Its slogan is 'Your neighbourhood grocery store' and its emphasis is on every day low prices, but you can't mistake this giant of natural food retailing for your local Tesco. The US's second biggest natural food retailer doesn't stock many branded items. Instead it focuses on a mixture of exotic fare such as imported cheeses, organic produce and even hand-tossed pizzas from Italy. Many of these are sold under the retailer's quirky own label brands including Trader José's (Mexican food), Trader Ming's (Chinese food) or Trader Joe-San (Japanese food).

The chain is currently owned by one of the two brothers behind Aldi, Theo Albrecht, though it began in 1958 as a chain of Pronto Market convenience stores in Los Angeles. It has 255 stores and sales of $4bn but is still growing.

"The shopping experience at Trader Joe's is enhanced by a revolving product assortment in addition to a friendly team of Hawaiian shirt-wearing staff," says one of our Academy members, while another praises the retailer's fantastic food offering as well as its diverse but good value wine department. Its signature Charles Shaw brand wine sells for $2 a bottle.

The chain has become something of an institution in its home town of Los Angeles. Customers are often encouraged to taste products before they buy.

There is a heavy emphasis on value, which it maintains by having no customer service department, ­buying direct from suppliers and stocking mostly own label.

Location: Los Angeles

Established: 1958

No. of stores: 255

Fact: Locals affectionately refer to the chain as 'TJ's'