Piece of cake: Dot Foods’ Sample Express simplifies product deomonstrations

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the old adage says. In foodservice sales, a sample is worth a thousand pictures. There is nothing like tasting, smelling, touching or feeling a product to understand its true benefits to your operation, whether it’s a new ready-to-bake muffin, a reformulated sauce or a next-generation green cleaning supply—no tasting of that last one, of course. Yet, sampling has been one of the most difficult services to execute. Dot Foods, the redistributor based in Mt. Sterling, Ill., has addressed that problem with Sample Express.

When a broker or a DSR wants to introduce a new product to a customer, the most effective way to do it is by sampling. In fact, one broker says, “It’s a lifeline.” The only way for brokers to grow the business for manufacturers they represent, he points out, is to get new business. The best way to get new business is through an aggressive sampling program.

Getting the sample in the hands of the rep is a complicated process. Distributors deal in volume shipments, so the delivery of a few cases for sampling is an anomaly and takes special handling. It can be time-consuming and costly. In years past, brokers either would pull samples from a distributor’s warehouse inventory or would authorize the same for DSRs who wanted to demo the products to their customers. Then, distributors either would bill the manufacturers or deduct the cost from upcoming orders, neither of which was efficient.

Now some brokers have begun to inventory their own products for sampling. This requires storage space, including refrigeration and cold storage, an inventory system, and people to handle the process. An easier solution is to let Dot do it, the company says.

The business of a redistributor is to consolidate lower-volume shipments from a number of manufacturers and deliver to other distributors. This process is an efficient and economic solution for distributors when they need to purchase different products in less-than-trailer load volumes. It also provides the perfect set of circumstances for delivering cases of samples, an opportunity that Dot identified six years ago.

Brokers can order samples of any product that Dot carries, which is considerable as the redistributor works with 500 foodservice manufacturers. Shipments can be sent by FedEx to any location, by Dot truck to a distributor, or by common carrier to a broker’s office or a food show location. Brokers don’t even have to pay for the samples, as Dot bills the manufacturers directly. Manufacturers also receive reports with a full accounting of volume and destination of their products samples.

Dot’s e-business manager, Brian Middendorf, points out that in the past a brokerage that carried 10 different lines had to arrange with and receive authorization from 10 different suppliers to get samples. Now, with Sample Express, they can order multiple items in one shipment. He says that many brokers like the system so much they are convincing suppliers not yet on board to use it.

Sample Express makes brokers’ lives easier and increases a manufacturer’s exposure of a new product, Dot says. But in the end operators benefit from the program because they are able to assess the real product before they buy, the company says. This increases the probability of an effective purchase and decreases the possibility of ordering the wrong products.