André Moll founded his first company while studying in the Principality of Liechtenstein – in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) area, of course. He had been inspired by the trend towards surprise boxes in the USA, with the aim of bringing fast-moving consumer goods to the market. True to the motto “What the farmer does not know …”, consumers receive packages with product samples in order to get a direct picture of new products. During the 2010s, this marketing trend spilled over to Germany and Moll saw his opportunity here: For 9.99 euros, he brought surprise boxes to men and women with his company. From today’s perspective, his exit in 2017 was logical because this business model lacks clearly scalable basic elements.
But the basic idea did not let him go, not even on the subsequent world tour. An American, with whom he had a conversation on his tour of Central America, turned out to be an important source of inspiration, along with many other observations: the man congratulated Moll on his bankruptcy with the first business model – an unusual view for German entrepreneurs. But Moll’s age was decisive in his reasoning, because he would not have exceeded the important limit of 30 years. According to his credo, anyone who fails to be an entrepreneur up to this age will make it to great success later. So motivated, Moll revisited the original idea, changed some basic premises and refined his new business idea, which was slowly emerging, every day of his trip. The result should be no less than a little revolution for the FMCG sampling market.
Fast moving consumer goods are basically products that are usually only bought after they have been tried at least once. To make matters worse, this decision-making process often takes a long time. On the other hand, however, there are interesting margins. Moll asked the basic question: What is the crucial point in this business? The answer was quickly found: a loyal customer base that can only be acquired with at least one successful trial contact.
A look at the traditional FMCG market showed that it traditionally worked on a push basis: supermarket promotions, pedestrian zone sampling or surprise boxes, all of these activities aim to put something “on the eye” of potential customers. With this approach, high wastage is preprogrammed, which in turn has a significant impact on the cost side of FMCG manufacturers, because the recipients of the samples often only accept them out of embarrassment or convenience.
Moll drew its conclusions from these analyzes and eliminated the negative factors of the previous business model: pull instead of push and digital instead of analog. The combination of these two major changes significantly improves efficiency in sampling. The test subjects choose themselves and their trial contacts are consistently digitally tracked. Moll went to work: with just 5000 euros of capital, he and his co-founder Tobias Neuburger not only fully implemented the concept, but also realized the development of the platform, which was to become the linchpin of the business.
However, the best idea is of no use if it does not prove to be suitable in practice. In October 2017, the ANUGA food fair in Cologne offered an opportunity for a stress test that Moll used. At the world’s largest food fair, the relevant manufacturers present their new products not only to the experts, but to a broad audience. Moll and his partner had a lot of conversations. After three days, over 50 manufacturers had expressed interest in working together. The decision was finally made.
It took six months to prepare before the first trial market without prices officially started: Utry.me was online in 2018 and was successful from the start. Not only the manufacturers, but also the test subjects gladly accepted the offer of the sampling platform. Since the startup was financed from its own resources, it was able to grow linearly and organically. Moll and Neuburger gradually expanded their capacities. But it was supposed to be an extraordinary event that suddenly accelerated growth.
While the shutdown imposed in March 2020 marked a drastic encroachment on public life, it triggered a rush to the utry.me trial market. In just a few days, not only more new users registered, but also the number of trial packages ordered rose rapidly – by more than 100 percent each. Nobody expected that. The team and logistics faced enormous challenges. But the young team had the right answer: personnel, warehouse and server performance were quickly expanded and kept growing. On the contrary, utry.me overtook the traditional sampling channels not only in terms of content, but also in terms of range.
Today Moll and Neuburger can state that they have the world’s first and so far only online trial market that does not require prices. Not only are new foods presented and, above all, tried before they even hit the shelves, but food trends that develop at an early stage are also identified. More than 200 manufacturers now benefit from the valuable information they can generate in this way. At the same time, they ensure that the range can be updated weekly and thus remains interesting for users. On the one hand, it is the variety of products that makes utry.me so appealing, and on the other hand, the flat-rate package price: for 24.90 euros, the test subjects put together their own package – and all without the hassle of a subscription. Not only do they have to build on their feelings, they can also use the regular online live trade fairs and the product information published on social channels.
If Moll formulates that utry.me should become the leading FMCG sampling platform in Europe by 2025, it is not a utopia. With the first utry.me TV commercial, another milestone has been set on this path. And another aspect is of importance that should not be underestimated: The successively growing database opens up particularly interesting potential for manufacturers. Customer preferences can be anonymized and generated by click, according to age, gender, origin and of course product categories. This data and the desired user feedback not
only shorten the important decision-making processes, but also prove to be significantly cheaper than conventional market research studies. Here the signals are clearly green.