Hankering to try Trader Joe’s sweet potato pasta salad or pumpkin cookies? Free samples are back

People push grocery carts in front of a building the words "Trader Joe's" on its front.
Customers make their way with groceries after shopping at Trader Joe’s in Sherman Oaks in 2020.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Trader Joe’s stores have brought back the company’s beloved free samples after a years-long hiatus due to the pandemic.

In the company’s podcast released Monday, hosts shared that “demo is back,” the term the California-based grocery chain uses to describe its in-store offerings for shoppers to taste its often rotating and seasonal inventory.

“It hasn’t been possible to offer a lot of product samples in our stores over the past few years, but we are bringing it back with a new approach,” Tara Miller, Trader Joe’s director of words and phrases and clauses, said in the podcast. Her co-host said that would mean a greater focus on new products.


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But Trader Joe’s fanatics and shoppers beat the company to its audio announcement this weekend, sharing their excitement for the return of samples on social media, getting a taste of granola, sweet potato pasta salad, pumpkin cookies and gummy bears at stores across the United States starting Saturday.

One person on Twitter said the samples coming back was a sign that the “world is healing.”

“Really what it is, is the ability to share with you something we’d like you to taste,” said Matt Sloan, the company’s marketing director. “We gathered 537 plus [store] captains from across the country to let them know, it’s time to open that bag of chips again.”

The company’s media team did not respond to questions from The Times, but employees told CNN Business that although snacks and tastings were returning to stores, the free hot coffee would not.

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