Last week during my semi-monthly run to Trader Joe's for baked jalapeño cheese curls, I witnessed the following conversation between two employees:
Employee #1: Quick question -- Speculoos? Are we still limiting them to just one? Employee #2: Yup, one jar per person.
Speculoos [cookie butter], in case you didn't know, is perhaps the world's second-most amazing sweet spread (with Nutella claiming top prize). Its taste is gingerbread, snowy nights and Christmas all rolled into one with a texture so comforting and smooth one is tempted to affix it to every carbohydrate in sight.
I wasn't terribly shocked to learn that Trader Joe's was running low on this terrific product. Indeed, its popularity prompted a shortage earlier this spring. I was surprised, however, that this problem persisted. Why not, I thought, just send the stores more supply to meet the demand? Alas, not so simple, it seems.
I approached one employee at the West Alabama location to inquire about this issue, and he (in true Trader Joe's form) was remarkably friendly and open. It was his understanding that production and supply-chain issues were complicating adequate and equal distribution of Speculoos between stores. He, too, was surprised TJ's hadn't been able to successfully resolve these challenges and that the shortage had continued. "We still get about 20 calls a day from people asking about the availability of Speculoos Cookie Butter," he added.
Of course, scarcity and restriction easily feed desire, so perhaps TJ's is creating its own shortage issues (or intentionally not resolving them) as a means of prolonging Speculoos's extreme popularity. I admit that although I was uninterested in purchasing Speculoos during that particular visit to TJ's, the oppositional streak in me was activated when I heard of this one jar-one person allotment, and suddenly I really wanted to try to get TWO jars. Yes, I know, I'm such a rebel.
It turns out, however, that people like me who want to purchase two or even three jars at a time aren't really the problem. Another employee told me the limit was put in place when it became apparent many people were trying to "stockpile" the butter, buying ten, 20 or even 30 jars at a time.
Wow, those people are serious about their cookie butter. I need to befriend them so I can continue to enjoy my Speculoos and jelly sandwiches during the apocalypse.
Readers and/or patrons of other TJ's locations: Have you noticed Speculoos flying off the shelves? And if we all stopped caring (or at least pretended to), will this shortage miraculously disappear? Easier recommended than done, 'cause that's some damn good butter.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.