Trader Joes shoppers: will they come?

As my colleagues wished me a happy birthday last week, they asked me what fun thing I had to do on my birthday: I told them that one of them was to go to the opening of the Trader Joe’s which opened in the suburbs of New Orleans that very day. I am sure some that the choice of viewing a retail store was odd, but not only is grocery store obsession a very New Orleans thing, it is most certainly one of my favorite “busman’s holidays.” (I also went to the inaugural fried chicken festival on Sunday so don’t worry about me too much.) This was not my first visit to Trader Joe’s. Some years ago, I had tagged along with my sister to the one near to her suburb, out in one of the outlying suburbs of Cleveland. Back then, I was a bit confounded by it. I have since made it to another, but as they were nowhere near me I didn’t think of them too often. Now, New Orleans has one. Here is my FB post about it:

Whew- made it to and back from Metairie to experience the opening weekend energy of Trader Joe’s.  As others have said, if you like packaged nuts or healthier freezer dinners or basic wines you will find some items here that you like. Honestly, I think this chain (in terms of regular shoppers) is for those who don’t love to shop for food or even want to think too much about food. If that’s you, this store will appeal.
Fruits and vegetables are not what they do well, but you’ll find a sale item once in a while, although having bananas priced as each (19 cents or 29 cents for organic) could be confusing to many, even though their thinking is sound: scales take up space, and lots of people only want a few at a time. That is a good price (as it comes to around 50-75 cents per pound) but not an amazing price as I think Circle Foods had them at 39 cents a pound last time I was there.
I didn’t think the prices beat the NOLa Whole Foods on most items or when they did, by much. This seems especially true since the Broad Street WF is essentially a prototype of the emerging 365 WF store that is designed to try to beat TJ’s. TJ is prolly not going to become your only store and it’s not laid out to wander around in to get inspired….I’m glad it’s here, mostly cuz more healthy choices are now available and I don’t like it when one chain has a stranglehold over shoppers. I’ll pop in a while, but this chain still strikes me as odd and a pale version of stores like Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati…/jungle-jims-grocery-store-ohio-…

Now, speaking as a farmers market consultant…

I think knowing who the core shoppers are for the stores around a market is very helpful. In many cases, research is available on the chains or a visit to the local store at both its peak and at its slow time can usually tell you about that store’s demographic.

To give an illustration, I have included some global demographic info from Whole Foods and Trader Joes as well as a few market shopper personas. Forgive the errors and the oversimplifications. The data on the stores comes from retail research available online.The market data comes from the many surveys and data collection reports I have either participated on or read. Do be aware that there are many subgroups within each of these to be explored.

Grocery store shoppers

Whole Paycheckers

  • Whole Foods focuses on the per capita population that has college degrees. The key customer for the average Whole Foods location is a working parent that is between the age of 30 and 50.
  • From the Yougov site: The typical Whole Foods customer is a female between the ages of 25 and 39 with more than $1,000 in discretionary monthly income. She likely works in architecture or interior design. She doesn’t mind paying more for organic food and she tries to buy fair-trade products where available. Her interests include writing, exercising, and cooking. She would describe herself as ethical, sensitive, and communicative, but also admits to occasionally acting like a self-absorbed and demanding daydreamer. Her favorite foods are sushi and tea and she probably drives a Mercedes-Benz.

Packaged Good (Enough) aka Trader Joe’s:

  • Most research shows that the TJ shopper is the most likely chain in the U.S.  to be brand loyal and to recommend the store to others.
  • TJ Culture dips into the health food movement, the gourmet food, wine and booze craze, and the ever-popular discount ideal. But all in moderation. “Our favorite customers are out-of-work college professors,” says Tony Hales, captain of the store in Silver Lake. “Well-read, well-traveled, appreciates a good value.”
  • Members of TJ Culture often share other characteristics… who wear sunscreen, even over their tattoos; who travel on frequent-flier miles and with the Lonely Planet guide rather than a Frommer’s. People who play guitar and pay their taxes. Who roller-blade or bike to work on the days they’re not driving the minivan. Who dress their kids in tie-dye but have really good car seats.


