Enter Dot Foods, the nation’s top re-distributor, whose entire business model revolves around providing distributors with less-than-truckload quantities – even as small as a case or two – of products from the 450 manufacturers with whom it works. Dot six years ago launched Sample Express, a program that solves the samples challenge for manufacturers and those needing samples by applying its redistribution acumen.
The program has been an unqualified success, growing 25 percent to 30 percent a year, according to Kelly O’Donnell, director of marketing at Dot. “We’re now shipping 8,000 sample cases per week, primarily to direct reps in the field and to brokers or sales agents/brokers who need the products for sales presentations,” he says. “More than 200 of the manufacturers who work with Dot have signed on with the program and those that participate have increased the number of products they make available to the market in general through Dot by from 50 to 150 SKUs.”
Kelly adds that participating manufacturers report savings of 25 percent to 30 percent per year on sampling costs, as well as enhanced effectiveness. “Our suppliers have told us that they’re now sending out fewer samples than before participating in Sample Express, but they’re more targeted. They’re sending the right samples to the right people and getting the results that they intend,” he says.
Sample Express users start by logging onto a dedicated section of the “Dot Expressway,” the company’s umbrella e-commerce service on www.dotfoods.com. There, they can request desired samples and quantities, and select one of three shipping routes. Route 1 (for orders less than 10 cases), via FedX, is fastest and most expensive; Route 2, which has the samples (10 case minimum) shipped to a distributor in the broker’s or rep’s market on their next Dot Foods delivery and held there for pickup there, is most efficient and cost-effective; Route 3 enables larger orders (50 case minimum) to be delivered from Dot directly to the broker’s or rep’s location of choice – typically their warehouse or other storage facility where they maintain a sample stock inventory or perhaps to food show. Users can bundle products from different manufacturers to meet the order minimums.
Manufacturers are billed back for the costs of the samples and their distribution, and each month they receive a report from Dot detailing who ordered samples and in what quantities, where the samples went, plus a full accounting of the fulfillment costs and the cost of the products sent out. Says O’Donnell, “From what is often a black hole when it comes to accounting for samples, manufacturers now have a much better understanding of this expense category as well as what their return on investment is.”