After a pandemic pause, Trader Joe’s announced that it will once again offer free, in-store food samples, per CNN Business. It came as welcome news to the grocery chain’s fans on social media, including TikTok, where one post with an inspiring soundtrack and a spoonful of free granola garnered 24,000 views. The little cups of coffee shoppers once relished will not be available, but there will be single-serve snacks, and some stores will relaunch food-making demos. Food samples are staples in the grocery business, and not just to promote new products. According to one industry expert interviewed by CNN, food samples help create "undisciplined" shoppers who are more likely to linger in the store and make impulse buys.
Other big brands including Sam’s Club, Costco, and Whole Foods have already begun offering in-store samples again. As one might expect, hygiene standards have changed at many sampling stations, where shoppers can expect to see plexiglass barriers and workers wearing gloves and masks. Shoppers are also more likely to encounter prepackaged samples, which have become far more common, according to Food Dive, which reports that the pandemic has forced the industry to rethink sampling.
As home deliveries have become more common, companies have started including packaged samples in customer orders. While it’s far more costly, prepackaging enables stores to avoid hygiene issues, and it might make a better impression on customers. For example, Mid-Day Squares—which sells its protein bars in Whole Foods and Sprouts—is planning to hand out more whole, wrapped bars to shoppers instead of cutting the bars into bite-sized samples. (More Trader Joe's stories.)