Trader Joe’s brings back free food samples to select stores after years of being away

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 in-store food sample’s return surfaced over the weekend as shoppers began posting photos and videos on social media platforms.

The return of free samples

Trader Joe’s began giving away freebies at select stores across the country on Saturday.

Among the in-store food samples they gave away were Halloween cereal and cookies.

Trader Joe’s will offer single-serving snacks and candies to customers, 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, the founder of Envirosell research and behavioral advice and author of How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink, said companies were using the tactic to trigger customers’ salivary glands and move them through the shop.

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 brands for champions and promotion strategy, said food startups are using store demos to showcase their products and get feedback.

He highlighted KeVita Kombucha, Beyond Meat, and Kashi cereal as brands that used free samples to gain ground.

Effects of the pandemic

When the 2020 pandemic hit, food stamps took a hit as stores pulled the monstrous tables.

Although it took a long time, more and more companies have recovered.

However, with COVID-19 still present, some businesses have changed their procedures to attract hygiene-conscious customers.

Shoppers today are likely to see staff behind the tables handing out boxed samples or disposable cups, rather than the usual self-serve 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 baked goods 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 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 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 push of free food samples next year.


Trader Joe’s finally brings back free samples