The world of lab consumable sales is a competitive battle field of cut throat companies all fighting over a handful of confused researchers. Each company looking for a weapon in their arsenal to give them an edge.

Much like that metaphor those poor researchers end up feeling stretched and confused.

Over the years I’ve been offered all kinds of things to entice my research money out of my account; competitions, a free iPod, a day out in Swindon and even the chance to be in an advert. But all of these have been nothing compared to the convincing power of lab snacks.

I’m not sure which company did it fist but lab snacks are snacks that get shipped with our lab orders as freebies to enjoy with our newly purchased items.

The first lab snack I was ever sent was by a chemical company that shipped me a packet of sweets with my order of Bovine Serum Albumin. Some what confusingly (and possibly dangerously) the sweets were in an identical chemical pot made up to look like sweets. Luckily the parcel arrived after my morning coffee and I spotted it before automatically filing them in the chemical store.

Since then I’ve been sent a metric ton of random sweets with orders. The parts for my laser always arrive with a packet of dried fruit and nuts and a stick of gum (presumably to get nut bits out of my teeth).

When I was setting up my new lab a while back I was ordering so frequently that I got enough boxes of snacks to completely cover a desk. My kids had a very varied sweet diet that year.

And it works! I have heard colleges say that they will use one company over another because they get snacks and they were running out. I knew some students that were collecting the free snack boxes just so they could add to the giant wall of snack boxes they had created in their office.

But that’s not to say that snacks are always a good thing.

One company that I won’t name always ships snacks with their items, regardless of size. Which is an issue because the things I often order from them are around 1 cm in size which looks a little ridiculous along side a massive box of 15 different types of sweets. Starts to feel a lot like ordering off a sweet shipping company that includes free optics in their orders.

Also sometimes the sweets themselves aren’t always the most appropriate. Included in some glassware once was a jar of jelly beans. I picked up the package (which was covered in FRAGILE stickers) from the shelf in our stores only to hear what sounded a lot like a lot of small pieces rattling to gather. One mini panic attack later and a lot of careful unwrapping I discovered a rattling jar of sweets and not the box of broken glass wear I was expecting to find.

Overall I welcome this new trend in getting all my snacks for free from lab companies. Salaries are pretty tight in the research sector and if I can reduce my food bill in favour of free snacks I’m all for it!

And any companies wishing to explore new ideas for snacks are very welcome to send me some to try. I will provide detailed feedback on your snack choices to help you decided what to send people in the future.

This is absolutely not a ruse to get free snacks… unless you’re okay with that in which case it is, pls send free snacks.

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Simon Leather · 15 January 2020 at 13:31

I’m jealous – I never get freebies with my orders – perhaps it is a discipline thing

    Matthew (@MCeeP) · 28 January 2020 at 13:44

    This article went into Laboratory news so hopefully other suppliers will see it and think “wait why aren’t we doing this!”

James Bremner · 17 January 2020 at 18:53

Sheesh. What sort of loser students do you know that try to build walls or the like from snack boxes?

    Matthew (@MCeeP) · 28 January 2020 at 13:45

    I know right! I think it’s best they remain anonymous to try and preserve their dignity of being called out like this

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