Supermarket Perimeter - August 2020 - 28

Deli

CHEESE
sampling
Alternatives to sampling
amid the pandemic

WHILE THE GROCERY INDUSTRY HAS BEGUN TO FIND A "NEW
NORMAL" through a new way of doing things due to COVID-19,
sampling has been one of the more difficult categories to bring back
to its former glory. Consumers are still hesitant when it comes to using
shared spaces such as sampling stations.
For specialty cheeses, sampling has always been a key tactic to
encourage customers to try out a new type of specialty cheese, said
Mike Currie, marketing director of Fairfield, N.J.-based Schuman Cheese.
"Especially cheese, it's typically a higher-dollar item and you have
a lot of different brands and a lot of different cheese types," he said.
"So, people are a little reluctant to shell out the cash to dabble in that
category unless they know what they're getting into. That's how
sampling really helps us drive that trial and familiarity so they're more
comfortable picking up a more expensive piece of cheese. It's been a
challenge in replicating the success we've had with sampling programs."
Most retailers are abstaining from resuming sampling stations any
time soon, and cheese suppliers like Schuman are searching for new
ways to offer customers the same benefits of sampling without the act
of offering free-for-all samples in the store.

Instore alternatives
Although it's more of a challenge in pandemic times to reach customers
as they are shopping in the store, there are a few things retailers can do
to entice specialty cheese purchases.
Eric Richard, industry relations coordinator at the Madison, Wis.based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), suggests that
28 - AUGUST 2020

retailers use the same tactics that have been explored and successful in
the other areas of the deli department.
"I think you can really use the same model when it comes to specialty
cheese," Richard said. "There is a way to open up consumers' taste
buds to special cheeses by offering a variety pack of cut and chuncked
cheeses that someone can quickly pick up in the deli, that's already prepackaged in a grab-n-go style. That's a way to engage consumers."
Since physical demos aren't much of an option anymore, Schuman
Cheese has been working with some of its retail partners to offer virtual
demos instore. Currie said that they plan to have a display area set up
instore with Schuman's available cheeses along with signage and a QR
code where customers can go to learn more about the cheese and ask
questions.
"It's not quite tasting it, but customers can see how the cheese can
be used, what recipes it goes in, and they can kind of start to form a
picture in their mind of, 'Hey, this is a cheese I could really use and use
often,'" Currie said. "It's all the circumstance of a demo, just without
the actual trying of the product. Typically, with demos a customer will
ask the person there questions about how to use the cheese, and we're
still able to answer those questions virtually, so we can still educate the
consumer."
Montreal-based Saputo Cheese has been working with retailers to
reach customers when they come through drive-up grocery pickup.
The cheesemaker has noticed that some grocers are dropping in
samples of non-perishable products along with a customer's order, and
they've applied a similar tactic with their products. Instead of giving

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LAPLATERESCA - STOCK.ADOBE.COM, SCHUMAN CHEESE

BY EMILY PARK


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Supermarket Perimeter - August 2020

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