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Sampling Tips From Christina Appleton of Appleton's Market

Christina Appleton is the founder of Appleton’s Market, a frozen foods company based in Los Angeles, CA.

Sampling Tips From Christina Appleton of Appleton's Market

Christina Appleton is the founder of Appleton’s Market, a frozen foods company based in Los Angeles, CA. The company produces steamable, microwave-ready Power Veggie Bites, made with locally sourced fresh vegetables, cage-free eggs, and hearty quinoa to turn a snack into a mini meal in less than a minute.

Christina has a rich history in the grocery business. She is a fourth-generation grocer who lived above her family’s store. The original Appleton’s Market was a Mom ‘n’ Pop grocery store founded by her great-grandparents in small-town Michigan. It’s where she fell in love with food, and it forever shaped her career.

She started off at General Mills in brand management, working on brands from Trix cereal to Green Giant vegetables. She made her way into ecomm by joining healthy e-tailer Thrive Market where she led the merchandising and vendor marketing programs teams. Focusing on better-for-you products quickly became her passion.

After consulting for years on others’ natural products businesses, she created her own company to help make everyone's lives a little bit easier and a little bit healthier – which was the birth of her Appleton's Market.

Before diving into the wild world of sampling, it is important to note that the VAST majority of sampling opportunities, especially in a COVID or slightly post-COVID world, are for shelf-stable products. As a sampling aficionado, Christina was frustrated by this and recently built lower-cost multi-brand sampling program for products that can ship refrigerated - if you are interested in learning more please drop her a line at christina@appletonsmarket.com

HOW SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT SAMPLING FOR YOUR BRAND?

  • If you believe that you have a great product (and let’s hope that you do because launching a brand isn’t easy!) then sampling should be a cornerstone of your marketing efforts. Food is unique in that people can easily try before they buy, and in many cases expect to be able to try something before they go all in. If you’re a DTC brand (or don’t have large in-person distribution) this can be a little tricky to tackle so I’m going to lay out a few different tactics that you can use to cost-effectively get your product out there.
  • This brings me to my next point - costs. Definitely don’t start sampling until you have a good idea of what your “all in” costs will be - from COGS to freight to personnel. This will give you a much better sense of how to break up your marketing budget vs other efforts.
  • Lastly, the fewer “friction points” that a consumer has between trying a product and purchasing it, the more effective the sampling program will be. So the “Mable at the Table” programs at Costco are going to be very effective, whereas a direct mail campaign for one’s own branded site will most likely have a lower conversion rate.

WHAT ARE SOME GREAT SAMPLING PROGRAMS I CAN TRY RIGHT NOW?

Brick & Mortar

  • Albertsons/Safeway grocery pickup program

  • Smaller retailers (like Erewhon) - sealed, individual units can be passed out for sampling

Ecommerce

  • Thrive Market - Gift with Purchase Program (both dedicated and shared with other brands - highest ROI marketing activity as brands frequently see the rest of their line sell out and experience high repeat

  • Hive - Gift with purchase program

  • SunBasket & Hungryroot - marketplace opportunity and order insertion programs. These are really the only opportunities for refrigerated and frozen brands.
Thrive Market Coupon: FREE Gift With Membership - Up to $24 Value! - hello subscription

Paid digital sampling companies - both great Canada-based, female-founded companies

  • Social Nature
  • Focus on better for you products
  • Drive customers to store via freebie vouchers that they send (you pay per send)
  • Great for increasing turns at targeted retailers
  • Launched a digital sampling program for COVID - usually customer pays small shipping fee to receive sample, they order direct from your site
  • Data collected - demographics, scores, locations, retailer

  • Sampler
  • CPG focus
  • Send physical sample to customers (can also do vouchers but not the focus)
  • Can have dedicated brand box or mixed brand box - great for smaller brands to get in at lower tiers
  • Data collected - demographics, scores, locations, retailers

