In 1972, Trader Joe’s launched its very first private label product: granola. This now-essential hit hit the market at a time when granola was still considered a “hippie” food, Forbes reports, similar in reputation to kombucha or quinoa. In hindsight, that may have been what Trader Joe himself was aiming for. In 1981, Joe Coulumbe told the Los Angeles Times that his “ideal client” was “someone who got a Fulbright scholarship, went to Europe for a few years, and developed a taste for something other than Velveeta,” Folgers coffee and normal convenience store beer brands. According to The Daily Meal, canvas grocery bags and brown paper bags with handles were also TJ originals. Since its conception, the chain has never hesitated to be too green or unconventional.
But, as with kombucha and reusable grocery bags, people are turning to granola in a big way. In 2020, more than 165 million American consumers reported eating granola and fruit, according to data analytics platform Statista. Today, the store has 180 in total, as far as the brand’s products are concerned. Trader Joe’s himself will tell you that his locations carry very few brand name products that don’t bear the TJ’s logo. But, if granola seemed like wild territory, what would ’70s shoppers say about TJ’s new experimental products like Ube Spread or Limoncello Gouda?