Sampler enters grocery retail with UNFI deal

A partnership with North America's largest wholesale distributor gives shoppers the ability to add a sample to ecommerce orders.

Sampler is launching a grocery retail offering by partnering with UNFI, North America’s largest grocery wholesale distributor.

Since the pandemic disrupted the retail environment over 18 months ago, brands have been left to find new and innovative ways to reach consumers outside ambient in-store sampling. Sampler’s digital product sampling platform allows brands to send physical product samples, typically in the form of a regular box of new products to the homes of digitally targeted consumers, bringing the in-store sampling experience right to their doorstep.

Now, major grocers, including those the U.S., will get the opportunity to add a sample to a consumer’s order through a pop-up that appears at the end of a pickup or delivery order, the Sampler experience pops up and asks if the purchaser wants a product sample, part of a shopper marketing program move into the digital space.

“Food is one of the hardest things to sample…and has always been a pretty big category for Sampler,” says Marie Chevrier, Sampler’s CEO and founder. “We’re looking to food entrepreneurs find new ways of distributing.”

The UNFI team up comes on the heels of May’s Sampler / Dentsu Canada partnership, granting one another more access to startups and established CPGs. 

“Dentsu was our way of showing that large media companies understand the importance of what we call ‘digital product sampling’ or ‘incentive-based marketing,’” Chevrier says, adding that and UNFI is another big supporter of that message.

Sampler had been discussions with UNFI for about six months, and according to Chevrier, as a small 45 employee strong operation, it needs these kinds of partnerships.

“With UNFI’s help, we can accelerate conversations about the power of digital sampling with brands across UNFI’s robust portfolio,” she says, which includes selling over 275,000 unique SKUs from thousands of national, regional and local suppliers.

At the end of the day, the most impactful way of converting consumers to a brand is getting them to taste it, Chevrier maintains. Taste, touch and feel is key, and Sampler functions as a supplement to traditional shopper marketing campaigns, with, for example, coupons that convert consumers to brick and mortar.

“Our idea was novel eight years ago [when the company started],” she says, and its services now, especially in the midst of another pandemic wave, “is a no brainer.”

“We have a very flexible solution that will integrate into any channel,” she says. Sampler helps brands tackle key objectives such as driving trial and awareness, collecting first-party data, or receiving consumer ratings, reviews, and user-generated content.

A recent Sampler study of over 38,000 North American consumers reveals that 74.6% of respondents prefer shopping and trying products at home.