After more than two years of pandemic hiatus, in-store free samples have finally returned to Trader Joe’s.
The chain of grocery stores surprised its customers on Saturday with in-store food samples at some of its locations across the country. Several shoppers took to social media to post photos and videos of the free samples they got at Trader Joe’s over the weekend while expressing their delight about the return of freebies inside the stores.
Apparently the COVID pandemic is really over. Free samples are back at Trader Joe’s. pic.twitter.com/jmHsBUqkH7
— Kendra Barkoff Lamy (@kabarkoff) October 2, 2022
Nature is healing; samples are back at Trader Joe’s pic.twitter.com/dohROaRUw6
— Emma (@EmmaKBulba) October 3, 2022
LA Stories: Samples are back at Trader Joe's!!!!! Got to try a pumpkin cake thing!!! 🎃🥮
— L.B. Lewis (@LBLewisAuthor) October 3, 2022
trader joe’s is giving free samples again the earth is healing
— hannah (@haaannuh) October 1, 2022
There’s samples in Trader Joe’s again!!!!
— moonchild (@madison_rae7) October 3, 2022
What free samples have returned to Trader Joe’s?
Last weekend, select Trader Joe’s locations gave away free granola and Halloween cookies to customers. While the chain will continue to offer up such single-serve snacks and treats for shoppers to nibble on while doing their groceries, employees at New York and California stores told CNN Business that hot coffee won’t return. The website also reported that food demos will come back to a number of stores, but Trader Joe’s won’t relaunch them nationwide.
Other retailers that have brought back free samples
While a lot of shoppers are celebrating with the return of free samples at Trader Joe’s, the chain is actually a bit late in bringing back the perks.
Costco, for instance, started to bring back free samples in 2021 but added plexiglass stations as a precautionary measure for COVID-19.
Sam’s Club’s Taste & Tips demo program, which offers everything from snacks to deli meats, also returned to stores last year. At first, Taste & Tips was only made available during weekends with limited quantities of sealed samples. To prevent overcrowding, Sam’s Club works with suppliers to select and schedule demos of their new items, which allows customers to sample them before they buy.
“Demos have long been one of our members’ favorite experiences when they visit our clubs,” said a rep for Sam’s Club via CNN Business.
Free samples have also come back at Whole Foods. But if a state or city has a mask mandate, the supermarket chain will not have open sampling in the store and will only have packaged samples available. Since it rolled out grocery delivery and pickup across the country during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has also started placing free samples in some orders at select locations during different times of the year.
Free samples as a sales tactic
Paco Underhill, the founder of behavioral research and consulting firm Envirosell and author of How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink, said that giving away free samples in-store makes customers less disciplined shoppers. He also said that sampling a product slows customers down, causing them to linger longer in the store, increasing the possibility that they’ll add more grocery items to their carts.
Emerging food brands rely heavily on store demos to introduce their products to customers and get instant feedback from them. Yuval Selik, the CEO of Promomash, a firm that works with brands on samples and promotion strategies, told CNN Business that startup brands were negatively affected when in-store samples were paused due to the pandemic.
Good thing demos are starting to return to pre-COVID levels, and Selik expects them to increase even more next year. “I think 2023 is going to be huge for samples,” he said.