Remember tastings? If you are a child of a certain decade, this was a big attraction to accompany mom or dad to the grocery store. Dare I say it was a staple. For many reasons, be it costs, or the utilization of our produce bins, tastings were becoming less frequent, and then through the pandemic – non-existent.
In our most recent grape season, we dipped back into the tasting experiential marketing pool. Following this series of highly successful tastings with our partners at Lunds & Byerlys, we had the opportunity to sit down with Vanguard International’s CEO, Craig Stauffer, to discuss the role of samplings and tastings in the produce industry.
Traditionally, tastings and samplings have been rare occurrences in the produce industry for various reasons. One of the primary challenges is the high cost associated with conducting tastings for fresh produce. Compared to frozen and pantry aisle staples, profit margins are much smaller compared to frozen foods or products found in the middle aisles.
Some individuals may question the necessity of demos specifically for grapes, but this assumption, we believe, is misguided. The value of demos showcasing fresh produce is often underestimated. Currently, there is a critical missing piece in the puzzle, both at the retail level and on the larger scale, and that is consumer education. This lack of tastings seems to be doing the category a disservice. With produce items like grapes and apples, the unique varietals being developed by breeders are difficult to discern by look and SKU alone. Having a sampling experience creates the opportunity to share a bit more about the flavor profiles, pairing suggestions, and usage recommendations. Of course, there is also the benefit of allowing the customer to try before they buy. This can add a lot of value for the consumer given the rising cost of grocery bills being felt these days.
Based on our recent experiences at Lunds & Byerlys, we saw a direct correlation between sampling and increased sales. The positive response we received from consumers and our partner during these events reaffirms the positive impact that tastings can have on the produce industry.
Undoubtedly, the irregularity of produce tastings can be attributed to the significant costs involved in an industry that operates on historically narrow margins. Securing space at the retail level for offering samples can also be challenging. Regardless, as breeders develop new varieties, giving them a proper introduction is an important step in familiarizing consumers with the quality and taste of these globally grown gems.