Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken Is Their Most Popular Item

Trader Joe's is unlike any grocery store you can visit. It's a place where everyone wears loud flower shirts and attracts attention by ringing brass bells from boats. Known for their healthy selection of food at a cheap price, Trader Joe's has become a staple for many people's weekly grocery runs and shopping lists.

Trader Joe's, although smaller than your usual grocery store, has everything you need. From fresh fruits and vegetables to frozen foods and pre-made meals, the store seems a lot bigger then when first looked at. Selling their own Trader Joe's branded foods, many customers have come to love their favorite products. In particular their 2 buck Chuck and their famous cookie butter but nothing takes the (fortune) cookie like their frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken.

Trader Joe's Mandarin Orange Chicken

Not only is the citrus chicken a bestseller, the product has won the overall favorite Trader Joe's product in every Customer Choice Awards survey for the past nine years according to Real Simple. The orange chicken, which debuted in 2004, is part of their Trader Ming's selection alongside favorites like BBQ Chicken Teriyaki and Kung Pao Chicken. But did you know this wildly popular chicken dish almost never made it out of the freezer?

Inside Trader Joe's, a new 5-part series podcast, shares the story of the grocery store and its beginning. The first episode takes you to a tasting panel in 2002. The tasters were amazed at the chicken dish created by a Southern California Chinese restaurant and decided to make it into the Mandarin Orange Chicken we know and love today. Tender chicken pieces are cooked with green onion, garlic and ginger and tossed in a Mandarin orange sauce. The sauce gets its spice from red chile and includes real Mandarin orange peel.

Excited to get this product on the shelf ASAP, the company talked about the new product in the Fearless Flyer a bit too soon. Due to a delay in the packaging, the bags would not be ready to hit shelves.

"What we were able to cobble together was basically a clear plastic bag with kind of a half-baked, if you will, sticker slapped on there," remembers Matt Sloan, the Vice President of Marketing Product. "And I mean, it really was a testament to the power of language and words that the Fearless Flyer article could describe what you were getting, because it looked like you were getting a zip lock bag of leftovers for several months."

Thankfully the little hiccup didn't bother many people and the product took off as a family favorite from the get-go. Cook up a bag of this Mandarin chicken with some brown rice and a side of veggies and you've got yourself a dinner.

Watch: 6 Reasons We Love Trader Joe's