A successful first foray into product demos for Hotel Chocolat

A successful first foray into product demos for Hotel Chocolat

It’s an interesting time for food and drink brands looking to make their first foray into the world of Costco demos. Not only did COVID-19 mean that we had several demo-free months during 2020, it’s also leading up to what is traditionally the busiest time of year for food and drink demos: the festive season. 

We’re pleased that we have been able to return to running Costco demos – albeit with some differences – and we’re already starting to fill our Christmas calendar with many of Costco’s regular demo-driven vendors. 

But it’s not just the regular favourites whose products you’ll see on our demo stands this year. 2020 has also seen us introduce lots of new brands to the benefits of product demos and sampling, such as Hotel Chocolat: read on to find out what they wanted to promote, how we did it, and the results. 


The product

Hotel Chocolat were keen to raise awareness and sales for their Classic Velvetised Chocolate Cream Liqueur. Served chilled and with an ABV of 15%, the WDS demo teams were asked to promote its clean, contemporary and indulgent taste profile, comprising full-bodied 70% dark chocolate, lashings of real cream, and a vodka kick. 

The team was given a number of additional selling points to work with, too. These included the fact that the product won Best English Cream at the 2019 World Liqueur Awards, the fact that it includes no artificial additives and an impressive 34.3% dairy produce, its minimum nine-month shelf life and Hotel Chocolat’s serving suggestion: quite simply, over ice. 

“A tasting is a great way to allow the customer to experience the product for themselves.”

With a product like Hotel Chocolat’s Chocolate Cream Liqueur, a tasting is a great way to allow the customer to experience the look, the smell and – most importantly – the taste of the product for themselves. While COVID-19 forced us to approach the demos in a slightly different way, we were still able to deliver a successful on-brand experience that delighted the client.  


Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Cream Liqueur demo – our approach

Our Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Cream Liqueur demos took place over three days, and within five Costco warehouses: Milton Keynes, Watford, Thurrock, Chingford and Croydon.

COVID-19 has meant that our approach to product sampling and demos has needed to change. Where before we would have handed out marketing materials and used fully branded, sometimes custom-built demo stands, we now need to keep physical interactions to a minimum and ensure surfaces that are easy to sanitise every 30 minutes. 

As a result, our demo stand displays were simple: a case of Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Cream Liqueur, a chilled sampling bottle in a wine cooler and disposable paper cups. Our brand ambassadors were given a list of the product’s key selling points, as well as a range of additional information about both the product and the brand, as well as instructions on how the sampling should be conducted to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. 

Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Cream Liqueur Costco Demo

Costco members were encouraged to approach the demo stand one at a time, and to consume the sample – served in a 10ml measure in a disposable paper cup – at the demo stand to minimise mask-free time. Samples were poured only when the member approached the demo table, and the lid on the bottle was replaced between members. 

It meant that Costco members were reassured from the outset of the safety of the demo area, meaning that they could taste the product and learn more about it in a comfortable setting. 


The results

Nigel Sandals, Global Travel Retail & Spirits at Hotel Chocolat, has been pleased with the results so far. He highlights WDS staff’s professionalism and engagement with customers during a challenging time as a key positive, as well as how clean and organised the tasting displays have been, giving consumers the confidence to taste the brand’s products safely. He has also praised our brand ambassadors’ wearing of Hotel Chocolat branded aprons and face coverings, which he describes as “supporting our brand identity really well”. 

“The three demo days have delivered some excellent results.”

The real proof of the pudding though, so to speak, is in the sales figures. As Nigel says, “The three demo days in Milton Keynes, Watford, Thurrock, Chingford and Croydon have delivered some excellent results, particularly when compared to our ‘non-demo’ sales trend. We’re a relatively new brand to this segment with a product that tastes fantastic vs. competitors. You clearly see this coming through in the results. A special mention to the Milton Keynes team, who sold over 100 bottles in one demo day!”

As a result of their experience with WDS and Costco to date, Hotel Chocolat are planning to continue with demo days in November and December: the time of year when this product sector moves into its peak. And in terms of results, we can’t ask for more than that. 

If Costco sampling sessions or demos sound like a great marketing tactic for your brand, get in touch.