Trader Joe’s is Bringing Back This Pre-Pandemic Favorite

Fairfax, USA - November 25, 2016: Trader Joes grocery store facade with sign and items on display and people walking.
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Trader Joe’s is bringing back a pre-pandemic favorite — free samples.

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Shoppers posted videos and photos on TikTok, Instagram and other platforms of in-store food samples over the weekend, CNN reported, including granola and Halloween cookies. According to employees at New York and California stores, Trade Joe’s will offer single-serve snacks, but hot coffee won’t be returning. Food demos will only be available at some stores.

“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 documenting the latest Trader Joe’s finds, CNN reports.

Everyone loves free food but when the pandemic was declared in March 2020, retailers worried about the potential spread of the virus and stopped handing out snacks. Free samples allow customers to try new items while acting as a sales tactic for many supermarkets and brands.

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According to NPD Group Inc., a market research firm, food sampling converts customers into buyers at a 20% higher rate than if they weren’t allowed to test, AP News reported.

“Sampling is critical,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “Impulse alone drives 25% of the retail business.”

More companies have brought back free samples, like Costco, Sam’s Club and Whole Foods, but not without some changes.

Costco began handing out samples again in 2021, CNN noted, but added plexiglass stations and hired contract workers to hand out food to customers one at a time. Sam’s Club also brought back its Taste & Tips demo program; however, in limited quantities with sealed samples. Whole Foods brought back free samples, but if the state or city has a mask mandate, then open sampling will not be available in the store.

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Yuval Selik, the CEO of Promomash, a company that works with brands on samples and promotion strategy, told CNN that 2023 will be “huge for samples.”

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About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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