Gina's Checkout: Another innovation from Trader Joe's
In case you haven’t noticed, grocery shoppers are trying to replace as many simple carbohydrates as possible with non-starchy vegetables.
Produce departments are awash in tubs of organic spiralized zucchini, butternut squash and sweet potato. The frozen foods section has been invaded by bags of all manners of frozen finely chopped vegetables, or “riced.” And if there was one big trend at the recent Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, Calif., it was that the age of cauliflower is in no way over. Attendees were treated to samples of cauliflower pizza, cauliflower fried rice, cauliflower protein bars, cauliflower cakes, and, yes, even cauliflower “bagels.”
As more and more health-conscious Americans adopt gluten-free, low-carb (Keto, Atkins, etc.) and plant-based diets, a growing number of retailers and suppliers are leveraging the trend by using vegetables to replace flour, rice and other simple carbs in various products. Cauliflower in particular has skyrocketed to success in the grocery store because of its mild flavor and versatility.
According to the New York Times and market researcher Nielsen, sales of packaged cauliflower “rice,” zucchini noodles and other vegetable-based replacements for pasta and other simple carbs reached $47 million in 2018, with sales of cauliflower substitutes in particular doubling over the previous year to $17 million. Many restaurant chains have even put cauliflower rice and other cauliflower dishes on their menus. It seems as though every day there is a new cauliflower recipe going viral on social media, and a new cauliflower product on store shelves.
Private label stalwart Trader Joe’s was one of the first retailers to jump on the cauliflower bandwagon years ago by launching a private brand pizza with a cauliflower crust. Today, there are nearly as many cauliflower-crusted pizzas in many grocers’ freezer sections as traditional crusts.
Trader Joe’s even has an own brand cauliflower gnocchi. The product is so popular the company has a hard time keeping it in stock at stores and has had to resort to putting limits on how many bags shoppers can buy at a time. Trader Joe’s knows that the low-carb craze is going to only intensify, and the company has been launching more and more cauliflower products. Its cauliflower-based Riced Vegetable Medley is one of its latest innovations in this category.
Trader Joe’s Riced Vegetable Medley is a fresh product, not frozen. It’s located next to the broccoli and other similar veggies in the cold produce case. From afar, it looks like a bag of ready-to-cook fried rice. It contains very finely, or “riced,” cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, green onion and yellow onion. It makes a great side dish on its own, or a base for fried rice when you add some soy sauce and egg. It takes a few minutes to cook by adding a little oil to a non-stick pan.
The result is a flavorful, crunchy dish that tastes homemade and healthy. Each ¾ cup serving contains just 25 calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol, 30 mg of sodium and 2 grams of carbs. These are the kinds of numbers that today’s health-crazed consumer is looking for. Needless to say, it is a much healthier option than ordering fried rice from the local Chinese take-out joint. But what really makes this product stand out is the fact that it’s fresh and has flavor built-in.
Many branded and store brand frozen cauliflower “rice” products result in a dish that is mushy once it is cooked. And many fresh cauliflower “rice” products are just that: plain cauliflower that needs a bunch of mix-ins for flavor. The Trader Joe’s Riced Vegetable Medley, once cooked, tastes fresh, crunchy (not mushy) and flavorful, a wonderful base for many recipes or wonderful on its own.
I can’t wait to see what Trader Joe’s does next with cauliflower.
Overall score: 97/100
Tested: March 2019
To submit a product for Gina’s Checkout, please email the name of the product and a description to Gina Acosta at [email protected]