Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry casselld@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: Sample Sales Power

In celebration of its grand re-opening, my local Dominick’s store in Evanston, Ill., recently held a preview party, where it offered free samples of everything from its own Signature Café brand soups (the surprisingly spicy Tuscan Tomato Basil is delish) to its in-store bakery breads (Carmelized Onion Ciabatta, please) to its O Organics brand Italian Soda (try the Blood Orange – yum). Prior to the re-opening, the store also sent its customers coupons promising everything from free eggs and bananas to a dollar off any private label product (including its nicely packaged organic milk and dark chocolate bars).

 
When I told one of my colleagues (a former Evanstonian himself) about the re-opening activities, he asked if all stores were starting to copy the Costco method of sampling. I told him Costco is not the first to offer customers a preview of products as incentive to buy.
 
As a kid growing up in Muscatine, Iowa, I didn’t exactly look forward to grocery shopping with my mother (who loves the supermarket more than the mall), but I did enjoy one aspect of the experience: free food. Our local Sun-Mart and Hy-Vee stores always offered generous samples, in the form of meats and cheeses on toothpicks, broken up cookies and bread loaves, and small cups of juice, among other items.
 
Today, Costco, Sam’s Club and Whole Foods are the first stores that come to mind when I think of sampling, but my neighborhood Jewel store recently began introducing samples, too (else I never would have discovered that tasty Jewel brand Italian sausage). Retailers are wise to latch onto this marketing method, especially in an economy such as ours. After all, tasting is believing … and that can translate into buying.
 
As mentioned, stores often use samples to boost sales of private label offerings, which continue to succeed in this recession. (Just ask Candy Industry sister publication PL Buyer, www.privatelabelbuyer.com.) CI sister publication Brand Packaging also can attest to this fact: At the magazine’s fall 2009 Packaging That Sells conference, the brains behind SUPER-VALU, Inc.’s Wild Harvest brand will speak about how the company is addressing consumer demand for value as well as their continued interest in natural and organic products throughout its various stores, which include Jewel. (For more information, visit www.packagingthatsells.com.)
 
But back to Dominick’s, my new favorite place to shop. Truth be told, I usually make my weekly grocery purchases at Jewel, where items are sometimes more affordable. But if Dominick’s is going to continue to offer great deals beyond the July 4 expiration dates on those coupons it mailed me, then I might be adding a second stop on my shopping trips.
 
In fact, just today, I visited www.dominicks.com, where I learned I could clip coupons from my mobile phone or PC using Cell Fire or even load coupons right onto my Dominick’s fresh values card using ShortCuts.com.
 
I went with the latter, and soon, I was adding discounts to my card for products ranging from Fiber One Chewy Granola Bars to Chex Mix and Chex Mix Bars to Betty Crocker Brownie and Cookie Mix to Betty Crocker Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers, Fruit Roll-ups, and Fruit Roll-Ups Fruit Stickerz Fruit Flavored Snacks.
 
But first, I was asked to take a short survey from ShortCuts.com and AllYou.com about how the economy has affected my life. Loving surveys of any kind (maybe it’s the journalist in me), I obliged. Questions included the following: How have your spending habits changed because of the economy? What is your biggest challenge to saving money? What technique do you use most frequently that helps you save the most money? How much money do you save every week using coupons? In which categories would you like to see more coupons? (I’d be curious to see the results of this questionnaire.)
 
 I will continue to frequent the Dominick’s Web site (and Jewel’s, for that matter), in search of great deals. And I certainly hope to see more sampling upon future visits. After all, it won’t be long before my bag of Ciabatta, canister of soup and bottle of Italian Soda will be empty.

E-Blast Benefits

Free in-store samples and Web site-searchable coupons aren’t the only ways to reach consumers. I regularly receive weekly and even daily e-blasts from both manufacturers and retailers. For example, today I got one from Godiva, offering me a free dipped strawberry with my next $25 purchase; the e-blast also promoted its new limited-edition vanilla mousse cups for $4.50 each. And this morning, I was sent something from confectionery retailer Dylan’s Candy Bar, offering me 50% off shipping of two-day, overnight and Saturday deliveries, in honor of Father’s Day, whilst promoting Father’s Day gifts such as Sugar Daddy Milk Caramel Pops, Milk Chocolate Baseball Gloves, “Best Dad" Chocolate Lollipops and a “Nostalgia Tool Box” Gift Basket. If you’re not reaching shoppers on a weekly basis, you might consider this method of virtual communication, too.


