How Pop Up Grocer is Breaking Behavior Patterns to Help Emerging CPG Brands Break Through
Someone recently posed a question on slack, “Is it worthwhile to pay $2.4K per month to have my product stocked in Pop Up Grocer?”
I saw WAY too many negative comments arise and had to chime in.
Pop Up Grocer (PUG) is a family of curated shops that feature new, better-for-you products with a focus on discovery in real life and online. They design, build, and operate pop up grocery stores all around the country with a focus on making it easy for brands to connect with consumers.
They recently announced their first permanent location in New York City which I suspect will retain its pop-up ethos by rotating the product selection on regular basis.
From what I’ve gathered about the yet-to-be-disclosed new program in PUG’s NYC location, the $2,400 participation fee would cover a quarterly placement in their rotation. So it’s more like $800 per month, with a 3-month commitment.
When the opportunity to participate in PUG came to us at LEXINGTON BAKES (LXB) last summer, I asked myself the same question, but I soon realized that PUG is not just a grocery store.
PUG Founder & CEO, Emily Schildt and her team are very clear and upfront about PUG’s intentions and positioning as a marketing activation for emerging brands. Every program the team develops is hyper-focused on helping young brands gain exposure.
From location scouting to store design and brand/product curation, PUG is a destination for discovery that attracts a specific type of consumer — the exact type young brands need to find, the early adopters.
These consumers are the ones who go to farmer’s markets solely to discover what’s new and emerging and to support those of us just starting and figuring things out. They have much more patience for brands to figure things out and are willing to take a risk on unproven new products.
There is a significant change in shopping behavior at PUG versus traditional grocery stores, not just for the early adopters who seek out this environment but also those who stumble upon it or are invited by a friend.
Traditional grocery store shopping patterns are shattered when consumers shop in an environment like PUG (or any pop-up). This environment triggers a mindset of openness, discovery, and time slowing down. No one goes to a market for a quick buy; they’re there to talk to the people trying to start something and to learn deeply about what they’re creating.
From experience popping up all over Los Angeles with LXB, I can tell you that people in these environments take time to investigate, ask questions, listen, interact, try, purchase, and come back.
They are also the ones who will proudly praise their finds to friends in real life and on their socials, further amplifying these young brands. The early adopters live for being the first to try something new and say, “I knew them when….”
Now that we’ve established what PUG is, let’s talk about the fantastic programs the team develops to further support young brands specifically.
For brands seeking their first retail presence, being on shelf at PUG is an amazing debut to gain visibility and exposure with consumers ready to try new things, not to mention the media and social coverage PUG gains from each of their destinations.
For brands who are a few steps ahead or ready to boost their participation, PUG offers a range of additional visibility opportunities to gain even broader reach and exposure.
The opportunities to sample your product, to be included in a discovery box shipped all around the country, to be featured on PUG’s newsletter and social channels and more are all aimed at helping your brand reach more of these critical influential consumers.
From the pricing, I can tell PUG’s team works hard to make these programs accessible to young brands by thoughtfully selecting brands that pair well to share the event and organization costs associated with running these programs.
Additionally, there is much more you can do outside of PUG’s programs to help your brand while at PUG or any pop-up.
Get the word out. Email local press and influencers about your participation; activate geo-fenced social ads; anything you can think of to let people know you’re there.
PUG is not here to benefit off the backs of founders and makers; they are developing this destination store and programs to provide opportunities to support and amplify us.
PUG eliminates all the hurdles between your new brand and the people eager to try your product.
Considering all the costs (and time) associated with getting into new stores, distributor fees, chargebacks, discounts, marketing, sampling events, media outreach, etc., working with PUG is a steal.
So if you’re asking yourself, is it worth it to be stocked at PUG? You’re asking the wrong question.
The question you need to ask yourself is can you afford NOT to participate in this innovative program designed to reach the consumers most likely to try your product?
Full disclosure. LXB participated in PUG last October in Denver. In addition to being on shelf, we joined in one of the sampling events, reached out to Denver publications, and set up our own geo-fenced Instagram ads to let Denver know we were there.
As a founder going into PUG, my mindset was that this is an incredibly efficient use of marketing dollars to gain visibility in a new city, reduce hurdles and barriers to try our product, and test our brand’s ability to resonate with consumers outside of our current markets of LA and NYC.
While we performed very well in Denver, selling twice the average units sold per brand in the rotation, I measured our success by the brand awareness, trial, and marketing reach PUG helped us amplify.
Of course, many factors contribute to the success of products on shelf, like the familiarity of product type, use-case scenario, price, and how well your packaging design communicates your brand proposition and value. So I would also use this experience to test and learn all of these factors for optimizations.
For any emerging brand, PUG offers a rare opportunity to get your brand in front of real people in real life with significantly lower barriers and hurdles to do so.
*Note: This article was initially published on LinkedIn on Feb 8, 2023, and republished here for broader accessibiilty.