Sampling Is Back at Whole Foods

Patrycja Malinowska
Associate Director - Content, P2PI
Patrycja Malinowska profile picture

The revival of sampling at Whole Foods Market indicates a tentative return to relative normalcy as retailers and brands find creative solutions following months of COVID-19 restrictions.

A tactic that had been all but struck from the marketing playbook amid pandemic safety concerns is now back at the grocer, as evidenced by a sampling station spotted at one Woodbury, MN, location this past weekend. Unlike sampling efforts of days long gone — which usually comprised plastic grab bowls outfitted with a serving spoon and filled with opened foods such as fresh-cut fruit, guacamole, gluten-free crackers, or cheese cubes — today’s “new normal” required a sneeze guard and individually packaged units.

Adapting to the times, the sampling station spotted at Whole Foods checked off both safety requirements, offering up small, sealed containers of Cedar’s organic hommus from manufacturer Cedar Mediterranean Foods. The individually packaged units of hommus were kept on ice underneath a clear shield separating shoppers from the employee manning the station and were intended to be taken “to-go” and sampled at home.

The safe sampling experience not only removed the possibility of spreading the virus but also of triggering an impulse purchase, undoubtedly making it more difficult to convert samplers to buyers. To counter that drawback, Cedar’s made a concerted effort to extend consideration beyond the store. The brand offered a take-one recipe booklet delivering directions for small dishes incorporating hommus, such as “sweet potato sliders,” while delivering a coupon awarding $1 off any two SKUs that is valid through the end of the year.

The booklet also shared Cedar’s brand story, invited consumers to follow the brand on social media and offered a number they could text for more deals. A counter sign displaying a clear “Stop! Hommus Time” call to action also invited shoppers to follow the brand on Instagram, promising an unspecified coupon.

In related account-specific activity, Cedar’s in an Oct. 21 Instagram update touted the $25,000 it has donated to Whole Foods’ nonprofit Whole Planet Foundation this year that will fund microcredit loans to 143 entrepreneurs around the world.

Other actions taken by Whole Foods as it reimagines stores for today’s “new normal” are the reopening of some self-serve food bars with the addition of one-way access via controlled queues with a designated entrance and exit. At the food bars, counter signs indicate that “For everyone’s safety, sampling is not permitted at this time.”