Apparently Trader Joe’s Has a Cult Following in Hawaii

Of note: there are no Trader Joe's stores in the state in question

Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's has a big fanbase in a state without any Trader Joe's located there.
Johnny Louis/Getty Images

Some grocery stores have amassed larger-than-life followings over the years. Ask many a Floridian about Publix’s sandwiches and you’re likely to hear odes to their deliciousness, for instance. (And it may be that a more recent Florida arrival — who happens to be one of the greatest soccer players of all time — agrees.) It’s one thing to have a soft spot for a regional speciality and another thing entirely to adore the wares of a store that you’d literally have to cross an ocean to get.

Evidently, though, that’s how many Hawaiians feel about the food available at Trader Joe’s. A new article by Zoe Glasser at The Washington Post seeks to get to the bottom of why many residents of a state where there are no Trader Joe’s locations make it a project to seek out Trader Joe’s food when they’re traveling to places where the chain does have various outposts.

Glasser’s article cites a host of reasons: the price of various items at Trader Joe’s, the packaging and the way that certain items from the store make for ideal small gifts for family and friends. There’s no one simple answer — but it has led to a phenomenon significant enough to be covered in a major U.S. newspaper.

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I can relate to this in a big way — as a result of time spent in Iceland a few years ago, I still have a serious craving for the mixed nuts sold by the Icelandic supermarket Bonus. For me, this involves a few factors: the blend of nuts involved is one, and the amount of salt — just enough to make it salty without making eating it an exercise in dehydration — is another. And maybe there’s also something about the role nostalgia can play there — we’re not quite in Proustian territory here, but thinking of something associated with a pleasant trip can bring back a lot more pleasant memories along with it.


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