In a tell-all podcast, crew members from across the company—including the store’s president himself—shared what they look forward to defrosting most. You might notice a trend.

By Betty Gold
February 22, 2021
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True fans of Trader Joe's scour the supermarket's shelves for everything from highly-addictive Consumer's Choice Award winners to nut butters, condiments and sauces, beauty products, even gifts. Truer fans regularly hit "Refresh" on their store locator page to see when a new Trader Joe's location opens in their area (shorter lines are a big deal, OK?). But only the truest of fans listen to TJ's monthly podcast, Inside Trader Joe's, and take the exclusive product recs and grocery store intel as gospel.

Lucky for you, we're on the extreme end of fandom. And while we could rave about the new plant-based products or black garlic seasoning over some three-buck Chuck for hours, we're here today to digest the latest podcast episode: "11 (or more!) Trader Joe's Fail-Safe Freezer Finds for Dinner (and More!)."

In the 34th episode, Tara Miller, the marketing director for Trader Joe's, and Matt Sloan, the vice president of product marketing, dissect one of the most sacred spaces inside the store: the frozen food aisle. They start by interviewing Mary-Ann, category manager for frozen at TJ's, about what big changes she has noticed in product sales trends the last year.

Credit: traderjoes.com

"We definitely saw trends that we were not expecting," she says. "Overall frozen has seen great growth. Appetizers, huge growth there. More than just double digit growth."

What exactly is selling, you ask? Everything, especially things you can cook in your air fryer. "Everything from items we've carried every day for many years, like the Mac and Cheese Bites, our Samosas, and new favorites like the Buffalo Chicken Poppers," she reveals. "Breakfast items...our croissants. Our Chocolate and our Almond Croissants, especially. You have to take some time and prep. You have to think about it the night before and in order to let that croissant rise and bake it the next day. And people have time during the week now. Many of us are working from home—and why not just throw some croissants in the oven in the morning?"

She has a point. Ready to stock up yourself? Here are the most favorited Trader Joe's frozen foods by Mary-Ann and other crew members. Spolier alert: There's a trend, and it involves Mandarin Orange Chicken.

1

“I mean, I've always loved it. My kids love it. One of my kids actually is not into chicken or meat in general, as much as the other two. So we actually throw in some of our tofu. We fry it up first and add it with the orange chicken sauce and her portion is just as delicious as the other kids.”

—Rollyn, Crew Member

2

“I’m going to sound like everybody else. I love our Mandarin Orange Chicken. We'll go out to restaurants, or we used to go out to restaurants, or get takeout, you get orange chicken and say, ‘This isn't as good as Trader Joe’s.’ And so we probably have one emergency bag in our freezer at all times."

—Alex, Crew Member

3

“I have to go with, you know, the masses... the Mandarin Orange Chicken. After I put them in the air fryer and before I toss them with a sauce, I add some chopped walnuts to it and then toss it in the sauce. And it's just an incredible meal with a little bit of rice and some steamed broccoli. That's a staple that we pick up weekly.”

—Nikki, Crew Member from Trader Joe's Customer Relations Department

4

“I have to admit, it's the Orange Chicken,” she says with a chuckle."

—Mary-Ann, Category Manager for Frozen

5

“We always have three or four bags in the freezer, but then when we're shopping in the store, you know, we should probably buy another bag. Last thing we want to do is run out of it. It's great. You can add stuff to it. Usually we add cut up some chicken Italian sausage or throw something else in there and just some, you know, grilled chicken to toss in there for some protein and it's great. I think it's vegan straight out of the bag. It's super authentic. It's got those little disks of sauce in there that, you know, you can snack on those if you want just frozen. (laughs)…

I [also] eat probably one Fruit Frenzy Bar every night."

—Jon Bassalone, President of Trader Joe's

6

“Our frozen cheesecake is a fantastic product. I know that it's not out yet and we're still working on it, but we tasted a new version of that with the strawberry swirl, which is also, I think, going to be extremely good.”

—Ben, Crew Member