Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit Is Likely The Same Product At Another Store

It's no secret that grocery chains purchase food products from third-party manufacturers and package them with their own exclusive branding. In general, it's called private labeling and plays out in countless retail operations both within and outside the food industry. However, an even more clandestine system called "white labeling" isn't exclusive to a specific brand, instead allowing the exact same product to be repackaged and sold under different names. That appears to be the case with Trader Joe's instant boba kit.

Trader Joe's devotees, myself included, love the quirky TJ's product names, typography, and package art. It all feels like you're getting a clan-ish, indy product that's generally healthy, fuss-free, and less expensive than similar products elsewhere. As a Trader Joe's shopper for decades, I'm reluctant to toss out those convictions, even when discovering that some products are, ingredient by ingredient, exactly the same as other well-known brands.

In the case of boba, it'll likely be delicious whatever you call it. However, it's a bit disarming to see that the boba offerings from the Bobabam brand and TJ's are carbon copies of each other. Both are brown sugar instant boba drink kits. On the package, TJ's just uses the text "brown sugar tapioca pearl drink mix" instead of "kit." It also specifies, like Bobabam does, that the mix is vegan and gluten-free. Even a cursory look at the boxes suggests identical products, and they include the same quantity and kit-making components.

What's in the Trader Joe's boba kit

A quick glance at the ingredient list on Trader Joe's and Bobabam's instant brown sugar boba kits reveals seven simple ingredients. That's a big plus, since general consensus holds that the longer the list, the higher chance of undesirable additives or overly processed foods. The ingredients in both kits, listed in the same order, are: water, brown sugar, tapioca starch, modified tapioca starch, caramel color, natural flavor, and cellulose gum. The only difference is that Trader Joe's kit lists the final ingredient as sodium carboxymethylcellulose, which is just another name for cellulose gum.

The same holds true for the nutrition-facts chart on each company's boxes, specifying zero fats and cholesterol, 5 milligrams grams of sodium, and on down the line. The total net weight of each box is 9.2 ounces, and each of the competing kits contain four boba pouches and four compatible paper straws. That all adds up to a slam-dunk for at least some Trader Joe's products being repackaged versions for its own loyal fan base.

Surprisingly, compared to other TJ's whimsical, cheeky product art, the cover on its boba kit is rather bland. At least the Bobabam version carries the company's cute little smiley face icon exclaiming, "QQ I love you!" in reference to the chewiness of the tapioca pearls. As for the flavor, Trader Joe's did wisely choose brown sugar, which earned the number two spot on Tasting Table's ranking of 18 boba flavors.