Forget the chess club and the theater club, for two high schools in Southern California, the Trader Joe's Club is the society everyone wants to join. There are currently about 300 members between the two schools, and they said their tables were the most popular during Club Days when various school clubs share information—and snacks, in the case of this particular club—with prospective members. Fortunately, all you need is a love for TJ's to be a member!
Recently the hosts of the Inside Trader Joe's podcast, Tara Miller and Matt Sloan, invited club members to Trader Joe's offices in Monrovia, California, where they gave them a tour of the test kitchen, chatted about the club's activities, got their opinions about products in development, and asked them about some of their favorite foods at TJ's.
The Trader Joe's Club started during the pandemic, when a group of students got together over Zoom and tried the same snack, shared Kian, one of the members. "It kind of felt like a bit of a connection," said Maddie, another member. When they were back on campus, they started bringing in food and sharing it potluck-style, said Kian, adding, "It's just super fun."
In addition to sharing with each other, one of the clubs has a partnership with the nonprofit Elizabeth House in Pasadena, so they also bring snacks to donate. Trader Joe's introduces an average of 365 products a year, so there's always something new for the club to try. Here are a few of their all-time favorite snacks.
Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips
These chili-lime chips—which Maddie describes as a "party in your mouth"—took top honors overall this year in Trader Joe's 14th Customer Choice Awards, so it's no surprise that they're a favorite among club members. When the chips were hard to find and there were rumors swirling that they'd been discontinued, the students traded intel about where to find them and shared conspiracy theories about their disappearance. And about that disappearance? Matt explained that a "to be discontinued" sign spotted by a customer at an unnamed New York store kicked off the panic about the chips. Fortunately the rumors were untrue and the party in your mouth can continue.
Trader Joe's Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeño Dip
Another snack with a spicy kick that Betsy loves is this creamy dip with artichokes and jalapeños. "That's life-changing," Liv concurs.
Trader Joe's Crunchy Curls
Betsy and Liv also both rhapsodized about their love for this crispy potato and lentil snack. They agreed it's dangerously easy to down a whole bag in one sitting, although Betsy did confess, "I didn't know they were lentils and then I stopped eating it for a week because I was like, 'eew, lentils...'"
Trader Joe's Diner Mac 'n Cheese
The mac and cheese in the red box—not the blue box—is one of Kian's favorite after school snacks. Some might call it less of a snack and more of a meal, but who are we to quibble with a hungry teenager? Betsy and Ana agreed with Kian: it's all about the red mac and cheese.
Trader Joe's Popcorn in a Pickle
Liv's big question about this beloved snack is how Trader Joe's gets the seasoned popcorn to taste so much like pickles. "You have to break down the things that make a pickle taste like a pickle—acid, vinegar, salt, some amount of garlic, some amount of dill," Matt explained. "You've got like a volume knob on each of those things, and you just wanna keep dialing it back and forth and figuring that out."
Tara added that the pickle popcorn went through five to seven iterations before moving on to the official TJ's tasting panel, and then making its way into stores.
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Along with the Rolled Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips, the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups—a Trader Joe's Hall of Fame product—were another fan favorite that disappeared quickly on Club Days.
Other sweet treats loved by club members include the Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Chocolate Bars, the Sublime Ice Cream Sandwiches, and the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, which Betsy describes as "the greatest chocolate chip cookies I've ever had in my entire life." With devotion like that to Trader Joe's products, it's no wonder that some of the students told Matt and Tara that proximity to a Trader Joe's is an important factor when deciding which colleges to apply to.