Trader Joe’s finally brings back free samples

Oct 6, 2022, 5:09 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 1:32 pm

Customers shop at the Trader Joe's Upper East Side Bridgemarket grocery store in New York, U.S., on...

Customers shop at the Trader Joe's Upper East Side Bridgemarket grocery store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The century-old vaulted market under the Queensboro Bridge has reopened on Thursday as a Trader Joe's. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(CNN) — Freebies are back at the grocery store after a long pandemic hiatus.

Trader Joe’s brought back in-store food samples at some stores on Saturday. Shoppers posted videos and photos on TikTok, Instagram and other social platforms of some of Trader Joe’s samples over the weekend, including granola and Halloween cookies.

Trader Joe’s will offer up single-serve snacks and treats for customers to nibble on, but hot coffee won’t return, according to employees at New York and California stores. Food demos will come back to some stores, but Trader Joe’s won’t relaunch them nationwide. Trader Joe’s did not respond to requests for more information on the program.

“I’m excited. You used to get the coffee cups. The samples make everything a little bit better,” said Natasha Fischer, who runs @traderjoeslist, an Instagram account and newsletter documenting the latest Trader Joe’s finds.

Free samples are a common sales tactic for many supermarkets and food and drink brands.

Companies want you to have a bite at the store to get your saliva glands working as you browse around, said 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. This makes you a less disciplined shopper, he said. Sampling a product also slows customers down and gets them to linger longer in the store, increasing the chances they’ll add more items to their carts.

Startup food brands rely on store demos to introduce customers to their products and get their feedback, said Yuval Selik, the CEO of Promomash, a company that works with brands on samples and promotion strategy. He pointed to KeVita kombucha, Beyond Meat and Kashi cereal as emerging brands that used samples to grow.

But food brands took a hit when stores removed sample tables early in the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

They were slow to bring back the perk. More companies have resumed, but some of their procedures have changed to try to entice hygiene-conscious customers. Customers are likelier to now see workers stationed behind tables handing out packaged samples or in single-use cups than self-serve demos.

Costco began bringing back samples in 2021, but added plexiglass stations. Contract workers hand out prepared and cooked items to customers one at a time from behind the stations.

Sam’s Club also brought back its Taste & Tips demo program last year. It offers everything from snacks to deli meats.

At first, Taste & Tips returned on weekends and in limited quantities with sealed samples. The company works with suppliers to select and schedule demos of their items. They’re often new items, which allows shoppers to sample them before they buy.

“Demos have long been one of our members’ favorite experiences when they visit our clubs,” a Sam’s Club spokesperson said.

Whole Foods has brought back samples, but there are some differences.

The biggest change is that if a state or city has a mask mandate, Whole Foods will not have open sampling in the store and will only have packaged samples available.

Since the company rolled out grocery delivery and pickup across the country during the pandemic, it also began placing samples in some orders at select locations during different times of year.

Small brands lost out when in-store samples paused, but demos are beginning to return to pre-Covid levels, Selik said. He expects them to increase further next year.

“I think 2023 is going to be huge for samples.”

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

Eric Bradner and Daniel Strauss, CNN

Trump wins all delegates at stake in Michigan GOP convention amid leadership battle

Former President Donald Trump won all 39 delegates at stake at a Michigan Republican convention Saturday, as officials there sought to move past a leadership battle that has split the state party into rival factions.

6 hours ago

Workers clear snow in a residential neighborhood, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Truckee, Calif. (AP P...

Brooke Hess and Ken Ritter, The Associated Press

A massive blizzard howls in the Sierra Nevada. High winds and heavy snow close roads and ski resorts

A powerful blizzard that a meteorologist termed “as bad as it gets” howled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, closing a long stretch of Interstate 80 in Northern California, forcing ski resorts to shut down, and leaving thousands of homes without power.

7 hours ago

People inspect damage and recover items from their homes following Israeli air strikes on February ...

Waafa Shurafa and Samy Magdy

U.S. says Israel has agreed to the framework for a Gaza cease-fire. Hamas now must decide

A senior U.S. official says Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed Gaza cease-fire and hostage release deal, and it is now up to Hamas to agree to it.

16 hours ago

yellow tape crossing blue and red lights...

Associated Press

Body parts of 2 people found in Long Island park and police are trying to identify them

Police on New York's Long Island were trying to identify human remains found in a popular suburban park that appear to be from a man and a woman.

18 hours ago

A vehicle drives through blowing snow near Interstate 80 (I-80) in the Sierra Nevada mountains at t...

Scott Sonner

Powerful storm in California and Nevada shuts interstate and dumps snow on mountains

Tens of thousands of customers are without power early Saturday and a 100-mile stretch of Interstate 80 remains closed indefinitely.

1 day ago

FILE: Ballots are counted by Maricopa County Elections Department staff ahead of Tuesdays election ...

Associated Press

Arizona’s new voting laws that require proof of citizenship are not discriminatory, a US judge rules

A U.S. district judge has ruled Arizona legislators did not discriminate when they adopted laws requiring counties to verify the status of registered voters who haven’t provided proof of U.S. citizenship.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Trader Joe’s finally brings back free samples