July 21, 2019 12:55 PM
By Meg C. Hall
Ice cream tastings are great for people who love to try new and different flavors. (Photo: IT-stock/Shutterstock)
Wine tastings are great fun, and for ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, tasting events can be just as sweet for boosting business.
For many people, chowing down is just as much about the experience as it is the food, and ice cream tasting events are a way for your customers to enjoy the “adventure of eating,” said Freya Estreller, cofounder of Coolhaus. The brand has a national fleet of 10 mobile ice cream trucks and carts and hosts ice cream making classes at its Culver City, California, location.
In addition to regular customers, these events are a great way to build awareness of your business with food bloggers and other influencers, said Tim Allen, vice president at public relations firm TransMedia Group. His firm works with San Bernardo Ice Cream promoting the brand’s unique flavors (such as cannoli or red cactus pear).
Here are a few tips from Allen and Estreller on how to host an ice cream or froyo tasting event that will build buzz for your brand and scoop up new customers.
Just like any other promotional event, your first step is to decide what you want your tasting event to achieve. You may be looking to increase foot traffic to your ice cream parlor or simply test out a new, experimental flavor.
Freya Estreller, cofounder of Coolhaus
According to Estreller, tastings are great for market research. “It’s definitely a way to showcase aspects of your business brand and flavors that people don’t know about,” she said. Seeing how your guests respond to a particular flavor can help you decide if it’s worth pursuing or not.
Your goal will determine who you should invite to your ice cream tasting event. For instance, if you want the event to attract new customers, figure out which segment of the population you want to target. Are you looking to raise awareness among younger consumers, such as college students? Or do you want to bring in more families by focusing on grandparents?
“If you don't know your audience, any promotions you do are not going to see you any return on your investment,” said Allen.
His suggestion: Research. A short, low-cost social media ad campaign will provide insight into the demographic breakdown of who is interested in your products and where they live, he said.
Food bloggers and Instagram influencers can have a lot of pull with consumers — both on the web and in their local communities. Inviting them to your shop’s ice cream tasting event can be a great way to build excitement around your brand.
In order to promote their Italian Escapes product line, San Bernardo held their first tasting event at a pizzeria in Brooklyn. Allen said the location was strategically chosen for its large Italian population, and so key food bloggers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut could be invited.
“They were basically going to get a free lunch. That's what drove people in,” he said. Having the owner present was also a big draw. “While they were there they got to meet the owner, which doesn't happen very often with larger companies.”
“At the end we got a ton of free publicity, which was fantastic. It went in blogs, local media and we had people that weren't able to make it ask us to send them samples.”
Partnering with another business can be another great way to make the most of your ice cream tasting event.
“Bring in a collaborative brand partner so that you can access their audience as well,” advised Estreller. “There’s obviously mutual benefits because you’re bringing your audience to them, too.”
For example, Coolhaus partnered with Irish whisky brand Jameson for a joint tasting event, which was a huge hit with their adult customers.
“They did a whiskey tasting with their different types of whiskeys and then we made Jameson ice cream that paired with those whiskeys,” she said.
“From an educational point of view, when people go to wine tastings they like to know what's gone into the development of that wine,” said Allen. At the Table 87 Pizzeria event, San Bernardo’s owner gave a brief intro to the brand. “We felt it was relevant to tell the story of what went into that pint of ice cream, where it came from or why they chose to go for that certain flavor.”
With ice cream, he said, “it all comes down to the taste, especially when we're trying to promote such unique flavors.” Getting customers and critics to sample those tastes is key to getting them hooked.