, as I’ve personally unloaded the box of Jojoba Oil and “Desert Essence” was printed clearly on the side (a rare situation at Trader Joe’s, TBH). I’ve also, fortuitously, been a Desert Essence fan for a while and have tried these look-alikes side by side many times. Not only are their bottles shaped the same, but their contents are also just as light and healing on the skin. Personally, I swore by both bottles during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when constant hand-washing made my skin super dry and sensitive, and they’re both great for removing makeup at the end of the day.
I, like many others, have waxed poetically about just how much I love Trader Joe’s Daily Facial Sunscreen. And just like many others have reported (and made go viral), it’s hard not to liken this sunscreen to its likely dupe, SuperGoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen. Both act as primers, have a soft, matte finish, and are non-greasy and perfect for anyone (ahem, me) with sensitive skin. Like other products at Trader Joe’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if Supergoop! was contracted to make this same product for the grocer with a few cut corners (ingredient-wise) to get the price down, but otherwise this version delivers the full experience and SPF 40 coverage.
My only qualm with the Trader Joe’s version: It makes my (also sensitive) eyes burn if I accidentally get it schmeared upwards. Other than that, it’s basically Supergoop!’s twin. One Redditor summed it up perfectly: “I find the TJ’s about 85% as good for 1/3 of the cost [of Supergoop].”
12. Tate’s Bake Shop
Okay, so I’m actually pretty sad that Trader Joe’s recently discontinued my favorite cookie of all time — the Crispy Crunchy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. But that being said, there’s no doubt in my mind that these were Tate’s Bake Shop, just under the Trader Joe’s moniker. I mean, even the bag is the same shape! Flavor-wise, these cookies are identical, down to their lacy, crispy, buttery edges. If Tate’s isn’t behind Trader Joe’s version, I’ll personally eat my shoe. It’s that similar … and still currently available.
Know any other brands behind our favorite TJ’s products? Tell us about them in the comments.