Trader Joe's Tasting Panel, Monrovia We cannot name them. We cannot show their faces. Otherwise, Trader Joe would have to kill us, and that would mean no more chili lime peanuts and Two-Buck Chuck for us. What we can say is that there are more than 10 of them and fewer than 40, and they're easily the most powerful group of food critics in Southern California. The Monrovia-based grocery chain has more weirdly addictive foods—and a more cult-like fan base—than probably any supermarket nationally. The reason is its expert tasting panel, which meets daily in secret to determine down to the last package of mandarin orange chicken what will go on the shelves of Trader Joe's groceries, which now number 256 in 20 states, including 82 stores regionally.
Gregg Segal / For The Times