(NEXSTAR) – If you had known it was the last time you’d see the feta salad dressing or the chocolate-filled Joe-Joe’s on the shelves, you might have taken an extra bottle or box. But the disappointment of a discontinued item at Trader Joe’s often takes you by surprise, when it’s too late to do much about it.
Fans of the grocery chain are familiar with the stores’ constantly rotating repertoire of snacks, ingredients and frozen meals. But new items typically mean the company has to give something the boot, and sometimes it’s your preferred ice cream flavor that takes the hit.
The No. 1 reason items are discontinued, the company explained in a 2022 episode of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast, is low sales volume. You’d think that would be the case for any grocery store, but it happens more often at Trader Joe’s for a few reasons.
First off, the stores tend to be smaller than their competitors. “We just physically don’t have room to carry things that aren’t popular, as disappointing as that is to hear and experience,” said Matt Sloan, one of the hosts of the company’s podcast.
But there’s another key difference between Trader Joe’s and its competitors, the company claims. Tara Miller, self-described “director of words and phrases and clauses” at Trader Joe’s, said goods producers will sometimes pay grocery chains “slotting fees,” meaning they’ll pay the store to keep their items on the shelf, even if they’re not selling well.
Miller said Trader Joe’s doesn’t take slotting fees, so the company doesn’t have that incentive to keep products in stores if they’re simply collecting dust.
“At Trader Joe’s, the only way we make money is when the customer buys something at the cash register,” Miller explained. “We’re not getting paid by the producer of that product to keep it on the shelves. And our business model says let’s develop something new that might sell better and make more customers happy.”
The company may also discontinue items if their production becomes unduly expensive or they aren’t able to source it at the same quality. But if you can’t get over the loss of your favorite item that got the ax, hope isn’t all lost.
The company has a form set up online where you can make your case to resurrect a discontinued product.