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Costco's Beloved Food Samples are Back—But With a Major Twist

Good news for shoppers, slightly worse news for food brands.

Back in March, grocery stores had done away with in-store samples. Due to their open-container nature, those fun little bites of food that make us feel like we're getting a free grocery bonus had been deemed too unsafe to hand out during a pandemic.

Now, food samples are slowly making their way back into some Costco locations, but with a very different look. While before, the food would be cooked or otherwise prepared on site and pre-portioned for customers to try, the food sampling stations are now turned into food displays outfitted with plexiglass barriers. And there's no more eating on site. 

Known as a dry demo, this type of promotional effort will show shoppers what the final product looks like, and give away free packaged dry goods to take home and try for themselves.

Instagram user @costcoguy4u posted an image of this new setup at a Costco location, where you can see a dry demo in action. A plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce is enclosed in a plexiglass display, reminiscent of a museum exhibit, while dry packs of said pasta and jarred sauce are stacked up in front of it.

Just as it led the pack in March by nixing food sampling at their stores, Costco is one of the first grocers to bring them back in this new format. However, this type of promotional effort may prove difficult for most food brands. In order to have customers taste their product, they either have to give away full-sized packages of it, or find a way to produce them in smaller, sample-sized quantities—a whole other operational hurdle unto itself.

But it may be a cost worth fronting, as many smaller brands depend on in-store demos in order to introduce their product to a wide audience. And it's definitely good news for Costco shoppers, who may end up walking away with a free pack of pasta or a jar of sauce.

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Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more about Mura
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