Who made Trader Joe's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks?
May 5, 2021 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Trader Joe's discontinued one of my kids' favorite products, the semi sweet chocolate chunks a while ago. Many of TJ's products are made by name brand companies under a discount agreement to sell excess product or when they are just getting established and need capital, then when the company can stand on its own they walk away from TJ's. Does anyone know of an alternative source for these, or what chocolate company was making these? Thanks!
posted by benzenedream to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
There is a subreddit for TJs with a lot of staff, and you might get an answer there.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:41 PM on May 5, 2021


Oh, what bad news! I don’t know if it’s true, but I’d read before that TJ’s private labeled Callebaut (or maybe Valrhona, but I’m more skeptical of that). Those makers’ branded chunks don’t look the same, but they could break them differently to camouflage the much cheaper TJ’s version.
posted by daisyace at 7:46 PM on May 5, 2021


The Kitcn website recommends Whole Foods 365 Semisweet Chocolate but it doesn't taste the same if TJ is not available. Slightly more expensive, and seems to have more vanilla notes.

America's Test Kitchen prefers Ghiradelli's Bittersweet, but it's for baking. Apparently they didn't care about price either.
posted by kschang at 11:41 PM on May 5, 2021


Do you have any bags left, to see what country they're made in? That can be a hint with figuring out which company makes store brand chocolate. (I googled a bit and don't see any pictures of the entire back of the bag.) I do see that they're 58.9% cacao, so that could be another strategy for screening possible matches.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:08 AM on May 6, 2021


Good thought, but I just checked my bag, and it doesn't say -- just that TJ's (in Monrovia, CA) is the distributor.
posted by daisyace at 6:16 AM on May 6, 2021 [1 favorite]


This post linked to a database that might have it if it's imported. My quick search didn't find it, but maybe you can with a bit more work.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:47 AM on May 6, 2021


I realize this isn't an answer to the question, but just in case your store was slower to stock the replacement product -- have you tried the replacing product, the "semi sweet chocolate chunks" in the orange package? to my palate they taste the same as the prior product. Only the shape is different (it's like a diamond and works great in cookies.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:38 AM on May 6, 2021


Best answer: I checked Mr.Know-it-some's link to ImportYeti, which lists where lots of Trader Joe's stock comes from in terms of recent shipments. I then searched the descriptions of the shipments for "chocolate".

Quite a few matches come up, but only a few seem to exclusively focus on chocolate. Without seeing the bag which would give a country of origin, I think we could at least possibly say that if the chocolate was imported, it may have been a custom, private-label deal with one of these companies:

- Kims Chocolates of Tienen, Belgium
- Luker Chocolate of Bogotá, Colombia
- Ickx Chocolate of Essen, Belgium; they feature Trader Joe's as a "proud partner" if you scroll down on their landing page
posted by mdonley at 10:20 AM on May 6, 2021


I don't have the current sipping chocolate; only some leftover from 2018 or so. (They apparently changed the formula in 2019 or 2020.) The bag for the sipping chocolate has a lot # and expiration date imprinted on the silver bag and no other identifying marks.
posted by blob at 10:41 AM on May 6, 2021


The TJs look like they're irregular shape and I can personally vouch based on how much of them I eat that these are square shape, but I bet they're very close, probably even the same manufacturer, to the Aldi brand chocolate chunks.
posted by phunniemee at 11:12 AM on May 6, 2021


Response by poster: Thanks for the detective work! I tried the Whole Foods 365 chocolate chunks; they are a bit more chalky and have a weird flat taste (I tried to sub them in without telling my kids and they detected the difference). The current TJ chocolate chunks are ok but the prior ones were still much better in terms of mouth feel and ability to melt partially without turning into lecithin goop.
posted by benzenedream at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2021


Best answer: Hmm, no luck yet. I don't see a match on those Kims and Luker sites. Mdonley mentions that the Ickx site lists Trader Joe's as a partner, and they also list CostCo, Aldi, and Walmart (and one more that I don't recognize). So I searched those sites for private-labeled chocolate chunks. No visual matches at CostCo. Walmart has some that look similar but not identical, but by Callebaut. I've asked what % cacao they are just in case they're a telling match for the 58.9% that needs more cowbell cited, and I'll follow up if I get a reply. Aldi is hard to search, but sounds like phunniemee can vouch for what they have, and that they don't look the same.
posted by daisyace at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2021


benzenedream, do the current TJ's chunks come in the same bag? I'm wondering whether to stock up a horde if I do still see them at my TJ's, or whether seeing the same bag doesn't mean they're the original ones.
posted by daisyace at 11:36 AM on May 6, 2021


Response by poster: No, the new chunks are mini squares and have a less stylized bag with an Impact-like font, which matches the Semisweet Chocolate Chips bag. So it should be pretty obvious from the bag that they are the new ones.
posted by benzenedream at 1:11 PM on May 6, 2021 [1 favorite]


I don’t know who made the trader joes but target’s house brand dark choc chips are amazing. If you can’t find the mfr of trader joes maybe try good & gather dark choc chunks from target.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2021


Best answer: It doesn't look like Aldi's are an exact match per se but if you are not commonly an Aldi shopper, I will say that their chocolate products (most of which seem to be made in Germany by Choceur) seem particularly high quality to me, especially for the price.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:53 AM on May 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


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