Continue reading

Celebrity crusade for online food stamp use

Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson, Will Smith and Kristen Bell are just a few of the big name stars teaming up with Thrive Market, a digital marketplace where individuals can purchase affordable, healthy food. They’re petitioning lawmakers and retailers to allow the use of food stamps online.

Thrive Marketplace

Don’t Fear the Logic Model

A few times a year, I take advantage of online courses available on edX. I just began a new one: “Making Sense Of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks For Impact Analysis” which may be a little heavy on company promotion but is still helpful to learn more about linking non-financial impacts to the usual $ ones, ultimately encouraging more investment and partnerships for non-traditional initiatives.

One of the helpful documents* used in the course  so far is below and of course I thought of the FMPP/LFPP grantees who call me in frustration when attempting to create a logic model for their proposal. Simply put, a logic model offers an “if such and such resource is used to do such and such, these will be the results, both directly and indirectly” outline to those assessing what is being proposed:

Input Output Outcome Impact
what resources go into a program what activities the program undertakes what is produced through those activities the changes or benefits that result from the program

What is also helpful in the Acumen graphic below is that you can see how you will measure inputs internally and then measure the “customers” (stakeholders) for the rest. In other words, Market A uses these resources and staff time (input) to create this many events and materials (output), resulting in #  of attendees taking # materials, which also added # of potential new shoppers to the market db (outcomes). Vendors reported they saw new shoppers who were knowledgeable on those issues; also, local media reported on the market as an educational resource for those searching for info on healthy food in this period (impact).

Impact is the one area I find markets struggle with the most; one of the best ways to decide what impact to choose for your project is to look at the market’s mission or vision statement and use those. Or ask your project partners to offer a single impact that they are hoping to see: for SNAP projects, often stakeholders goal is for increased access to healthy foods among their client base or added business stability among market vendors from adding regular shoppers. At a network level, increased collaboration is an important impact.

When markets are  still stymied by this process,  I suggest they start on the right with the impacts and work their way back to inputs, step-by-step, rather than starting there.This may also help another problem I often notice which is too many inputs proposed for relatively simple projects. After all, the goal of most funders is to see longterm impact within the market or a system level impact, not to see dozens of activities that result in little effect so it’s important to keep going back to the impacts.

Lastly, funding should be used strategically whenever possible (are there other supporters who are offering volunteers or resources that can be listed as in-kind?), resulting in a clear plan with room to alter it as lessons are learned or the situation changes.


I also recommend that folks take a look at Whole Measures framework to find descriptive and inclusive levels of impacts for food systems.

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 9.31.08 AM.png


*Because they use Creative Commons licensing, their materials are available to share once credited as long as adaptations are not made or the share is for non-commercial use.


Facebook fundraising for 501 (c)(3) organizations

This post clearly outlines how to use the Facebook fundraising page that is available; it does require that you are a 501 (c) (3) and uses GuideStar’s listing as confirmation. It also offers the chance for your donors to opt in to your email list and allow your supporters to fundraise on the market’s behalf.  For some markets, this feature may be the answer to their fundraising needs for now.

As is mentioned in the post, the key to this is to make sure that your GuideStar page is up to date.

Facebook’s New Fundraising Tools

Inside Aleppo: the tale of the flower-seller

I swear this story was already set up to go live this week long before Libertarian Party  Gary Johnson’s fail this week. Okay maybe it was due to go live next Monday and I sped it up a little.

This incredibly moving and tragic story is a glimpse at how some people share beauty and kindness even in the face of ugliness and despair. We must honor this level of selflessness and belief in the power of community, anywhere and anytime that it happens. And remember.


(For another view of life in Aleppo click here)

Meet the Woman Who Gave Michael Pollan His “Eat Food” Line

“I am deeply aroused by the world,” she said, because for Joan, the world is a feeding web: No one eats without affecting someone else and impacting the environment, and she can’t consider one part of the system (access to good food, big ag, what’s for lunch, pop culture) without considering every other part (poverty, advertising to children, the endless rise and fall of trends, school lunches). She can’t stand to be in grocery stores (“A whole aisle of juice!”) and fears that innovations like boxed meal kits could kill CSAs. She’s skeptical of the food-tech movement, an area where so many others see potential: “What we need is a more direct contact between people and the earth,”she said.