CNN

Why Costco and Trader Joe’s stopped selling your favorite food

Nov 5, 2022, 5:00 PM

There are several reasons Trader Joe's, Costco and other stores suddenly stop selling customer favo...

There are several reasons Trader Joe's, Costco and other stores suddenly stop selling customer favorites.(Photo credit: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock)

(Photo credit: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock)

(CNN) — Chances are, you’ve been there: You head to Trader Joe’s to buy caramel popcorn, churro bites and roasted gorgonzola crackers, or to Costco for its Kirkland Signature mini peanut butter cups and take-and-bake pizza.

But when you get to the store, your favorite treats aren’t on the shelf. And, to your horror, you learn they’re not coming back.

They’ve been discontinued.

It’s one of the most disappointing experiences as a grocery shopper. Why a beloved product has disappeared ranks as one of the most common questions customers ask stores. Fans run social media accounts dedicated to tracking discontinued products at Trader Joe’s, and others blog about long-lost items at Costco.

“We understand that it can be disappointing — devastating, even,” Trader Joe’s says on its “discontinued product feedback” contact page for customers.

There are several reasons Trader Joe’s, Costco and other stores suddenly stop selling customer favorites.

Sometimes products are seasonal, or a manufacturer always planned to make them for a limited time. Also, for stores like Costco and Trader Joe’s, discontinuing items can reinforce the treasure hunt-like appeal of these stores.

But more often, other strategies are at play.

One major factor: It’s difficult to get shelf space inside Trader Joe’s and Costco and stay there. These companies sell a limited number of items — only the products in highest demand from customers.

That’s quite a different strategy from supermarkets, as well as the likes of Walmart and Amazon, which offer a wide array of foods and brands. Costco, for example, sells around 4,000 different products at a given time. Traditional supermarkets typically sell 40,000.

Both companies’ ability to keep prices below most of their competitors hinges on turning over high volumes of top-selling merchandise every minute, every day.

If an item isn’t selling fast enough on the shelf at Trader Joe’s or is collecting dust at Costco warehouses, the companies need to switch to something else that customers will snap up.

“If you don’t have high volume or growing volume, the costs of producing and handling a slow-selling product are such that it doesn’t make business sense,” Trader Joe’s vice president of marketing Matt Sloan said in a company podcast earlier this year.

Other times, it’s the product itself: Companies will pull items if suppliers raise the price too much or the quality drops.

“Costco would rather not sell an item than sell it at a price that’s too high,” said Chuck Howard, an assistant professor of marketing at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School. “It would be off-brand for them to be selling things that consumers think would be too expensive.”

For example, about five years ago Costco replaced a $27 10-pound boneless, skinless frozen chicken breast from Perdue with a $21.99 Wayne Farms version, said Marcus Walker, an assistant buyer of frozen foods at Costco from 2005 to 2020.

Items that are cheaper at other stores are also prime to eliminate.

Costco wants its products to be the lowest-priced option. It pulled Hot Pockets because it wasn’t able to match Sam’s Club prices on the product, Walker said.

Costco’s teams buy their suppliers’ products at competitors’ stores and test them to compare the quality against Costco’s. If they find an item tastes better somewhere else, they’ll ask the supplier to improve it for Costco, Walker said — and if that doesn’t happen, Costco will look to replace it.

Another issue, which the pandemic underscored, is the stability of product supply. If a manufacturer can’t produce enough of an item, the companies will stop selling it and replace it with something they can consistently keep on shelves.

In 2020 and 2021, with demand sky-high from customers stocking up on groceries during the pandemic, manufacturers halted production of many secondary products to make only their highest-demand items. And even as demand eased this year and factories returned to running at more normal capacity, manufacturers still aren’t making as wide a variety of items as they did before the pandemic.

Hormel Foods, the maker of Skippy and Spam, and Mondelez,, which owns brands like Oreo, are among the companies that have said recently they are reducing the number of products they’re selling to focus on their top-performing ones.

Angela Ackerman, who runs the Instagram account @Costcoguide with more than 230,000 followers, said Costco fans often ask her why they can’t find Costco’s dried dark chocolate mangoes in particular.

“They fall in love with something and want to see it again,” she said.

Scarcity can fuel sales, as Ackerman knows. When she sees a notice at Costco that it will no longer sell a prized item, she buys more before it runs out.”If I know it’s going to be gone, I stock up.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

CNN

The New Horizons spacecraft took an image of Pluto's heart on July 14, 2015....

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Pluto gained a ‘heart’ after colliding with a planetary body

Researchers think they have solved the mystery of how Pluto's distinctive heart came to be. It could reveal new clues about its origins.

1 day ago

Iranian news agency FARS, citing local sources, reports multiple explosions were heard northwest of...

Hamdi Alkhshali and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

Israel has carried out a strike inside Iran, US official tells CNN

(CNN) — Israel has carried out a strike inside Iran, a US official told CNN, a move that threatens to push the region deeper into conflict. The target is not nuclear, the official said. Iran’s air defense systems were activated in several locations after three explosions were heard close to the airport and an army […]

3 days ago

A clear plastic cup from Starbucks features new black and white fill lines....

Jordan Valinsky, CNN

Starbucks plastic cups are getting a makeover

Starbucks has announced an environmentally friendly redesign of its plastic cups.

3 days ago

The nearly complete giant jawbone is shown along with the jawbone (middle and bottom) found by Paul...

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Fossil discovery by 11-year-old is the largest known marine reptile, study says

A jawbone found on a beach along the English coast belonged to a newfound species that’s likely the largest known marine reptile.

3 days ago

The rear fuselage section of a 777, boeing whistleblower alleges manufacturing issues...

Chris Isidore and Pete Muntean, CNN

Boeing defends its planes’ safety ahead of whistleblower hearing

The FAA is looking into allegations raised by whistleblower and Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour that Boeing took shortcuts when manufacturing certain jets.

5 days ago

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, here on March 6, was sentenced by a New Mexico judge to 18 months in prison ...

Christina Maxouris, Cheri Mossburg and Eric Levenson, CNN

‘Rust’ movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed sentenced to 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter

Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer of the film “Rust," was sentenced by a New Mexico judge to 18 months in prison. She who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter last month.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Why Costco and Trader Joe’s stopped selling your favorite food