Anyone who has navigated their way through the grocery store recently knows that there are always new items attracting shoppers to try new, and hopefully better, products. But in this economy, you may not want to risk paying a high price for an item you may or may not like. And if you do pay top dollar for the new products, it's probably at the expense, literally, of the brands you have been a loyal consumer of. Companies need you to buy the new products, AND to keep buying your favorites.

Innovative companies like General Mills, Kraft, and Kellogg's/Kashi, Proctor and Gamble, Clorox… are but a few of the companies than have recently developed “consumer advisor” programs to allow consumers to purchase full size products at the store for free. Consumers then have the opportunity to give feedback to the companies on everything from taste to pricing, and of course to spread the word with coupons on products to friends and family.

We have recently researched and updated our guides to brand sampling programs, brand consumer advisor panels, and other coupon sources on our individual brand pages. Look through your favorite brands, and sign up for their panels. Many programs are “invitation only”, so if you don't see a program listed, contact the company and ask if they have one, or sign up for their newsletter and be on the invite list when one is developed.

Here are two of my favorite free product programs:

General Mills Pssst advisory board. Pssst is the new consumer advisory board from General Mills. This program is similar to the Kraft First Taste program, sending out free product coupons, as well as samples and coupons to share, with members.

From the Pssst homepage

Pssst… also offers a behind-the-scenes look at General Mills and occasionally an opportunity to give your opinion about products and initiatives. Pssst… is fun and it’s free to Join.

Pssst…is all about some of the best known food and consumer brands in the country. If you would like to receive news about new products (and even samples and coupons from time to time), you can become a member.

To date, many of the coupon programs have been for 'favorite' existing products, like Pillsbury Pizza Dough, Progresso Soups, Yoplait Yogurt, as well as some of the new products. Typically members are provided one coupon for a FREE PRODUCT, by mail, along with 10 high value dollar off coupons to share with friends (such as $1.50 off one pizza dough, which typically is sale priced at $1 – $2). Other offers have included free product printable coupons, with links to share high value coupons with friends via email. There are also sweepstakes, games, recipes, and surveys.

Kraft First Taste community program. Kraft First Taste is a “redo” of their previous Food and Family consumer program. Since Kraft F&F sent out regular newsletter emails, the free sample promotions often got lost in inboxes. Under this new program, the invitations come out under a separate email address and the subjects lines are fairly clear that it's time to try a new products.

From the Kraft First Taste home page:

  • We add new products all the time, so come back often.
  • Try our products, and then visit First Taste to tell us what you think.
  • Fill out our quick surveys so we can learn even more about your likes and dislikes
  • Sign up…Learn about great new products and activities – they'll be ready for you to check out on your personal home page
  • Coupons are usually sent by postal mail, and include one free product coupon and up to 3 high value coupons. After you have tried a products and provided feedback, links are typically provided to invite friends to receive their own free product coupons, or high value coupons. You can invite up to ten friends at a time, and the second round coupons go quickly.

    Free products from Kraft are always for new products. They are often fairly high value, such as full size DiGiorno pizzas, but also include Jell-O singles and Flat Bread melts. It all depends upon your profile, and the feedback you provide; the more feedback you give, the more likely you are to be invited to receive more free products and to be given choices as to the products you would like to try.

    To find more about these and other brand consumer testing programs, as well as newsletters, coupons, and other current offers, start with our new brand resource guide page, click on the link for the brand you are interested in, and you'll be taken to a new page of all current resources, advisory panels, newsletters, coupons, contacts, and other information for that brand.

    If you know of a program not currently listed, just email us or post a comment, and we'll get the appropriate links added in.

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