Thursday, April 10, 2008

Trader Joe's Sad Shrink-Wrapped Produce

Get out your gardening gear and ready yourself for -- wait for it -- opening your shrink-wrapped produce. It's almost as hard as getting into a brand-new cd, if you've hit up your neighborhood grocery store.

In all fairness, I need to give it up for Trader Joe's before I go on a rant. I heart their apricots (Blenheim slab chewy moist goodness), their provision of economical organic dairy and meat options, and their sunflower seed butter (delightful if anyone's trying to avoid peanuts and/or treenuts due to allergies or a nut-free school lunch policy). They delight my rapscallions with biodegradable balloons. But seriously, what is up with the plastic straight-jacketing of their produce?

Cucumbers, zucchini, and broccoli all cry to be free! Have you seen the abuse? Layer upon layer of cling wrap of questionable plastics and clamshells underneath! Let our vegetables breathe free!

I wrote TJ's customer service a note on their website (go 'head, you can do it, too!):

Comments: I love Trader Joe's -- especially your selection of organic
foods and your low, low prices! But it KILLS me that you wrap your
produce in plastic and have those little foam trays under something as
innocuous as a CUCUMBER. What gives? I would have thought TJ's would be
a little more eco-friendly. Thanks for thinking about this!

Their Response: Hello MamaBird,

We hear your concerns and take them seriously. We are currently
evaluating the information that is available concerning recyclable

We evaluate every product for packaging requirements and choose the one
we feel is the best currently available to us to deliver freshness,
shelf life and food safety. We continue to explore economical Earth
friendly alternatives that can deliver freshness and shelf life without
preservatives. We also seek out recycled paper packaging where possible
and some of our packaging for produce is made of corn oil, so it is compostable.

We are always working to balance our desire to use as little packaging
as possible with our efforts to keep our products safe, fresh and cost
effective. We will forward your comments and concerns to our Buying
Department for review.

Thank you for your understanding and patience regarding this matter.

Trader Joe's
Customer Relations

Good for TJ's for sourcing recylable packaging, but as the ol' song goes, reduce comes first. Maybe if the produce wasn't traveling very far it wouldn't need to be imprisoned so....

I think in addition to carrying my own bags during this lovely spring weather, I might as well head on over to our farmer's market so I'll be sure my greens are local and unencumbered.


Tech Savvy Mama said...

As a TJs fan who has also wondered about the produce packaging, hooray for sending an e-mail. You have inspired me to do the same. TJs is generally really receptive to customer feedback so here's hoping our efforts to reduce don't go unnoticed!

Gray Matters said...

We've had the same conversation with our TJs. We don't buy any of their produce anymore which means we get to go to multiple markets until the Farmer's Market opens up. Great post!

MamaBird said...

Go TS Mama! Thanks for sending in an email.

Gray Matters - glad you have spoken up at your TJ's. The guy I talked to at our local store was very friendly and open to the idea (he was horrified himself - a cashier) but said he really thought that unless customers spoke up en masse to HQ that his voice would go unheeded....

CRL said...

Good for you for contacting them! My problem, in addition to the unnecessary use of plastic, is that the produce at our local store is usually past it's prime. I've had far too many experiences where the hidden side was rotting. Yuck!

(I also have a quibble with their frozen organic veggies being from China ... but that's another issue.)

MamaBird said...

Hey FoodieTots (crl)! Welcome back from your trip. I agree on the scary origin of frozen veggies -- hadn't noticed they were from China (I mean I sure knew they weren't local but that is a bummer). Yeah, fresh produce certainly isn't TJ's strong suit. I wonder why they bother at all since they make such a weak effort. Probably trying to remotely convince us that we could do one stop shopping.

Minnesota Matron said...

Good for you, for first complaining (in a very polite way) and then for applauding their effort. I too love TJ, but we also have a rock-star-amazing local natural foods cooperative. How lucky can we get here in St. Paul.

Typed while two feet of snow are falling. You be the judge.

MamaBird said...

MMatron, I am very jealous of yr rock star food coop (I drool at your bulk options) but, um, not the snow. See grilling post.

paula said...

Hey mamabird,
good going with your letter!
Be careful with those soft chewy apricots.
lots of sulfur keeps them so pretty and orange.
Sulfur is known to trigger asthma in adults and children. Unless you choose organic most dried fruits do contain sulfur.

paula said...

xhfwchmcHey mamabird,
nice going with your letter!
Be careful with those soft chewy apricots.
lots of sulfur keeps them so pretty and orange.
Sulfur is known to trigger asthma in adults and children. Unless you choose organic most dried fruits do contain sulfur.

Lynn from said...

Great effort with TJ's! I've wondered about the same ....