Five Reasons We're Obsessed With In-Store Demos


    Building a successful food business requires making something people want. You discover what customers want by asking questions, collecting feedback, and iterating. The best way to do that is through demos!  Take it from the Founder of Origin Caribe, a rapidly growing cold-pressed juice company, Luis Solis, “I have learned that I must listen to customers to keep improving the product and the brand. It is a never ending process of improvement to be successful.” 

    Demos are also an opportunity to interact directly with people. You get to tell your story and create an emotional connection. 

    As you probably guessed, demoing (or sampling) is the act of going into a store, setting up a display space, and providing a taste of your product to interested customers.  This might seem like an easy task at first. After all, isn’t everyone looking for free food? While this might be true, you will get the most out of your experience by providing a meaningful and thorough experience to your potential customers, using this as an opportunity to learn and grow while also promoting your brand.  Let’s take a look at what makes a truly successful demo!

    #1. Build Relationships with Store Staff

    You’ll likely have a point of contact at the store (a manager for example) who will help you get setup for your demoing session.  Be sure to really focus on these in-store relationships! Retailers spend every day with customers. They have established relationships. Think about all the feedback and wealth of information they can provide you.  

    How do you do that?

    • Introduce yourself and your product! Offer a free sample for the store teams to try. 

    • Ask questions you might have so you don’t have to go and pull them away later

    • Be aware of your surroundings. If you are setting up during a busy period, the team won’t have much time to chat. 

    If you have the option, try to position yourself as close to the entrance as possible where it is also convenient for customers (we’ll discuss why in a minute).  You may not always have this option, but politely suggest it if your contact expresses flexibility. Depending on what type of physical setup you are provided (normally a folding table or a fixed space already established in the store), you’ll want to make sure you bring along any potentially helpful staging equipment.  Below are a few of the things we advise our members bring with them when demoing!

    • Branded tablecloth or banner (if you know what will fit ahead of time, plan accordingly)

    • Sample-sized portions of your product

    • Any small cups/plates/wares to allow for sampling (if your product isn’t simply pick up and eat)

    • Gloves to handle your product in a food-safe way

    • Full-size, packaged versions of your product, so a customer knows what to look for

    • Any printed materials (recipe cards, stickers, business cards, etc.)

    #2. Share your Passion

    Here is where all of your passion comes into play!  More than anything, your demo is an opportunity to connect and share your story with the customer. It’s how you build your brand advocates. You are inviting your customers on the adventure of building a food brand! Daniel Berg, the founder of Berg Bites, an energy bite company, highlights, “Demos are certainly an amazing way to create exposure for your products. People need to taste what you’re selling to familiarize themselves with the product.”

    #3. Solve a Pain Point

    We talk a lot about pain points for customers.  A pain point is an issue a customer is hoping to solve, like trouble sleeping or gaining weight.  As you talk with customers, explain how your product, created through your passion, solves their pain point and listen to feedback. Is this something customers are indeed facing? Are they worried about weight gain? Do they want something that helps them sleep better? 

    Snacklins, for example, focuses on solving the issue of weight gain by offering a low-calorie, clean label snack. They want you to eat junk food and be healthy with their 80-calorie vegan pork rind! But they didn’t always position themselves this way. When they first started, they thought they were solving the need for more vegan snacks. As they demoed and got more and more feedback from customers, they realized the most acute pain point their product solved was a desire for indulgence without the guilt. Halo Top is another example of a brand addressing the pain point of weight gain.  

    #4. Enthusiasm! 

    All of this, sharing your passion and pain point, starts with conveying your energy and enthusiasm. You want to establish an emotional connection right away.

    Customers feed off of your positivity and enthusiasm about your products. We asked Myles, the founder of 8 Myles, a frozen comfort food brand, what he thought made for a successful demo, “Proactiveness. When I first started demoing years ago, I was pretty passive. I quickly learned how to approach others and how to be personable.”  

    Earlier, we suggested you try to be close to the entrance.  This is because doing so allows you to greet people as they walk through the door, immediately creating a warm, welcoming environment.  After the greeting, every customer that walks by. Smile, acknowledge them, and politely ask if they’d like to try your product.  

    #5. Gain Perspective from Feedback:

    We talk a lot at Union Kitchen about using feedback to guide product decisions. At the core of every successful business, is making something people want. You learn what people want through feedback during demos. 

    While you are demoing, talk to people.  Do they like the flavors? Is the texture of your product okay?   The answers to these questions, while potentially not all positive, are incredibly valuable data points to help guide your direction.  When you approach demoing with an eagerness to educate, learn, and grow, you convey to your customers that you truly care about their best interests.  Ultimately, this not only builds brand awareness and loyalty, but also enables you to build a business based on what really matters: making what people want.