Adam Reiner, TASTE:

After six months of conversations with five founders of small to midsize food brands, it appears to be an open secret in the consumer packaged goods industry that Trader Joe’s outsources inspiration for new products by targeting emerging brands under the guise of recruiting them to manufacture private-label items. Private labeling is the ubiquitous (and often clandestine) practice of consumer food brands creating exclusive products for third-party retailers. The terms of these contracts vary, but the enlisted food brand typically receives compensation in the form of a production fee or profit-sharing arrangement.

According to these sources, Trader Joe’s commonly solicits product samples and even asks for potential recipe adjustments—a revealing and time-consuming exercise for bootstrapped founders—before inexplicably abandoning the negotiations and releasing its own private-label versions of similar products at lower prices.

Yikes on bikes, folks.

This is a pretty damning expose of how Trader Joe’s decieves smaller food brands under the guise of a partnership, then undercuts them when the financial terms are deemed untenable by the brand themselves.

I recognize, in all these instances, Trader Joe’s didn’t even need to offer to work with them before ripping them off, but the boldness to proceed even after trying to work together is NOT a good look.