Trader Joe’s Printing Error

Sweet_Potato_FritesThe picture above is one my daughter took after cutting out the error to show me.

“Sweet potato Frites”

I’m not sure what frites are but sweet potato fries were in the packaging.

Errors do happen, but seeing this one makes me think about the processes that allowed this to happen.  There was artwork that was created for the printing.  Then the printing tooling.  In production, the operator had to place the tooling on the press and in most printing processes there are audits and checks.  Then the bags were filled with fries, sealed and shipped.  Employees at the Trader Joe’s stores had to take the bags out of boxes and put into the freezer in the store.

That is the long way to say there were a lot of people that had to touch this process as someone adding value or as an inspection and this wasn’t caught.

I wonder how many bags got sent to stores and bought by customers?  I wonder if it has been caught and changed? I wonder what in the process allowed this not to be discovered?



Posted on September 10, 2014, in Process, Quality and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. No error. Pomme frites are belgian fries. Frites is french for fried

  2. Frites are actually French for Fries, so this is not really a printing error. As you suggest it probably went through many discussions and reviews to select the name to print on the back and try to suggest that the contents of the bag are special.

  3. Not too sure if that’s a typo. “Frites” en French means fries.

  4. Or maybe not a printing error. Trader Joe’s is owned by European parent company. Frites are commonly ordered with your steak in France and Germany and other non-English speaking countries. Perhaps a creative brand manager’s idea simply flew over the heads of pomme-shopping customers.

  5. Frites is fries in French

  6. Hi Matt,
    I always enjoy reading your posts, but this one made me wonder. I see your point about how many people must have looked at that packaging and wondered about the spelling. My daughter works at TJ’s so we eat lots of their stuff. I found it hard to believe that they would make such a blatant mistake. So, I asked Google what sweet potato frites were and learned, beyond numerous websites with delicious recipes, that they “are made by julienning and deep frying sweet potatoes, in the fashion of French fried potatoes”. Your point is a valid one as I have seen this happen before. We had a banner in our workplace for years with a graphic of the “temple” and one of its pillars is “Saftey”.

  7. Maybe not an error …

    [freet] /frit/ SpellSyllables
    · Examples
    plural noun, French.
    French fries.

  8. Maybe this is a lesson or illustration of the need to “go to the gemba” and what happens when we make assumptions about what is or isn’t an error?

  9. Hi Matt

    Yes Frites is what many Europeans call a French Fries and it does actually mean fry in French, that being said you are far from alone in the world as to not knowing what frites are. In fact I would bet that they have missed sales by using the term, there are an awful lot of people who haven’t been to Europe, and there are also an awful lot of people that do not speak French, and many of them have probably gone into a store to buy sweet potato fries and have seen the package and skipped it for that simple reason (it just wasn’t what they were looking for. Our media and marketing types are trying to hard to get fancy by using foreign words instead of the most common English word in their marketplace. Hell when the media started using tsunami instead of tidal wave I had to look it up to see if it was the same thing.

    It could be the reason that English is the world’s fastest growing language it adopts new words at the speed of light, often than for no other reason than because someone is trying to look more intelligent than they really are. Even we Lean folks are guilty of it, when we use Japanese words instead of trying to use English. Since English has over 1.5 millions words in its vocabulary, and more than 500,000 in common use it is the worlds largest language, do we really need to keep adding more.

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