You’ve likely encountered a food brand ambassador at your local grocery store. You’re wandering up and down the aisles trying to remember what groceries you need after forgetting your list on the kitchen counter. You turn the corner and encounter a person smiling at you and sharing free food samples.
Then, you’ve added that new item you’ve sampled to your grocery list.
What you’ve just experienced is one of my favorite side-hustles: food sampler. And, if you’ve wondered how a person gets hired to do this type of work, keep reading…
What’s a food brand ambassador?
Many food companies grow their brands by sharing samples of their products. It’s an excellent way for the company to share the different product-related talking points that they would like their ideal customers to know. Food ambassadors become the “face of the brand.” They share the product, coupons, and where you can purchase the food from. As a shopper, I’ve received not only samples but also coupons toward free or discounted products when I’ve interacted with a food demo specialist.
If you live in a mid-sized to a larger sized city, it’s highly likely that there are a number of third-party marketing companies that sample in grocery stores in your town. Most larger-sized towns will have brand ambassador Facebook groups that post job listings daily. Most of the sampling gigs that I’ve found were listed in those groups or on Craigslist under the Gigs/event tab.
Is it hard?
There are some things that you need to know about sampling. It’s easy, but there are some challenging aspects to it.
First, some products may not be easy to sample. They may be difficult because the shoppers find the actual product unappealing. You may encounter people with dietary restrictions, or the product that you’re sampling just tastes bad. Many food samplers will be scheduled to sample at two or three stores in a day, which means that they will find themselves driving around town to get to their next gig within 30 minutes of the previous one.
Each store orders product differently. So, you may find that you don’t have the same flavor to sell to customers that you’re actually sampling to them while you’re in the store. Sharing the same pitch for four hours may be tiring for some people, and there are times when customers react negatively to the actual company that you’re representing.
Tools of the trade
There are specific demonstration tools that are in every food sampler’s tool chest:
- A small, light, folding table. It has to be light because you will need to carry it from your car to wherever you’ll be set up in the grocery store.
- A small trash can.
- Trashcan liners. And, if you’re in a store like Whole Foods, the trash can liners cannot be plastic.
- Brand specific collateral. This is referring to all of the signs, coupons, and items needed to share the brand’s information while you’re working.
- Branded clothing. Most brands will send branded t-shirts and hats to representatives before the demonstration.
- And of course, plastic gloves.
Some of these items will be sent to you. Then again, you may have to purchase others. And typically you will be reimbursed by the company for anything that you end up buying. I made a point of working with local companies that were easily identified by the shoppers with foods that I would actually eat. It’s much easier to sell something that you like versus something that you’re selling because it’s a part-time job.
How’s the pay?
The pay varies by region, but I was usually paid $20 an hour and worked a three to four-hour shift. Stores are getting stricter about scheduling and showing up for events. And, some stores are charging companies to schedule demonstrations. These additional expenses show up in the sales that the company would like to see from the food demonstrator.
It’s very doubtful that you would do a demo without a sales goal and your ability to continue working for the company may depend on your ability to get people to purchase the product that you’ve just shared with them.
What should you expect?
If you’re wondering how a demonstration usually works, here is a breakdown of what to expect. You will arrive at your destination and check in via either an app that you’ve downloaded onto your phone, or you may need to text a contact from the company.
You will check in with the store manager or some liaison between you and the store. After checking in, you will need to take a picture of yourself and the table set up so that your company contact can approve the look of your station.
Next, you will do a quick inventory of the product that’s currently in the store.
At this point, your demonstration will likely begin. You may also be required to take a couple of pictures with customers holding the product. Once you’ve finished the demonstration, you will do another inventory of product to see what you’ve sold.
Then, you will fill out a report about the demonstration. Here are some the details that these reports normally ask for:
- The demographic makeup of shoppers in the store.
- How busy the store was during the time that you were there.
- The weather. Was it sunny, snowing, rainy?
- The number of items sold during your event?
Don’t worry – it’s actually not that difficult. And, after the first couple of times, you’ll find these reports are incredibly easy to do.
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