When Will the Viral Trader Joe’s Mini Totes Come Back?

Marketing leaders dish on the wild demand during retailer’s latest podcast
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Trader Joe's totes
Shoppers have been scouring Trader Joe's to find the mini tote bags that went viral, thanks to social media. (Image credit: www.traderjoes.com)

The social media snowball effect that propels certain products to the cultural forefront – think colorful Stanley tumblers – hit the grocery business earlier this month with the frenzy over mini tote bags from Trader Joe’s. Marketing execs Matt Sloan and Tara Miller talked about the clamor for the smaller-sized reusable shopping bags on the latest edition of the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast.

Sloan and Miller joked that they are constantly getting asked about where, when and how to find the limited-time bags that sold for $2.99 and were at one point fetching hundreds of dollars on resale sites like eBay. “I get the excitement. I'm still a little perplexed about how quickly that excitement went to kind of frenzy. And people bought a lot of these bags in a very short period of time,” Miller reported.

Sloan said it was, to borrow a relevant term, an organic kind of buildup that led to the demand surge. “Selling stuff is what we do. We thought we bought enough of these mini canvas totes to last for several weeks, maybe a whole month. We had no inkling that they would be this exciting, this quickly, for so many customers. We had actually hundreds of thousands of bags come in and go out within a week,” he explained. 

[RELATED: Trader Joe’s Opens Grab-and-Go Shop in NYC]

While the fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) factor is always a part of viral sales, these totes hit upon a need because they are practical, Sloan added. “We're always looking for something new, and we know that people like to have maybe a fresh design, a new colorway on a reusable bag. The whole diminutive thing is fun, and what makes this really special is, it's so well made. It's a heavy duck, if you will, which in canvas making terms means it's a thick canvas,” he pointed out. 

Those bags are pretty much all out for now, but the items will make a return around the end of summer, the hosts shared. Shoppers ready to make a dash to their local Trader Joe’s to get the second round of the mini tote bag can check back at the end of August or beginning of September. 

Trader Joe’s was actually an early innovator in this space, launching its canvas reusable bag in 1977. At that time, it was the first and only grocer to provide that option to customers. 

As for the next viral product to disrupt the marketplace and cause a proverbial run on stores and sites, one can keep close tabs on the TikTok platform, which is where most of the latest fads have started.

With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Trader Joe’s is No. 27 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named the company one of its Retailers of the Century.

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