02/12/2013 09:39 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Who Really Makes Trader Joe's Food? (TASTE TEST)

Damon Dahlen/The Huffington Post

Read about more products: Trader Joe's Taste Test, Round 2

It's no secret that Trader Joe's sells marked-down name-brand products disguised under its own label. What is a secret is which big brands Trader Joe's carries -- when it comes to publicizing that information, TJ's remains mum. The price difference between the Trader Joe's and big brand products is sometimes so big that it sparked our curiosity ($2.99 vs. $5.49 for the same box of cereal?!). Now, we're on a quest to discover who's hiding under those TJ's labels.

If you're wondering how Trader Joe's is able to sell its product so cheaply, a major factor is that the company abstains from advertising or couponing, both of which cost most supermarkets a large chunk of money. (If you've never heard of Trader Joe's until now, that's why.) Secondly, Trader Joe's buys its product directly from the supplier whenever possible, saving even further cost.

But wait, why would big brands be okay with Trader Joe's marking down their products and selling them under a different name? It's actually pretty simple: If you were General Mills, would you want your customers finding out they can buy the same box of $4.99 Cheerios at Trader Joe's for $1.99? The secrecy prevents the big brands' customers from fleeing traditional supermarkets in favor of buying the cheaper Trader Joe's version. And thus, the big brands are willing to operate under Trader Joe's cloak of secrecy, under which the "vendor shall not publicize its business relationship with TJ's in any manner."

And so our taste test begins. This week, we selected 10 Trader Joe's products and their rumored big-brand matches and tasted them with a panel of judges. We conducted a blind tasting and tried our hardest to detect any similarities and differences. Then, we came up with a final verdict.

Here's the main thing we can't get over: For the major price difference between TJ's and its big brand matches, the difference in taste and quality is so slight that it's almost nonexistent. We're reeling with regret over all the money we've spent on the big brands in the past.

Check out the results of our taste test below, and then be sure to check out the results of our second installment of Trader Joe's taste tests!

[Note: If you think you don't have access to a Trader Joe's, you might be closer to one than you think. There are now more than 350 locations nationwide.]

As always, this post is in no way influenced or sponsored by any of the brands involved -- especially not Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's Taste Test #1, 2013

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Trader Joe's Taste Test, Round 2