Bags seem to occupy a permanent spot atop SAGE’s monthly report of the 25 most popular promotional products, consistently ranking No. 1 for at least the past year.

It’s no wonder – a branded shopping bag or tote provides end users with a useful product that also happens to function as a walking billboard. And, as plastic bag bans take hold across the country (and the globe), branded totes become a must-have for any grocery run.

Trader Joe’s may have the strongest branded bag game in the grocery business, with a variety of styles and materials to choose from, and consumer research group GWI reports that 82% of regular Trader Joe’s customers try to use reusable shopping bags – which is almost double the rate of their use by the general population.

When Trader Joe’s released a miniature version of its beloved canvas tote at the beginning of March, fans on TikTok sparked a frenzy that saw the $3 bags sell out quickly. RetailWire reports that “scenes of pandemonium ensued” in stores where the bags were in stock, not unlike the stampedes for Stanley tumblers in Target stores earlier this year.

And some lucky shoppers posted their prizes on resale sites asking $700 for a single bag. A Trader Joe’s spokesperson said the company, which does not sell any of its wares online, does not condone reselling its products.

The mini totes, available in four bright colors and intended as a limited release, sold faster than the company anticipated, according to a statement. In response to the outstanding demand, the grocer announced via the Inside Trader Joe’s podcast that it will be restocking the mini totes later this summer. “We’re working on having them come back in the same colors,” said Matt Sloan, vice president of marketing, “probably by late August, early September.”

Trader Joe's mini totes in four colors

IMAGE: Trader Joe’s

The popularity of the totes has drawn comparisons to Stanley, with one TikTok user calling it “The totes version of the Stanley cup,” and another commenting, “Here we go again.” Even CBS Sunday Morning weighed in, tweeting that “Stanley needs to make some room for Joe.”


But the canvas totes are only one of the grocer’s selection of reusable bags, which also includes insulated totes and a host of woven polypropylene shoppers printed with everything from a can of corn to the ski slopes of Colorado. These colorful 99-cent bags – mostly celebrating states, but with a few cities in the mix, too – are all over the resale sites, with asking prices from $3 for one to $99 for a set of three or four. (Full disclosure: At least two members of the PPAI Media staff have small personal collections of these bags.)

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And while the grocer seems displeased by the reselling of its products online, Trader Joe’s clearly knows its bags are big business – and limited stock and seasonal releases are its bread-and-butter marketing strategy. In December 2023, the company brought back its “mystery bags” – a random assortment of three of those colorful shoppers – for the first time since 2019.

Naturally, Trader Joe’s fans took to social media to share their excitement and strategies for how to get more different designs (and how to flip them for resale), as well as unbagging videos revealing their hauls.

By selling these creatively decorated – and wildly collectible – shoppers at such a low price, Trader Joe’s gives fans something to crave and earns headlines and social media posts in the process. Not bad for a few humble grocery bags.

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