- Wegmans and Trader Joe’s are two grocery chains with cult followings.
- Both stores sell products like snacks and drinks under their own in-house brand.
- We tasted eight products from both stores to see which store had the better in-house brand. Wegmans was the clear winner, though there was a tie in one category.
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Wegmans and Trader Joe’s have a lot in common.
Though relatively small, the two grocery chains have legions of devoted followers who swear by the stores. More than 25,000 people showed up for the opening day of the newest Wegmans store, located in Brooklyn, New York, in October.
Trader Joe’s has some of the best sales per square footage in the grocery industry, and prime locations in big cities like New York are regularly packed during peak shopping times. With 488 stores across the country, Trader Joe’s is larger than Wegmans, which has just 101 stores in New England and the mid-Atlantic.
Both stores are also uniquely designed according to a theme and carry loads of in-house products under an exclusive label.
We bought eight similar products from each store’s private label and compared them to see which was better. We compared cereal, pretzels, almond butter cups, sparkling water, orange juice, granola, pita chips, and hummus.
Though most of its products were more expensive overall, we found Wegmans had the superior products and beat out Trader Joe’s in five categories. There was also one tie.
Here’s what we found:
We started the comparison by picking up items from Wegmans and Trader Joe’s that were similar enough to be compared. Interestingly, both stores distributed brown paper bags at checkout.
We picked up some items at the new Wegmans store in Brooklyn, New York, first.
Then we headed to a Trader Joe’s store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to find comparable products.
We ending up choosing eight items to compare from each store: Sparkling water, peanut butter pretzels, almond cups, pita chips, hummus, granola, cereal, and orange juice (not pictured). With everything bought, we were ready to begin our taste test.
1. PEANUT BUTTER PRETZELS — This iconic snack is sold in various forms and under various brands. It wasn’t difficult to find the salty treat at Wegmans and Trader Joe’s.
The Trader Joe’s pretzels cost $US2.49 while the Wegmans ones were more expensive at $US6.49. This made sense considering how much larger the package was.
The Wegmans-brand snack seemed to have less peanut butter on the inside than the Trader Joe’s one. The pretzel shell of the Trader Joe’s snack was also thinner, which made the peanut-butter-to-pretzel ratio just right.
The Trader Joe’s snack was also easier to chew, since it was thinner and more rectangular shaped as opposed to a square.
WINNER: Trader Joe’s — We’d be hard-pressed to find a scenario where this superb snack didn’t come out on top.
2. CEREAL — It was difficult to find the exact same cereal at both stores, so we settled for two different flavored cereals that were shaped in small Os.
The Trader Joe’s box was about $US3 and didn’t seem to advertise a flavour. The Wegmans cereal was about a dollar more and was vanilla-flavored.
The moment we opened the boxes, we could tell these products were worlds apart.
The Trader Joe’s cereal (left) was pretty unappealing to look at, from its colour to its shape. Many pieces didn’t even have a hole in the middle. The Wegmans cereal was rounder and seemed overall lighter and less compact.
WINNER: Wegmans — In this case, you could judge a book by its cover. From its more appealing shape to the sweet and crunchy taste, the Wegmans brand was the winner over the Trader Joe’s cereal, which was harder to chew and far less sweet. This probably had to do with the fact that the Trader Joe’s cereal seemed like it was meant to be consumed for its high fibre content.
3. ORANGE JUICE — We tried to pick up juice from both brands that looked somewhat similar. We couldn’t find a Wegmans single-serving-size bottle, so we would have to make do.
Wegmans charged $US1.99 for a 32-ounce bottle while Trader Joe’s, which was half the size, cost $US2.29. Both had the same calorie count.
The Wegmans-brand bottle was not labelled “freshly squeezed” like the Trader Joe’s one was. However, it still tasted pretty natural.
The Trader Joe’s-brand juice tasted fresher, but we couldn’t get over the pulp and overbearingly thick consistency.
