In-store sampling is certainly an important promotional tool, but the high costs associated with it can force consumer packaged goods manufacturers to use it sparingly or, in some situations, not at all.
In these cases, co-op promotions can make all the difference. Rather than focusing on one product, co-op promotions involve two or more items. All manufacturers involved in the event typically share the cost.
Co-op sampling was one of the reasons Dr Pepper/Seven Up partnered with the H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, for a major sampling program at Weis Markets, Sunbury, Pa. The event was part of a "Holiday Fest" that ran in 70 Weis stores last month.
The event teamed Dr Pepper/Seven Up's "dnL," a new green-colored soft drink, with the TGI Friday's frozen snack-food line from Heinz. Through the partnership, both TGI Friday's and Dr Pepper/Seven Up saved about 50% of what they would have paid if their products were sampled alone.
"If it weren't for the reduced cost, I probably wouldn't have done the event," said Kevin Rodden, national account executive, Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Plano, Texas, a division of Cadbury Schweppes, London.
Co-op sampling is especially helpful to smaller brands that may not have the promotional dollars that the large CPG firms have. But big CPG companies are just as interested in saving money as smaller ones.
A Co-Op Advocate
That's the case at General Mills, Minneapolis, which relies on sampling as a way to build its brands in Wal-Mart and other retail stores. Co-op events are particularly important, said Bill Sloan, assistant manager, Wal-Mart promotions, General Mills.
"We look to partner with other brands any time we can," Sloan said. Under one event, General Mills paired its Betty Crocker frostings and cake mixes with Land O Lakes Dairy Ease, a lactose-free milk from Morningstar Foods. Morningstar is a subsidiary of Dean Foods Co., Dallas.
The event took place in more than 500 Wal-Mart Supercenter stores this past spring. During the promotion, event personnel mixed, baked and frosted Betty Crocker cakes, and distributed samples to consumers with a sample of Dairy Ease milk.
Over 232,000 samples were distributed, generating an overall sales lift of 302%, according to Sherry Smith, vice president, Mass Connections, the Cerritos, Calif., in-store promotion company that ran the event.
General Mills relies on co-op sampling in Wal-Mart and other stores not only because it improves the shopping experience for consumers, but also because it helps to stretch its promotional dollars.
Meal Solutions Sell
When deciding on which manufacturer to partner with, manufacturers should pay special attention to products that can offer a meal idea, like fruit on cereal.
"Everyone is in a hurry, so if you give them a meal solution, everyone wins," said Caroline Nakken, principal of Mass Connections.
That includes the retailer. Ann Foulds, special events coordinator, Weis Markets, said co-op sampling can lead to an event involving more stores, plus encourage shoppers to put two extra products in their baskets, rather than one.
"We would prefer a co-op event rather than lose an event all together or have an event run in fewer stores," she said.
Co-op sampling is so important at Weis that Foulds keeps a file of certain brands that are conducive to partnerships.
Weis' attitude toward co-op events demonstrates how sampling has evolved from being just about spurring case sales to creating a unique customer impression, said David Rich, president, All-Ways In-Store, Wayne, N.J., an in-store promotion company.
Art Averbook, president, Co-Op Promotions, Hollywood, Fla., a sales promotion company, agreed, saying co-op promotions encourage shoppers to stay in the store longer and possibly go down an aisle they had not planned.
Along with in-store demonstrations, this can be done with other co-op sampling events, such as those that take the form of samples on and inside a product package.
Such was the case for a program Co-Op Promotions created for health and beauty care manufacturer Chattem, Chattanooga, Tenn. Chattem paired its Bull Frog sun block with ChapStick lip moisturizer this past spring. Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, Madison, N.J., manufactures ChapStick.
Free samples of a full size of ChapStick were shrink-wrapped to packages of Bull Frog as part of a spring-themed Bull Frog display. The goal of the event was to encourage retailers to accept and support the special Bull Frog displays, according to Holly Sisson, marketing manager, Bull Frog.