Cargill reopens chocolate plant; tampering investigation continues

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate has resumed production at its Lititz, Pa., chocolate plant on Monday after temporarily closing the facility to enable a food tampering investigation by the government. After discovering “unusual pieces of foreign material in processed goods on three separate occasions” at its Lititz, Pa., chocolate plant last week, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate shuttered the facility last Friday and called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine the source of the tampering as well as prevent any reoccurrence. No tampered product was shipped to or received by customers, confirms Lori Fligge, media relations director for Cargill.
 
“All product in question has been quarantined for investigation and ultimately will be destroyed,” she said. The company has also installed additional anti-tampering measures. “Cargill is uncompromising with food safety,” Fligge added. “We have processes in place to ensure that the product we send to our customers is safe – we have no tolerance for anything less.”
 
According to a Pioneer Press article published last Friday, Chocolate Workers Local 464 remains embroiled in a contract dispute with the company for the past two years. Last week the company introduced a pay cut to its hourly workers, the newspaper reported.
 
For more information, visit www.cargill.com.


Nearly three-quarters of U.S. families buy organic products

Despite tightening their belts, U.S. families have not given up on purchasing organic products, according to a new study sponsored by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and KIWI magazine. In fact, 73% of U.S. families buy organic products at least occasionally, chiefly for health reasons, the report revealed.
 
Findings from the 2009 U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study also show that three in ten U.S. families (31%) are actually buying more organic foods compared to a year ago, with many parents preferring to reduce their spending in other areas before targeting organic product cuts. In fact, 17% of U.S. families said their largest increases in spending in the past year were for organic products.
 
"These findings reinforce the data collected in OTA's 2009 Organic Industry Survey that showed continued healthy growth in U.S. sales of organic products," said Christine Bushway, OTA's executive director.
 
Managed by RMI Research and Consulting, LLC, the study was fielded among U.S. households during April. Highlights of the findings will be presented tomorrow in Chicago at the All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show keynote session "Into the Mouths of Babes-Parents' Reflections on Organic for Kids" at 9:30 a.m.
 
For more information, visit www.ota.com.


Yogavive rolls out Yogachips

Made from only 100% USDA NOP certified organic Fuji apples, Yogavive's Yogachips are produced using a two-step drying process that combines baking and popping, thus providing an airy yet crunchy texture while still delivering all the nutrients and flavors of fresh fruit.
 
Available in five flavors - Original, Caramel, Apple Cinnamon, Peach and Strawberry -Yogachips have zero fat, contain no added sugar and provide only 35 calories per serving. The are also gluten-free and certified Ecocert, vegan, kosher and halal. There are no pesticides, chemicals or preservatives and Yogavive employs minimal mechanization to reducing the energy inputs needed for production.
 
For more information, visit www.yogavive.com.


Lake Champlain adds new Five Star Bar

It took more than 20 samples before Lake Champlain Chocolates owner Jim Lampman and product development guru David Bolton were satisfied with the fifth variety for the company’s Five Star Bar line.
 
"David and I have been working together for 22 years and I have the utmost confidence in our creative process,” Lapman says. “Over 20 samples later, with dozens of different granola recipes, we have a bar that meets the standards we've set for ourselves as a premium chocolatier.”
 
Still made by hand to ensure the large chunky inclusions, this healthier choice contains LCC's own maple granola, roasted almonds, oats and tart dried cranberries, blended together with chocolate and almond paste. LLC has won many awards and accolades for its Five Star Bars over the years, making them a top-selling item. The new Dark Chocolate Granola variety rounds out the collection, which includes Caramel, Peanut, Fruit & Nut and Hazelnut, and bridges the gap between indulgence and a healthy snack.
 
For more information, visit www.LakeChamplainChocolates.com.


sweet of the week: Goetze Gourmet Caramel Creams

Perhaps best known for itsGoetzebrandCaramel CreamsandCow Tales, Goetze Candy Co., Inc. recently introduced two new products. Goetze Gourmet Double Chocolate Caramel Creams are rich chocolate caramel wrapped around even richer chocolate centers; they’re also naturally flavored and a good source of calcium, delivering 30% of the recommended daily allotment per serving - as much as an 8-oz. glass of milk.Goetze Gourmet Licorice Caramel Creams offer a unique combination of licorice caramel wrapped around rich, creamy centers; the product is flavored with natural licorice extract and fortified with calcium and fiber, delivering 30% and 11% of the recommended daily allotments, respectively. Both varieties are available in 9-oz. gusseted bags and packed 12 to a master case. The suggested retail price per bag is $2.99.

For more information, visit www.goetzecandy.com.