3 Tips for Great Food Promotions
In a world that’s changing nonstop, we all need something constant. Is there anything more constant in this topsy-turvy world than free food being the greatest gift you can receive? Friends, there is not.
For as long as human beings roam the world, whether it’s on the subway on their way to work or just from the kitchen to their desk where they are working from home, the gift of free food will always be the apex. It’s how we form communities and bonds with others, and how we always have, dating back to the days of exchanging sabertooth tiger meat, or whatever, back in our caves.
Obviously, tastes have changed, but we’ve now harnessed the chemical reaction to receiving free food as a means of advertising, and boy has it paid dividends. So, rest assured that while the world changes at an alarming rate—and it will continue to do so—food promotions will always have a place. You just might need to adapt, like how we no longer eat sabertooth tiger. (We’ve moved onto roasted pecans.)
1. It Starts With Packaging
The promotional food experience isn’t just about taste. Ask anyone in the food industry, or anyone who’s watched a few minutes of “Chef’s Table,” and they’ll tell you the aesthetics are equally as important as the taste of the food. It sets the tone. It tells the story. For promotional products distributors, that means the packaging needs to be on point. And no, not just the wrapper. There are plenty of other ways to make it a memorable experience and bump up that perceived value.
Dawn Pilon, account executive for Chocolate Chocolate, says that one of the biggest products at her company is so successful because of the creative packaging. “One of the best new options for Chocolate Chocolate in the last few years is our Luxury Sweet Box,” Pilon said. “This box prints full color on the outside and inside of a magnetic closure box—so a lot of real estate for information and full-color images.”
Remember the days before smartphones when you’d entertain yourself at the breakfast table by reading the back of the cereal box? This is kind of like that, except your customers will be able to print advertising information that their end-users will immediately associate with a fancy box and delicious treats. Oh, yeah, about those treats: “This box contains six custom cookies, ten 2x5 Wrapper Bars, and a bag of Funky Chunky Popcorn,” Pilon said.
How’s that for variety? That has something for everybody. Or, if you’re not sharing, that’s a diverse feast. “Assortments and towers [are popular],” she said. “So something for everybody and every price point.”
And if you’re not feeling especially adventurous (or if you think your end-users might be picky eaters), there’s always the classic chocolate bar. Like Chocolate Chocolate, just consider amping up that aesthetic experience by using molded chocolate bars with your customers’ logos or messaging on them. That way, the food becomes quite literally an edible billboard.
2. Safety First
Right now, unfortunately, a lot of us have been isolated or away from groups. As restrictions ease and COVID-19 case numbers remain manageable, some of us are able to congregate in small groups again. But, there’s still the need for caution.
Everyone grabbing from a tray of cookies is maybe not the most sensible option. This is where individually wrapped items are ideal, especially right now.
“Another item I would suggest are our cookies—your choice of sugar or Oreo cookie, with a custom molded chocolate top,” Pilon said. “[They are] individually packaged in clear cellophane, so great for an environment to safe share, but amazingly good. Also, are sold bulk or in a few different gift box options.”
We’ve seen the same thing from other food gift suppliers. And there’s a good chance the individually-wrapped food trend will continue even after pandemic ends.
“With the current pandemic, we felt there was a need to enhance the experience of gifting food,” Jodie Schillinger, executive vice president for Maple Ridge Farms, told PM. “Some have concern with sharing foods. … Honestly, even at shows pre-COVID there were individuals who preferred not to eat out of a shared dish, even with a spoon.”
On the logistics side, companies like Chocolate Chocolate have been drop-shipping items as events shift from in-person to virtual formats and many offices continue working from home. And just because someone is attending a conference from the home office or working out of their spare bedroom doesn’t mean they suddenly don’t like cookies. If anything, it’s the opposite. “We are seeing a surge in drop ship requests, as well as individually packaged or safe office options,” Pilon said. “Fortunately, we have both covered.”
3. Check the Calendar
Food is a great product category to get into if you haven’t already, because it works year-round. You can match it with holidays or activities, like going with grill kits around the 4th of July, or putting things in baskets with eggs before Easter. Maybe you have a new line of branded chocolate coins for Hanukkah. There are no wrong answers here, but Pilon said that some times of year are especially good for distributors to use food, especially if they’re going for sweeter options.
“The most popular season for our custom molded Belgian chocolate is gifting for the holidays, she said. “There are many other uses throughout the year—trade shows, corporate events, product launches—but the holidays remain the most popular option.”
It makes sense, right? You have almost an entire quarter of the year designated for giving gifts. This can be things companies give out as shopping incentives to prospective customers, it could be employee recognition programs, it could be prizes for an office holiday party, or it could be a thank-you to partner companies for a year of business. That’s all up to you and your customers.
But, no matter how you use them, and no matter what time of year you choose to sell them, there will always be a market for food promos.
Ask anyone who’s spent the day on a trade show floor, and they’ll probably tell you exactly where the booth with the food was. Salespeople will remember the companies that had the good chocolate at the front desk. And virtual show attendees will always have a positive attachment to the event that took the initiative to send them a box of treats while they worked from home.
We’ve come a long way from gifting each other fire-roasted prehistoric mammals. But the sentiment remains the same: People love free food.