Snack boxes

Largest is Caroo, min ask is 10K samples (unless vetted brand with special angle for box, then min may be lower e.g. BIPOC founder box). Because this is a large ask, you will get a dedicated dashboard for your campaign with 5-10 different questions/data points as well as free responses. Note: the more specific/targeted you can get with your box the better (e.g. BBQ box for meat rub company)

Caroo - Employee Gifting and Recognition Made Simple

Tapping into non-food companies

  • Showplace - Partners with AirBnB hosts to supply products in their short term rentals

Sampling at Events

As the world starts to open up again (and/or we do distanced outdoor events) the world of in person sampling is coming back. Here are some examples of companies that can streamline the process:

  • Recess - all-in-one platform that pulls together events all over the country. You can search by location, event type, event size, etc. Sample size is variable and you can include coupons/marketing materials, all for a pretty low fee per unit.

  • Eli Lunzer - sports events. Right now the biggest ones are celebrity golf invitationals - you can sponsor, be in gift bags, refreshment tents, etc. Have a somewhat higher buy in but for the right brands the sexy nature of celebrity events might be the best fit.

  • Natural Talent - focused on NYC events, partnering with retailers like lululemon and fitness gyms.

KEEP IN MIND

Beyond this, don’t be afraid to reach out to your current sales channels and ask if they have a sampling program or would be open to one! Retailers are always looking for ways to increase their customer experience and receiving great (free!) products is always a plus for shoppers.

Want more stories like these? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and you’ll get ’em sent each week.

Christina Appleton is the founder of Appleton’s Market, a frozen foods company based in Los Angeles, CA. The company produces steamable, microwave-ready Power Veggie Bites, made with locally sourced fresh vegetables, cage-free eggs, and hearty quinoa to turn a snack into a mini meal in less than a minute.

Christina has a rich history in the grocery business. She is a fourth-generation grocer who lived above her family’s store. The original Appleton’s Market was a Mom ‘n’ Pop grocery store founded by her great-grandparents in small-town Michigan. It’s where she fell in love with food, and it forever shaped her career.

She started off at General Mills in brand management, working on brands from Trix cereal to Green Giant vegetables. She made her way into ecomm by joining healthy e-tailer Thrive Market where she led the merchandising and vendor marketing programs teams. Focusing on better-for-you products quickly became her passion.

After consulting for years on others’ natural products businesses, she created her own company to help make everyone's lives a little bit easier and a little bit healthier – which was the birth of her Appleton's Market.

Before diving into the wild world of sampling, it is important to note that the VAST majority of sampling opportunities, especially in a COVID or slightly post-COVID world, are for shelf-stable products. As a sampling aficionado, Christina was frustrated by this and recently built lower-cost multi-brand sampling program for products that can ship refrigerated - if you are interested in learning more please drop her a line at christina@appletonsmarket.com

HOW SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT SAMPLING FOR YOUR BRAND?

  • If you believe that you have a great product (and let’s hope that you do because launching a brand isn’t easy!) then sampling should be a cornerstone of your marketing efforts. Food is unique in that people can easily try before they buy, and in many cases expect to be able to try something before they go all in. If you’re a DTC brand (or don’t have large in-person distribution) this can be a little tricky to tackle so I’m going to lay out a few different tactics that you can use to cost-effectively get your product out there.
  • This brings me to my next point - costs. Definitely don’t start sampling until you have a good idea of what your “all in” costs will be - from COGS to freight to personnel. This will give you a much better sense of how to break up your marketing budget vs other efforts.
  • Lastly, the fewer “friction points” that a consumer has between trying a product and purchasing it, the more effective the sampling program will be. So the “Mable at the Table” programs at Costco are going to be very effective, whereas a direct mail campaign for one’s own branded site will most likely have a lower conversion rate.

WHAT ARE SOME GREAT SAMPLING PROGRAMS I CAN TRY RIGHT NOW?

