Trader Joe's execs are revealing the grocery chain's secrets in a new podcast -- here are 11 of the most surprising facts

Jessica Tyler/Business InsiderTrader Joe’s got its name in 1967.

Fans of Trader Joe’s praise the grocery chain for its wide selection of private-label products, cheap wines, and approachable, nautical theme. At peak hours, people often wait in long lines just to get in to the store – and that’s before they even do their shopping and then get in line to check out.

Trader Joe’s knows how obsessed people are – in response to questions and comments from fans wanting to know more about the brand, it launched a podcast to give shoppers an inside look at the company. The podcast is hosted by Marketing Director Tara Miller and Vice President of Marketing Product Matt Sloan, who cover topics like Trader Joe’s products and values, the history of the chain, why it calls its employees crew members, and its famously cheap wines.

Here are some of the most interesting facts you may not know about the chain:

There is an actual Joe behind Trader Joe’s. Joe Coulombe launched the Pronto Market convenience stores in the Los Angeles area in 1958, which became Trader Joe’s in 1967. The original store is in Pasadena, California.

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In its early days, the store had a deli counter-style experience. Trader Joe’s made sandwiches, sliced cheese, and prepared food for customers. That evolved into today’s Tasting Point.

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There’s a reason bananas are sold individually instead of by the pound. CEO Dan Bane explained that he once saw an elderly woman walk past the bananas without buying anything. He explain in the podcast, “I asked her, I said, ‘Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking, I saw you looking at the bananas but you didn’t, you didn’t put anything in your cart.’ And she says to me, ‘Sonny…I may not live to that fourth banana.'”

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Trader Joe’s sells 500 different kinds of wine.

To pick the best wines and get the best prices, there are daily wine tastings.

Every single product sold in Trader Joe’s has been taste-tested by a Trader Joe’s crew member.

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Sloan said in the podcast that he once even tasted one of the dog biscuits, though pet products are typically tested by crew members’ pets.

According to Sloan, the tasting kitchen is a harsh environment. He explains on the podcast, “There’s nothing in there that makes it comfortable. It’s like a cold war interrogation booth, because we want the products that succeed to go through this like ultra Darwinian exercise to say they could stand up even to that harshest light of critical evaluation.”

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Trader Joe’s has a crew member who travels to taste food from around the world. These employees are guided through local and traditional food from a region, bringing in and inspiring products from around the world.

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80% of Trader Joe’s products are private label. The first private-label product Trader Joe’s sold was granola, in 1972.

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The nautical theme was Coulombe’s idea. He explains in the podcast, “I’d been reading a book called ‘White Shadows in the South Seas,’ and I’d been to the Disneyland jungle trip, and it all coalesced. And that is why, to this day the employees wear Hawaiian shirts.”

Getty Images/Michael Nagel

Trader Joe’s doesn’t use PA systems in its stores like most grocery chains — instead, it uses bells.

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One bell means another register needs to be opened, two bells means someone has a question at check-out, and three bells summons a manager.

You can download Trader Joe’s new podcast here.

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