New research from CultureQ, branding consultancy Onesixtyfourth LLC’s ongoing research initiative to monitor sentiment and cultural shifts among Millennials in the U.S. and the UK, finds surprising brand strength among urban Millennials for Trader Joe’s, the quirky specialty retailer, on a par with big-name brands like Apple, Ford, and Nike and social media giants like Facebook and Twitter.

"Looking at the Q2 data of our CultureQ research, it’s interesting that Trader Joe’s has cultivated an eclectic, cult-like following among Millennials, particularly those that we have identified as trend setters and early adopters," says Anne Bahr Thompson, Founding Partner of Onesixtyfourth. "It seems they love everything about Trader Joe’s — or TJ’s, as many call it — from its products to its employees to its kitschy store design. The result is an intimate connection with the brand."

Qualitatively, CultureQ data shows that many Millennials are drawn to the humor and casualness of the brand: the Hawaiian staff shirts, the quirky product names, and the easy-go ing yet efficient way staff relate to customers. They also love the brand’s natural and organic offerings. All of this crafts a brand position for TJ’s as a neighborhood staple, especially for young urbanites. Interestingly, rather than devalue the brand, the fact that it is a national chain brings Millennials a sense of security. Overall, Trader Joe’s formula is one trend setters and early adopters can easily relate to.

The first Trader Joe’s opened in 1967, and has expanded into a small grocery store empire of over 350 stores in some 31 states. And all the while, Trader Joe’s has retained its quirky vibe and "neighborhood feel despite being a chain," as one CultureQ participant reflects.

"Despite its 45-year history, Trader Joe’s appears to have a unique and admirable appeal with many Millennials, and our early adopter participants who offered insights on the grocer largely perceive the chain as catering to their own generation," says Thompson. "Trader Joe’s feels like it’s theirs. Its food offerings are inexpensive, interesting and delicious, and most importantly, the brand is hip and cool in that elusive offbeat and alternative way."