Tips for Sampling

A toothpick speared in a hot dog or an apple slice may work well in other supermarket departments, but grocerants offer unique foods that demand unique ways of engaging shoppers through sight, smell and taste.

"When you're serving fully cooking prepared foods, you want [shoppers] to feel like, even fore a few moments, that you are welcoming them into a different environment," says Steve Dragoo, founder and president of Solution Consulting in Nashville, Tenn., who works with clients to design and stage custom earning immersions and lead one-of-a-kind culinary experiences. "It's not the fluorescent lights that are in the other part of the supermarket or the sounds of carts banging into the turnstile at the front of the store. Instead, you're ushered into an enclosed environment, where people walk in and can picture how they can serve these foods at home or at the home of a friend."

Dragoo offers these tips for best engaging grocerant consumers through sampling:

1. Elevate the sampling method.

Presentation is important. Even if you have nice napkins, there is a difference between serving something in a good souffle cup and in something that looks cheap, says Dragoo. Spending 7 cents vs. 3 cents on a sampling vehicle can lead to more positive impressions – and sales. "If you make [shoppers] feel speicial in the process, they can imagine themselves serving the food to people who matter to them, and then they feel something special about you," he says.

2. Set the mood.

If you have white tablecloth items or that kind of environment, have someone doing the samples be dressed the way they would be in a white tablecloth restaurant. "You can create a whole sense of theater," he says.

3. Consider a feature of the day.

:If you go into a restaurant, you often see today's feature, which may or may not be discounted. You're pointing [shoppers] towards something good to try," he says.

4. Think bigger.

Suggest a whole meal occasion for customers through sampling.

5. Have a protocol for situations like giving samples to minors and handling common allergens.

For shoppers with allergies, suggest they go to an ancillary display area that has gluten-free or allergen-free items. With children, you'll need to first get permission from a parent or adult guardian before giving them samples.

6. Depending on your store's staffing model, grocerant staff can be strong merchandisers.

No one knows and is more passionate about the food than those who create the food, whether it's the executive chef, a consulting chef or an hourly employee who opened the bag of soup to heat. "If they are properly trained, they are the best advocates for food, plus they are a trusted face," says Dragoo.

7. Rethink sampling in general.

"Sometimes, a retailer will look at sampling as a cost item vs. an investment," he says, "but 75 percent of people who sample something are likely to buy it, and that holds true whether it's hot foods or cold beverages."


Article by Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer: Grocerant Solutions

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