WINNER: Wegmans — The Wegmans juice tasted similar to the name-brand, which worked to its advantage. It wasn’t too acidic or sweet and contained the perfect burst of freshness and fruit.
4. GRANOLA — In a pleasant surprise, we managed to find coconut-flavored granola at both Trader Joe’s and Wegmans.
Both bags were about the same size, and the prices were within a few cents of one another.
We were surprised when the consistencies of each bag were vastly different. The Trader Joe’s granola was cut into small pieces, while the Wegmans granola was in larger chunks.
Though the Trader Joe’s granola might have been easier to eat, the Wegmans granola had the better taste by far.
WINNER: Wegmans — The almond and coconut flavours were seamlessly packed into a crunchy cube of tasty joy in the Wegmans-brand granola. The consistency of the Trader Joe’s granola was a little too flaky for our taste, and the sharpness of the flavours verged on overbearing.
5. ALMOND BUTTER CUPS — We found similar dark chocolate almond butter cups from both Trader Joe’s and Wegmans. However the price disparity was rather shocking.
The cups from Trader Joe’s were $US3.99 while the Wegmans cups cost $US9.99 for what looked like the same amount of product.
For this comparison, we had Business Insider’s Bethany Biron do the tasting. She said the Wegmans-brand cup tasted strange and that the butter was so dark and rich, she couldn’t tell if it was almond butter or not.
In contrast, she found the almond butter taste was a bit more pronounced in the Trader Joe’s cup, but not overwhelming. Business Insider’s Irene Jiang and Madeline Stone agreed that the Trader Joe’s cup was superior.
WINNER: Trader Joe’s — If the price disparity wasn’t enough, the superior taste of the Trader Joe’s almond butter cup made it the better choice overall.
6. PITA CHIPS — This salty snack was one of the easiest products for us to find in both stores.
We found pita chips from both brands that were baked with sea salt. The chips from Trader Joe’s cost $US1.99, while the ones at Wegmans cost $US2.79.
When we opened the bags, it was pretty hard to tell the difference between the two brands at first glance.
They also tasted extremely similar and packed the same high level of crunch into each bite. However, the Wegmans brand, which was slighter higher in calorie count, was slightly richer in flavour than the Trader Joe’s chip.
WINNER: Wegmans — Though it was subtle, the Wegmans chip had more of a vibrant taste than the blander Trader Joe’s chip. However, both chips were extremely similar.
7. HUMMUS — Finding in-house brands of hummus in both stores was easy. We opted for the plain versions from each store.
Surprisingly, the Wegmans hummus at $US1.99 was actually cheaper than the Trader Joe’s hummus, which went for $US2.99. Granted, the Trader Joe’s container did seem slightly larger.
Like the pita chips, the taste and texture of the two brands of hummus were similar. However, the Wegmans hummus was smoother and more compact, while the Trader Joe’s hummus was more drippy and tasted more chalky.
WINNER: Wegmans — Once again, Wegmans came out on top for its smoother, richer, and more compact hummus that seemed perfect for eating with pita chips. Plus, it was cheaper than the Trader Joe’s hummus, so it was a true win-win.
8. SPARKLING WATER — This was the taste test we were most excited about because from the outset, it seemed like the two products were identical. We picked the lime flavour from each store to make the comparison as similar as possible.
The bottles looked nearly identical. Plus, the calorie count on each was the same: zero calories per bottle.
As we expected, there was no discernible difference between the taste of the two. Both bottles were equally fizzy and what we would expect from a flavored carbonated drink.
WINNER: Tie — Since we couldn’t tell the difference between the two drinks, the result was a tie between Trader Joe’s and Wegmans in the sparkling water category.
Overall, the Wegmans products beat out most of the Trader Joe’s products, despite the slightly higher price tags on most items. Trader Joe’s snagged two wins against the smaller grocery chain, in the peanut butter pretzel and almond butter cup categories. The brands tied in the sparkling water category.
Wegmans might be the smaller brand, but we found the regional grocer to have the superior private label.
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