Brick & Mortar

  • Albertsons/Safeway grocery pickup program

  • Smaller retailers (like Erewhon) - sealed, individual units can be passed out for sampling

Ecommerce

  • Thrive Market - Gift with Purchase Program (both dedicated and shared with other brands - highest ROI marketing activity as brands frequently see the rest of their line sell out and experience high repeat

  • Hive - Gift with purchase program

  • SunBasket & Hungryroot - marketplace opportunity and order insertion programs. These are really the only opportunities for refrigerated and frozen brands.
Thrive Market Coupon: FREE Gift With Membership - Up to $24 Value! - hello subscription

Paid digital sampling companies - both great Canada-based, female-founded companies

  • Social Nature
  • Focus on better for you products
  • Drive customers to store via freebie vouchers that they send (you pay per send)
  • Great for increasing turns at targeted retailers
  • Launched a digital sampling program for COVID - usually customer pays small shipping fee to receive sample, they order direct from your site
  • Data collected - demographics, scores, locations, retailer

  • Sampler
  • CPG focus
  • Send physical sample to customers (can also do vouchers but not the focus)
  • Can have dedicated brand box or mixed brand box - great for smaller brands to get in at lower tiers
  • Data collected - demographics, scores, locations, retailers

Snack boxes

Largest is Caroo, min ask is 10K samples (unless vetted brand with special angle for box, then min may be lower e.g. BIPOC founder box). Because this is a large ask, you will get a dedicated dashboard for your campaign with 5-10 different questions/data points as well as free responses. Note: the more specific/targeted you can get with your box the better (e.g. BBQ box for meat rub company)

Caroo - Employee Gifting and Recognition Made Simple

Tapping into non-food companies

  • Showplace - Partners with AirBnB hosts to supply products in their short term rentals

Sampling at Events

As the world starts to open up again (and/or we do distanced outdoor events) the world of in person sampling is coming back. Here are some examples of companies that can streamline the process:

  • Recess - all-in-one platform that pulls together events all over the country. You can search by location, event type, event size, etc. Sample size is variable and you can include coupons/marketing materials, all for a pretty low fee per unit.

  • Eli Lunzer - sports events. Right now the biggest ones are celebrity golf invitationals - you can sponsor, be in gift bags, refreshment tents, etc. Have a somewhat higher buy in but for the right brands the sexy nature of celebrity events might be the best fit.

  • Natural Talent - focused on NYC events, partnering with retailers like lululemon and fitness gyms.

KEEP IN MIND

Beyond this, don’t be afraid to reach out to your current sales channels and ask if they have a sampling program or would be open to one! Retailers are always looking for ways to increase their customer experience and receiving great (free!) products is always a plus for shoppers.

Want more stories like these? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and you’ll get ’em sent each week.

Christina Appleton is the founder of Appleton’s Market, a frozen foods company based in Los Angeles, CA. The company produces steamable, microwave-ready Power Veggie Bites, made with locally sourced fresh vegetables, cage-free eggs, and hearty quinoa to turn a snack into a mini meal in less than a minute.

Christina has a rich history in the grocery business. She is a fourth-generation grocer who lived above her family’s store. The original Appleton’s Market was a Mom ‘n’ Pop grocery store founded by her great-grandparents in small-town Michigan. It’s where she fell in love with food, and it forever shaped her career.

She started off at General Mills in brand management, working on brands from Trix cereal to Green Giant vegetables. She made her way into ecomm by joining healthy e-tailer Thrive Market where she led the merchandising and vendor marketing programs teams. Focusing on better-for-you products quickly became her passion.

After consulting for years on others’ natural products businesses, she created her own company to help make everyone's lives a little bit easier and a little bit healthier – which was the birth of her Appleton's Market.

Before diving into the wild world of sampling, it is important to note that the VAST majority of sampling opportunities, especially in a COVID or slightly post-COVID world, are for shelf-stable products. As a sampling aficionado, Christina was frustrated by this and recently built lower-cost multi-brand sampling program for products that can ship refrigerated - if you are interested in learning more please drop her a line at christina@appletonsmarket.com

HOW SHOULD YOU THINK ABOUT SAMPLING FOR YOUR BRAND?

