State Fair Samples Sell Products

State Fair Samples Sell Products

State Fair Samples Sell Products

Nebraska State Fairgoers experienced a buffet of flavors from buttery toffee to spicy mustard at GROW Nebraska’s 2019 State Fair Store.

Fifty-four GROW Nebraska businesses participated that year, and many of them boosted their sales through offering free product samples.

Barb Mapes, owner of Barb’s Buttery Toffee, enjoyed watching customers enjoy samples of her buttery toffee during several days at this year’s fair.

“The more people taste it, the more likely they will buy it,” Barb said.

She makes her buttery toffee in a commercial kitchen in Crete. The almond and pecan buttery toffee flavors are always hot sellers for state fairgoers seeking a sweet treat.

For companies looking to launch a new product, the Nebraska State Fair crowd is the perfect arena to test the waters. Jenna Borer, niece of Gold Dust Kettle Corn owner Mike Lagsding, worked at this year’s fair to test out a new BBQ-flavored popcorn.

“This one has really caught people’s attention,” Jenna said of the new flavor. “It’s neat to see people’s reactions.”

Many taste testers purchased bags of the popcorn after sampling the new flavor.

James Gustafson said he has provided samples of Lincoln-based Herbal Gatherings mustard at the state fair for more than 10 years.

“To come out here in the middle of the state, it’s a great resource for us,” James said. “It helps us meet a lot of people in a short amount of time.”

A few state fair attendees stopped by to encourage friends to try the mustard after they had sampled it at previous state fairs.

“People are hesitant to pick up a new product, so when you let them try it, it changes the whole trajectory,” James said.

While giving samples, business owners can also boost sales by suggesting new ways to use their product and offering recipe ideas.

While giving samples, business owners can also boost sales by suggesting new ways to use their product and offering recipe ideas.

Cheryl Hughes, owner of HR Poppin’ Snacks in Gibbon, has been sampling her flavored popcorn at the Nebraska State Fair for more than 20 years. She and her husband, Gary, sell their popcorn in more than 135 flavors at stores around the country.

“I firmly believe in samples,” Cheryl said. “They try it, they buy it.”

This year, Cheryl sampled 14 flavors at the state fair including new flavors Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Cookie Crumble, Cheddar Pretzel (made with Dot’s pretzels) and Monster Cookie Dough.

“Most generally, sampling sells your product,” she said.

The GROW Nebraska State Fair Store was made possible by the following sponsors: Kracklin’ Kirks Fireworks, LIPS Printing Service, Wynk, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Nebraska Arts Council, ATC Communications, Lundeen Isaacson Insurance, Hay Bale Banners LLC, Dorothy Lynch, Touch of Class and Gary’s Quick Steak.




KEARNEY – The GROW Nebraska store in Kearney’s Hilltop Mall is moving to the Younes campus in the space formerly occupied by Mac’s Creek Wine Bar in Kearney. The GROW store officially opens at the new location at 421 W. Talmadge Road No. 1 on Monday, October 1.


“We are excited about this new location close to the interstate and the new traffic it will bring to our store,” GROW Nebraska CEO Janell Anderson Ehrke said.


The GROW Nebraska store features more than 3,000 products created by 288 Nebraska entrepreneurs. Products range from t-shirts and books to lotions and barbecue sauces. Top-selling products at the store are Big Red Popcorn on the cob, Great Plains Honey Farm Kettle Corn, Preferred Popcorn (Cheese), Rowdy’s Hard Tack Jerky and Hilger’s Agri-Natural Hulles Gourmet Popcorn. The store serves as a showcase of products made by some of GROW’s 400 plus members. It has been located at the Hilltop Mall since 2005.


With the move, the GROW Nebraska store is changing its name to BUY Nebraska to coincide with the organization’s online shopping site that features more than 3,500 made-in-Nebraska products.


The move will also allow GROW Nebraska to create a dedicated space for its new Innovation Center that will provide onsite training and education for members. The GROW Nebraska Innovation Center is made possible through a grant from the Peter Kiewit Foundation. Read more about the GROW Nebraska e-Commerce and Marketing Innovation Center here.


Paul Younes, president of Younes Hospitality, said the location should be a great match for GROW Nebraska.

“We are looking forward to having them here,” he said. “I think it will be great to have them here with all the convention traffic we have.”


With the continuing addition of new restaurants and hotels in south Kearney, Younes said the new location will give GROW Nebraska more exposure and new customers.


“Here, they can expand their market with people from all across the state and people driving across the country on the interstate,” Younes said.


GROW Board Member President Rodney Whipple of Arapahoe said he also is excited about the new exposure this move will bring to members’ products.


“This is an exciting time for GROW Nebraska,” Whipple said. “With our 20th anniversary this year, it seems like a fitting time to find a personal location for GROW Nebraska.”


The store will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 24/7 online at

GROW Nebraska is an educational non-profit organization headquartered in Oxford that empowers entrepreneurs through business training, technical assistance, promotion and market opportunities. It provides education and training to individuals and small business owners across Nebraska, with an emphasis on economically depressed areas, to create sustainable economic development and marketing opportunities. GROW is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018.