A fifth question this Passover: what makes Trader Joe's matzah different from all other matzah?

Published date23 March 2023
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
Now, for the first time ever, Trader Joe's will be selling matzah under its own famous private label

The question, even among the store's diehard Jewish fans, is what makes Trader Joe's-branded matzah different from all other matzah.

The grocery chain with more than 500 stores nationwide, and known for characteristically friendly, Hawaiian shirt-clad employees and a limited selection and high turnover of products, has gained a cult-like following in its 56 years of operation. An Instagram fan account boasts nearly 2 million followers; the internet is abound with memes about falling in love with Trader Joe's cashiers; and dozens of Facebook groups with thousands of members each exist to cater toward the specific dietary needs of loyal shoppers.

Trader Joe's Jewish following

Those loyalists include no small number of Jews who keep kosher. The store stocks a number of Jewish, Israeli and Middle Eastern foods — from an "everything but the bagel" spice mix to spicy zhoug sauce to kosher-certified turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving, and frozen latkes. Trader Joe's caused a small uproar in 2012 when it stopped stocking kosher pareve semi-sweet chocolate chips. After a campaign by Jewish customers, the chain brought the product back to its shelves in 2021.

But whether that loyalty will extend to the store's matzah is unclear. Some shoppers said they were excited about the new offering, while others wondered whether it would be any different from the matzah Trader Joe's has sold in previous years. Still others said that by putting its name on one of the most quintessential Jewish foods, Trader Joe's "signals that Pesach products have gone mainstream," in the words of Susan Robinson, a member of Kosher Trader Joe's, a Facebook group with more than 63,000 members.

The decision also demonstrates that Trader Joe's takes its kosher-observant customers seriously, said Rachel B. Gross, a professor at San Francisco State University who teaches a course on U.S. Jews and the history of food.

"My understanding is that they've never wanted to do everything," Gross said. "But they have had a really strong kosher game because that worked really well with the way they approached the niche markets in general."

For years, Trader Joe's sold matzah made by a brand called Holyland, and it's unclear whether the chain's new boxes hold the same old product. The company — which is secretive about who produces its private-label foods — told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency only that the new...

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