Sampling Can Help Sell Your Product

Whether you have a roadside stand or are a vendor at a Farmers’ Market, giving samples of your product might be one of your best advertising investments. According to a 2011 study conducted by extension specialists at the University of Kentucky, vendors who offered samples at their farmers’ market booths saw an immediate effect on what their customers purchased.  The web-based survey targeted on-farm retail market and community farm market visitors that had made at least one market visit during the last 12 months. The purpose of this survey was to provide insight into how farm market vendors may try to shape sampling experiences for shoppers at the farmers’ market. Through the survey they had 3,406 usable responses from market visitors across eight states: Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The survey explored farm market sampling experiences, barriers to sampling, characteristics of best sampling experiences, and post-sampling behavior.

The survey results showed that sampling had an immediate purchasing impact at the farmers’ market. Of the respondents clearly recalling a farmers market sampling event, 55% purchased the sampled product that day when they had not planned to do so. Another 17% of respondents that did not buy that day planned to buy the product in the future. The respondents also noted that sampling significantly impacted their purchasing from the vendor (45%), recommending the product to a friend (38%), recommending the vendor to a friend (34%), and purchasing other products from the vendor (20%).

A few key finding from the 2011 Regional Farmers Market Survey:

  • The primary reasons patrons sample food products is to determine if they like the taste and then to decide if they will buy the product.
  • Visitors like to sample products even if they are already generally familiar with them—favorite fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheeses are the most popular.
  • Sampling is widely experienced by farmers’ market patrons in other retail settings.
  • Many visitors noted issues like: having no samples available at the farmers’ markets, crowded sampling areas, uncertain taste/ingredients, and food safety concerns as barriers to not sampling.
  • Sampling is a highly experiential and interactive activity; friendliness of vendors was the top reason visitors tried a sample. Ease of accessing samples and presentation were also highly rated.
  • Various consumer groups respond to sampling differently. Expectations of sampling varied depending on their age, area of residence, and whether or not they brought kids to the market

For more information on the results of this study, refer to a useful, 58-page guide written by University of Kentucky specialists, Best Practices for Sampling at Farmers Markets.

Always follow good food safety practices when providing samples of food on-farm or farmers’ market:

  • Wash any produce intended for sampling with potable water to remove any visible dirt or contamination
  • When preparing the samples, wear clean, disposable plastic gloves
  • Use smooth, nonabsorbent, and easily cleaned (i.e. metal or plastic) utensils and cutting surfaces for cutting samples or use disposable utensils and cutting surfaces
  • Distribute the samples in a sanitary manner (for example, by providing toothpicks for individual servings)
  • Keep samples of cut produce or other potentially hazardous foods at a temperature of 41 degrees or colder (for example set sample plate on a bed of ice) or dispose of the samples within two hours after cutting or preparation.

Woods, Timothy and Miranda Hileman. Best Practices for Sampling at Farmers Markets, University of Kentucky Agricultural Economics Extension Publication No. 2012-19

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (

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