smart sampling

At the end of a Gulf Island vacation, my friends and I dropped in on the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve probably seen their pretty, petite chèvre rounds topped with basil leaves, flowers, white truffle, pepper, chili and lemon.

If not, well, I hope I had you at “white truffle.” The company also makes goat feta, sheep’s milk hard cheese and four surface ripened goat cheeses, including the addictive Blue Juliette.

Salt Spring started making handmade goat and sheep cheeses in 1994 and began selling them in 1996. They believe that “a better kind of food business is one that reflects both good community and good food, as the two frequently go together.” Agreed.

Visit the farm and you can watch white-coated cheesemakers through the viewing windows, take a self-guided tour, and get cozy with the goats, chickens and resident Border Collies (who will quickly convince you to play pine-cone-and-tennis-ball fetch).

The best part of the farm shop, though, is tasting. Every cheese flavor is set out next to a bowl of crackers with knives ready for spreading. Visitors chomp their way through the buffet and inevitably, purchase at least $40 worth of the homemade stuff.

It’s a small cost for the farm with a bigger on-the-spot payoff. Almost no one leaves without a white bag overflowing with fromage — and a stronger sense of loyalty to the homegrown company, which made me think about the power of sampling.

Luckily, this simple technique is not limited to food artisans and culinary businesses. I always sample music on MySpace before I commit to a purchase. Most people wouldn’t think about buying clothes or jewelry without trying them on first. And a first-chapter download is now a common marketing technique for authors and publishers.

But the sampling doesn’t have to stop there. Get creative. Let people try, test and taste your work and you’ll quickly get them hooked on what you do best.

posted 6 Jul 10 in: business, food, retail. This post currently has 2 responses.

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Nice. I love their cheeses; thanks for giving us the grand tour. Just got a lesson in Oregon’s artisan cheeses. There are many different kinds here and the cheese makers even have a guild ( We bought La Mariposa’s Chubut cheese…light, buttery magnificence.


Great link, Lissa. It sounds like you found the good stuff in Oregon!


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