Why Some Redditors Find Trader Joe's Oatmeal Packaging Totally Laughable

It's no news that some of the top-rated food and drink items from Trader Joe's, sold under its own label, are not actually manufactured by the supermarket chain. According to Eater, grocers like Trader Joe's often have exclusive contracts with third-party manufacturers, who supply their products to the stores to be marketed with TJ's branding. That's why, if you've noticed your favorite Trader Joe's product seems to have an identical appearance, ingredients list, and even flavor as another brand's version — minus the differences in packaging — you're bang on.

One Reddit user appears to have made this realization when they recently bought a box of Trader Joe's apples and cinnamon instant oatmeal, posting a picture as proof that the oat pouches look indistinguishable from the ones sold by Harris Teeter. Many commenters were unsurprised to see that both brands are probably made by the same manufacturer, instead focused on an amusing difference between the two.

Whereas the pictured Harris Teeter's instant oatmeal box has little information beyond the different flavors inside the variety pack, the packaging of the Trader's Joe's apples and cinnamon oatmeal boasts the product's healthiness. Besides being an "excellent source of 7 vitamins & minerals" and made with whole grain oats, the box reads, Trader Joe's oatmeal is also "naturally flavored with other natural flavors" — and shoppers can't help but laugh at the obscurity of the tongue-twisting sentence.

What are 'natural flavors?'

Trader Joes' "naturally flavored" oatmeal claim seems to have a lot of shoppers confused, as one Redditor wondered, "What's up with new food packaging highlighting 'naturally flavored' is there such thing or is this the equivalent to 'perfume' as an ingredient in skincare?"

According to the FDA's Code of Regulations, the term "natural flavor" is used for any flavoring that is extracted from plants, animals, poultry, seafood, dairy, spices, fruits, vegetables, and fermented products. This may make natural flavors sound like healthier alternatives to artificial ones. Healthline even points out that research shows a direct correlation between the word "natural" on a food item's packaging and the positive perception among shoppers of its healthiness. This helps explain why "natural flavors" are the fourth most common find on the ingredient lists of various food products.

However, if you think this makes Trader Joe's oatmeal healthier than other options, the FDA explicitly states that the primary function of natural flavors is to flavor food and not to add to its nutritional value. Another Redditor points out that natural flavors "can be a mix of usually not so great things and [manufacturers] don't have to disclose it." Healthline even says that the effects of both natural and artificial flavors on your health and their chemical compositions are oftentimes the same. So, "naturally flavored with other natural flavors" may just be a redundant tagline to chuckle at and carry on.