Food Sampling in a Pandemic

By Russ Muth, VP Client Services

Until 2020, food sampling could be a contact sport—consumers get to Costco in the mini-van, hit the aisles, and sample enough food and beverages to call it ‘lunch’.  Then spend $300 on extra large CPG packs and leave.  The pandemic has curbed that pleasant grazing activity to a full-stop.  And experiential marketing events that were mainstays of CPG sampling have also slowed.

What can food CPG’s do in 2021 to get consumers to try their products, and subsequently adopt them into pantry rotation?  How can retailers adopt to the new reality of curbside pick-up or home delivery?  Can it be cost effective?

Yes, and I see two ways to do it (safely).

  1. Many consumers have now used curbside pick-up or home delivery for groceries.  The pandemic will eventually pass, but the behavior will stick for many.  Retailers and manufacturers can partner to put packaged food samples into every bag that gets filled and sent out the door for pick up or for home delivery.  Once home, consumers will be surprised and delighted to discover the free food sample, and feel safe trialing it.  Smart manufacturers include a coupon for immediate bounce back to kick off the adoption cycle.
  2. One of the best carriers for a trial food sample is another food package that consumers already trust and purchase.  For example, a typical cereal box you buy for the family has enough headspace for a single serve pouch of dried fruit, or a breakfast bar, or a pouched coffee sample (which goes great with cereal).  This is a much more targeted sampling opportunity than random grazing tables at Costco.

Food sampling does work.  Consumers are happy to buy a newly discovered tasty treat that breaks their current pantry rotation.  Grazing will morph into tasting, and brand adoption in 2021.

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