Like Black Friday, but better.

By Betty Gold
Updated December 02, 2019

There are endless things to love about the holiday season: spending time with loved ones, decorating and giving gifts, having an excuse to wear sweatpants full-time for days on end, and all that leftover Thanksgiving turkey we’re still questionably nibbling on (I didn’t say it, you said it).

One more thing to look forward to? Every new seasonal item drop at Trader Joe’s. Indeed, everyone’s favorite quirky grocery giant releases several hundred (!) holiday items every year. And as if we needed one more excuse to drive/sprint to the closest TJ’s location and boy-band-style fangirl outside and line up until the doors open, the Insider Trader Joe’s podcast gave us the scoop on 12 new holiday items hitting the shelves.

On this month’s podcast episode, hosts and TJ’s employees Matt Sloan and Tara Miller do a deep dive into the selection process of the store’s seasonal product releases. According to Sloan, the store’s “Marketing Products guy,” Trader Joe's sold 472 holiday-themed items last year—and has been working since January to choose which products will make the cut for this year’s shelves.

“In early January, I mean the dust hasn't even really settled on the parties, but we're looking at this business on a SKU [Stock Keeping Unit] basis. For every product, [we ask] how did it do? How much did customers like it?” says Sloan. Sadly, 72 of last year’s items didn’t earn the ability to return, but "that creates sort of the license to hunt, if you will, for new things to bring to the stores to see what customers would like,” he adds.

The hosts go on to explain the tasting panel process: they started with 95 new products, which was narrowed to 56 in January 2019. In March, they host a second round with more new items. The result is 84 new items, which means a total of 484 holiday products this year. So start celebrating.

While they couldn’t share every single one of those goodies, they disclosed info on 12 of the newcomers. I guess we won’t starve after the turkey’s gone after all.


According to Miller, we should all prepare for a major truffle situation in the aisles of TJ’s this holiday season. Not the chocolate kind (though there will be no shortage of those, either). She’s referring to the savory, umami-rich kind that grow underground. “Every day we have these Oven Baked Cheese Bites and this year, we’re bringing in a version that’s Oven Baked Cheese Bites with Black Summer Truffles. I mean, they’re REALLY truffle-y.”


Speaking of which: “This is an unctuous, thick, rich sauce. It’s intense. And you’ll notice when you see it, it’s not that giant jumbo pasta sauce jar. It’s smaller because this packs a punch,” says Sloan.


According to Sloan, this dry seasoning powder “could really dress up a risotto.” Tell us. “Even if you dusted macaroni and cheese with this, it would take it from oh hey, mac and cheese to fancy pants mac and cheese.”

Miller chimes in to suggest that this trifecta of truffle-based goodies would make a solid gift basket, and we’ve never been more on board. “You would be absolutely bonkers to try to do this anyplace else because this stuff is expensive,” he adds. “Don't take my word for it. You got to check it out yourself.”

RELATED: The Top 10 Trader Joe’s Gifts to Grab While You’re Getting Groceries


“This looks like a decorated confection—like a candy snowman. But what you do with this guy is you actually drop him into a mug of piping hot milk,” Sloan explains. “He melts and it’s sort of terrifying and fascinating to watch this happen. Then when he melts, he lets loose a bunch of marshmallows. There’s a different way to say that but that’s what’s happening. And you’ve got a white chocolate/milk chocolate, marshmallow-topped drink. And you’ve also watched the demise of Frosty the Snowman.”


Like a gingerbread house kit, only better. “For years and years and years, we’ve offered a gingerbread house kit. It’s hugely popular and people buy tons of them,” says Miller. “This year, we also have an ornament cookie kit—so they’re cookies shaped like ornaments. You decorate them and you can hang them on your tree, or you can just eat them.”


According to Sloan, this is a huge hollow Christmas tree made from chocolate. “And there’s a little icing kit and chocolate gems. You can 'glue,' if you will, with the icing, all kinds of stuff all over the tree, decorating the Christmas tree. It’s a pretty neat thing to do and it’s relatively easy. Some of these kits can be challenging. This one's easy.”


We are already *quite* familiar with TJ’s Eggnog Liqueur that they offer during the holidays. But this year, there's a "Hot Chocolate Hot Cocoa Cream Liqueur, I think it's called,” says Miller. “It’s that comforting, wintry drink, spiked with alcohol.” She recommends sipping some of this while your little ones work on decorating the kits above.


Because we all like our homes smells as festive as they look, Maggie Meccia-Vogt, the category manager for the flowers and plants business at Trader Joe’s, recommends the cedar balsam scented pinecones. “I thought there was a kind of a cool opportunity to bring in the Cedar Balsam Pinecone so that if you do have a silk tree, you can put these pinecones in your house and you have a little bit of that aroma,” she says.

RELATED: Trader Joe’s Just Announced Major Changes Happening in Its Produce Department—Here’s What You Can Expect


This one’s a riff on Trader Joe’s much-beloved mini ice cream cones. “Yep, those Hold The Cone! cones that we sell—and these are called Hold The Corn! It literally inside has corn and seasonings,” explains Miller. “It’s a very crowd-friendly flavor, we’re told,” Sloan says. They come in the shape of a cone, natch.


If you’re a pimento cheese lover, get amped. “When people try these Pimento Cheese Puffs that we have coming in—just a little puff pastry with pimento cheese and caramelized onion [and bacon]—I think your desire for pimento cheese to have a wider audience may really hit,” says Miller.


“Picture things you might get at a Japanese restaurant,” Sloans says. “Like yaki onigiri, a grilled rice patty. Maybe with some dynamite sauce, like a spicy aioli type thing with some salmon on top.” We’re sold.


They obviously saved the best for last. “No holiday meal is complete without dessert, right? In the spirit of putting everything in a cone, we have cheesecake cones,” Miller says. “We also have cheesecake in bite form.”

Happy holidays!