How a Grocery Leader Used Sampling to Win Hearts and Minds


by Joel Stark
Snowfox Marketing Director

MARKETING EXPERT DENISE LEE-YOHN WROTE THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO. Online and in her public appearances, Yohn speaks frequently about sampling as a retail best practice. (And smart people listen to her–she has over 12,000 Twitter followers!)

On her blog Brand-as-Business Bites, Yohn lists sampling under the best retail practice of Sensory Engagement, or involving the guest with a full experience of touch, smells, and taste.

She best illustrates the impact of the practice in a great David and Goliath story that has played out in the same grocery stores in which we operate. At Snowfox, we’re particularly moved by stories of the little guy getting ahead because when we started we faced a giant competitor who had been in the market for several years.

Are you turning every  possible person  into  a sushi  lover  by changing  the roll you sample?

As Yohn recounts, the now-popular Greek yogurt company Chobani wasn’t Greek or American but Turkish. To give you some perspective on how tough it might be for a Turkish company to enter the U.S. market, according to the World Bank American trade partner Japan’s capital city Tokyo has a higher gross domestic product (the dollar amount of all goods and services produced) than the entire country of Turkey!

Adding to Chobani’s challenge, when they first entered grocery stores they faced yogurt giants Dannon and Yoplait. These brands were long-established household names with American moms. But, like Snowfox, Chobani knew they had something special. Greek yogurt had a richer taste and texture than traditional western varieties.

The answer to them succeeding in, or even surviving in, grocery stores was to heavily sample it with customers. As a result, Yohn tells us, by 2012 Chobani had seized a 40 percent market share from those yogurt leaders. Today, according to most sources, they maintain a third of all grocery yogurt sales… against two companies who’d been doing it for decades!

Does this story sound familiar? In a strikingly similar fashion, both Snowfox and Chobani haven’t rested on our successes. Rather taking our giant competitor seriously, we’ve found ways to make believers customer to customer! And, as Chobani is reportedly doing now, we both further diversified our brand through brick-and-mortar restaurants.

To us this success story validates what we’re already doing in your store by sampling. But… have you considered ways you could improve your sampling? (See My Story on page 16 for how one successful Snowfox chef is turning guests on to more premium items.)

Considering not all your potential customers will love the New York Crunch Roll, for example, are you turning every possible person into a sushi lover by changing the roll you sample from week to week?

As long as you remember to offer samples of our homerun rolls like the New York Crunch, whatever you sample—even the Veggie Roll—will turn into sales. And the more varieties your guests enjoy, the less likely they’ll get bored with sushi!

Be the star of the store: This is show business, and you may be the only expert your guest speaks to in the store today. Use sampling as an opportunity to learn their likes and dislikes, to offer your expertise, or to simply give a customer a compliment, ensuring they’ll remember your sushi bar! TSS