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Trader Joe’s is finally bringing back free food samples to its grocery stores, something that briefly disappeared at the start of the 2020 pandemic.
The return of free food samples to the store surfaced over the weekend as shoppers began posting photos and videos on social media platforms.
The return of free samples
On Saturday, Trader Joe’s began offering freebies at select stores across the country.
Among the food samples they handed out at the store were Halloween cereal and cookies.
Trader Joe’s will offer customers single-serving snacks and candy, according to store employees in New York and California.
However, they no longer offer hot coffee like before.
As food demos make a comeback, Trader Joe’s will only reintroduce them to select stores.
Natasha Fischer, who runs Trader Joe’s Instagram account and newsletter documenting Trader Joe’s latest findings, said:
“I’m excited. You used to get the coffee cups. The samples make everything a little bit better.”
The free sample strategy
Free samples have been a selling tactic of supermarkets and food and beverage brands for years.
Paco Underhill, founder of Envirosell Research and Behavioral Advice and author of How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink, said companies have used the tactic to activate customers’ salivary glands and move them around the store.
Sampling a product slows down customers and makes them want to stay in the store, making them more likely to add more items to their cart.
Yuval Selik, CEO of Promomash, a company that works with champions and brands of promotional strategies, said that food startups use store demos to showcase their products and get feedback.
He highlighted KeVita Kombucha, Beyond Meat, and Kashi grains as brands using free samples to gain ground.
Effects of the pandemic
When the 2020 pandemic hit, the food stamps were successful as the shops pulled the monstrous tables.
Although it has been a long time, more and more companies have recovered.
With COVID-19 still present, some companies have changed their procedures to attract hygiene-conscious customers.
Shoppers nowadays are likely to see staff behind tables handing out packaged samples or one-use cups, rather than the usual self-service demos.
Other companies using free samples
In 2021, Costco brought back free food samples and added plexiglass stations to cater to hygiene-conscious customers.
The contractors distributed the cakes one by one from behind the stations.
Sam’s Club also launched its Taste & Tips demonstration program last year, featuring snacks and charcuterie.
Taste & Tips initially returned over the weekend with limited quantities of sealed samples.
The company also works with supplies and helps select and schedule demos, offers new items, and allows buyers to try a sample before making a purchase.
“Demos have long been one of our members’ favorite experiences when they visit our clubs,” a Sam’s Club spokesperson said.
Whole Foods also brought back free food samples.
However, since there is a mask requirement in some federal states or cities, Whole Foods only offers packaged samples instead of open samples.
Since the company began providing nationwide grocery delivery and pickup during the height of the pandemic, it has also given out samples in select orders in select locations.
Things are gradually returning to pre-Covid levels, according to Selik.
“I think 2023 is going to be huge for samples,” Selik said, expecting another batch of free food samples next year.