  • If you believe that you have a great product (and let’s hope that you do because launching a brand isn’t easy!) then sampling should be a cornerstone of your marketing efforts. Food is unique in that people can easily try before they buy, and in many cases expect to be able to try something before they go all in. If you’re a DTC brand (or don’t have large in-person distribution) this can be a little tricky to tackle so I’m going to lay out a few different tactics that you can use to cost-effectively get your product out there.
  • This brings me to my next point - costs. Definitely don’t start sampling until you have a good idea of what your “all in” costs will be - from COGS to freight to personnel. This will give you a much better sense of how to break up your marketing budget vs other efforts.
  • Lastly, the fewer “friction points” that a consumer has between trying a product and purchasing it, the more effective the sampling program will be. So the “Mable at the Table” programs at Costco are going to be very effective, whereas a direct mail campaign for one’s own branded site will most likely have a lower conversion rate.

WHAT ARE SOME GREAT SAMPLING PROGRAMS I CAN TRY RIGHT NOW?

Brick & Mortar

  • Albertsons/Safeway grocery pickup program

  • Smaller retailers (like Erewhon) - sealed, individual units can be passed out for sampling

Ecommerce

  • Thrive Market - Gift with Purchase Program (both dedicated and shared with other brands - highest ROI marketing activity as brands frequently see the rest of their line sell out and experience high repeat

  • Hive - Gift with purchase program

  • SunBasket & Hungryroot - marketplace opportunity and order insertion programs. These are really the only opportunities for refrigerated and frozen brands.
Thrive Market Coupon: FREE Gift With Membership - Up to $24 Value! - hello subscription

Paid digital sampling companies - both great Canada-based, female-founded companies

  • Social Nature
  • Focus on better for you products
  • Drive customers to store via freebie vouchers that they send (you pay per send)
  • Great for increasing turns at targeted retailers
  • Launched a digital sampling program for COVID - usually customer pays small shipping fee to receive sample, they order direct from your site
  • Data collected - demographics, scores, locations, retailer

  • Sampler
  • CPG focus
  • Send physical sample to customers (can also do vouchers but not the focus)
  • Can have dedicated brand box or mixed brand box - great for smaller brands to get in at lower tiers
  • Data collected - demographics, scores, locations, retailers

Snack boxes

Largest is Caroo, min ask is 10K samples (unless vetted brand with special angle for box, then min may be lower e.g. BIPOC founder box). Because this is a large ask, you will get a dedicated dashboard for your campaign with 5-10 different questions/data points as well as free responses. Note: the more specific/targeted you can get with your box the better (e.g. BBQ box for meat rub company)

Caroo - Employee Gifting and Recognition Made Simple

Tapping into non-food companies

  • Showplace - Partners with AirBnB hosts to supply products in their short term rentals

Sampling at Events

As the world starts to open up again (and/or we do distanced outdoor events) the world of in person sampling is coming back. Here are some examples of companies that can streamline the process:

  • Recess - all-in-one platform that pulls together events all over the country. You can search by location, event type, event size, etc. Sample size is variable and you can include coupons/marketing materials, all for a pretty low fee per unit.

  • Eli Lunzer - sports events. Right now the biggest ones are celebrity golf invitationals - you can sponsor, be in gift bags, refreshment tents, etc. Have a somewhat higher buy in but for the right brands the sexy nature of celebrity events might be the best fit.

  • Natural Talent - focused on NYC events, partnering with retailers like lululemon and fitness gyms.

KEEP IN MIND

Beyond this, don’t be afraid to reach out to your current sales channels and ask if they have a sampling program or would be open to one! Retailers are always looking for ways to increase their customer experience and receiving great (free!) products is always a plus for shoppers.

Want more stories like these? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and you’ll get ’em sent each week.

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