7 min readAug 4, 2021


How do I get consumers to buy my product?

That’s the number one question every founder asks themselves.

In a space as crowded and competitive as food & bev, discovering ways to get your product into consumers hands that not only guarantee a transaction but also transform these people into loyal, repeat customers is easier said than done.

FirstLook decided to tap into its network and consult with the experts, who help established and challenger brands get in front of consumers online and in stores, on the tricks of the trade.

Spoiler: there are no tricks.

You need a good product and smart people around you like Doug Guyer and Cameron McCarthy.

Oh and by the way, you can thank FirstLook for giving you some new buzzwords to add to your food & bev jargon. If you don’t say the phrases Crowdstocking and Connected Sampling at your next happy hour then you’re doing something wrong… just sayin’.

Cameron McCarthy is the founder of WeStock , a platform that turns brand awareness into sales. Also he coined the term Crowdstock. Kinda sick, right?

How did you come up with the term Crowdstocking?

Crowdstocking was a term we coined from day one at WeStock. Due to the popularity of the term crowdsourcing, we believed people would understand the concept of Crowdstocking fairly quickly. We are excited to see that it has started to resonate with shoppers, and they are very engaged in the two markets we have launched in so far.

What is Crowdstocking?

Crowdstocking lets everyday shoppers vote on the products that they want to see at their local store. Shoppers can do this through our partner brands, retailers, or directly through our web app.

Which stores are your retail partners?

Right now we are partnered with Fairway in NYC and Choice in Denver. We’ll have another NYC retail partner coming soon that we plan to announce at the end of the month.

How do you get customers to interact with the platform?

Shoppers can make requests on a brand’s website, social media, or newsletter. We provide the brand with a plug-in that the shopper can easily put their request into. Shoppers can also make requests in-stores at one of our partner retailers or through our web app.

How do brands with a low following benefit from Crowdstocking?

You don’t need a huge following to benefit from Crowdstocking. We have seen brands open up new accounts with just a handful of requests.

We actually started our own fake brand internally in just 21 days to show that a brand with zero presence could get results. Check out the video below to see what happened.

What was the first brand that used your platform?

One of the first brands we pitched WeStock to was Nightfood Ice Cream. They have actually stayed on the platform for almost three years now and are always one of our top request receivers!

How have brands discovered WeStock?

We are pretty proactive with our outreach to brands. We try to become fans of the brands first so that when we reach out the pitch is genuine.

We work with 400+ brands at WeStock, and most of them we either tasted or are avid consumers of. Once a brand is on our platform it’s up to them to generate requests, and we then place the most in-demand items at our partner stores.

Who are your competitors?

We don’t really have competitors in the Crowdstocking space since we own that concept and are pioneering the community curated product set.

However, we often identify competition as what companies these brands are deciding between when allocating marketing or sales spend.

RangeMe and Social Nature are two names that pop up when we speak with brands. Although, both of these companies are solving a much different problem than WeStock.

What are some WeStock success stories?

We get stories weekly about how emerging brands are incorporating our data and opening up new accounts. Sharing in the success that our brands get is the best part of building this company. We recently published a white paper on one of our success stories.

What specific trends are you seeing in the food & bev space?

Coming out of COVID, I think it’ll be interesting to see what trends stick. I think the rise in home cooking is going to see some carry over post-pandemic so brands that optimize for that should see success. I also think brands that continue to blur the line between DTC and in-store will win.

You can’t view the two mediums as binary; they are one cohesive sales channel, and the brands that get that are growing quickly.

What will grocery shopping look like five years from now?

I think there will be a focus on smaller store formats that are focused on product discovery and shopper experience. I also believe that stores will have companies like Instacart pull from a dedicated warehouse and not from the store itself. Focusing on those two things would make the shopping experience much more customer centric which I think will be the focus for retailers moving forward.

If you want to understand the CPG industry, Doug Guyer is one of the first people you should speak with. His company Brandshare has been around for thirty-seven years and works with the most recognizable legacy brands and exciting challenger brands.

Doug also created the term Connected Sampling.

FirstLook’s takeaway: Great Minds Coin Terms.

What is Brandshare?

In the most simplistic terms, we put brand samples into the orders of other brands.

How do we do this? We have an e-commerce media network of 760+ online retailers who collectively ship over 84 million online orders per month, so we’ll insert a synergistic product sample that adds value to the customers initial order.

Additionally, we leverage QR codes so consumers can easily scan the product sample and purchase a full-sized order. We refer to this as “Connected Sampling”

How did you come up with the idea for Connected Sampling?

Brand advertisers came to us with a problem: they needed to make sampling more accountable from a “Return on Ad Spend” basis in order to prove to senior leadership that sampling is an effective way to acquire new customers.

Connected Sampling solves this problem by giving consumers a “scan and add to cart” capability on their phone.

How can challenger food & bev brands stand out among competitors through Brandshare?

We only include a single brand sample in each package so smaller, challenger brands automatically stand out.

Furthermore, when a consumer opens their packages at home and tries the sample, challenger brands aren’t competing with any key competitors.

How do you decide what samples to put in a specific box?

Our job is to make sure it’s a perfect fit for both the sampling brand and our e-comm retail partners.

For example, in a BedBathandBeyond.com e-comm order that contains bath towels and bed linens, we may include a Tide Pods/Downey Sample packette because the towels and linens are washable. Makes common sense, right?

What value can brands expect to receive when partnering with Brandshare?

The value is seen in the post-campaign Attribution Report, which shows the Trial and Conversion rates, the number of full size sku’s carted, and the total value of those carted products.

The indirect value, which many brands refer to as the halo effect, is the no-cost derivative of our Connected Sampling within our e-commerce media network.

Many consumers naturally post about a great product, service or experience, and our sample brands receive organic social posts/impressions when they get into the hands of this consumer.

As consumers return to shopping in-stores how does Brandshare adapt?

In-store shopping will always have a place in retail; however, many consumers transitioned to online shopping during the pandemic because of the ease and convenience.

When I think of e-commerce, I often use the analogy of the E-ZPass. Once people made the leap and started using an E-ZPass, they never again sat in the long, slow cash line.

E-commerce is all about ease, convenience, and cost savings.

What brand do you believe has done an exceptional job at innovating and staying relevant throughout the years?

Mondelez and Ferraro in the snacks and candy categories, respectively.

While creativity is their secret ingredient, Mondelez and Ferraro believe their new products will become major brands, so they jumpstart sales by giving out samples to millions of targeted consumers.This is a key part of their growth marketing playbook.

What will the food & bev industry look like five years from now?

The pandemic accelerated the food & bev industry’s adoption of e-commerce by 6–7 years. Consumers demanded their favorite retailers & brands be accessible online or else they’ll spend their money elsewhere.

At the end of 2021, e-commerce sales will top $1 trillion in the USA for the first time ever. That’s 24% of the $4.04 trillion Total Retail Sales. We weren’t supposed to reach that 24% mark until ’26 or ’27.

Many innovations are taking place as that 24% grows to 30%+, one being how food & bev brands are adjusting packaging so they can easily ship their products straight to consumers homes in the most cost-efficient manner.

Brands can’t just play around with e-commerce like they did prior to 2020. They need to be all-in on this in-home distribution channel or risk losing shares to brands that already are.

Congrats! You made it all the way down here.

We’ll end this with a question for you:

  1. What will the food & bev industry look like five years from now?

2. What will the grocery industry look like five years from now?

Comment or tweet your predictions and make sure to tag FirstLook!




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