Word of Mouth
On August 18, 2010 MediaPost.com reported, "The food-gift trend ... is expected to rise again in 2010. The article goes on to cite a report from Packaged Facts, a leading provider of market research for consumer goods, food and beverage, pet services, financial services and personal care markets, which states that "healthy growth across all food-gifting channels will drive sales to more than $21 billion by 2014."
Even better for distributors selling edible promotions, the story also noted that corporate food gift-giving "increased 3.8 percent, to $2.7 billion, between 2007 and 2009," and that growth is expected to continue gaining momentum. This is a clear sign that it is time to put on your food service cap and start singing, "Have it your way."
Speaking of having it your way, the major trend with corporate foodies is not about delicious food—its about fully customized packaging. The sentiment described by industry suppliers is that distributors need to be able to deliver the "wow" factor to their clients, especially when the food product is first presented.
"It's all about completely custom products today," explained Cassie Alvey, sales director for Mrs. Fields Gifts, Salt Lake City. "It's not enough anymore to put a logo on a generic box. We have the capability to delve deeper into brands and themes by creating one-of-a-kind packages of any size, shape or scope, from sketch to production, that will really resonate with the audience."
Sheila Shechtman, founder and CEO for Gifted Expressions, East Hartford, Conn., confirmed this sentiment. "I don't think there are trends in great tasting foods as it relates to edible promotions. For us, the trend is new and creative packaging and the keepsake value of the containers," she said.
ADVICE FOR FOODIES
If you are just getting started in this niche or are a long-time food distributor, there are a couple of tips to help build fourth-quarter momentum. "Food has an emotional component," Shechtman said. "It makes people feel good. It connects. ... We find recipients tend to get excited when a food gift arrives." She went on to explain that what you are really selling is not food, but that feeling. "Sell client appreciation—gifting and acknowledgements—not food gifts."
Alvey noted that distributors should look to trusted brands. "A well-known and respected brand will get the attention of your clients and on the back end can save you the trouble of complaints." Just as important is working with a supplier that can meet the custom needs of your client. Said Alvey, "If your client has very specific requests and needs, don't feel like you have to achieve them on your own. A good supplier is there to help you and meet your needs regardless of the request."
After all the holiday hulabaloo is over, don't think your opportunity to sell these products has ended with it. "[While] edibles are typically thought of as a fourth-quarter opportunity, we entered this market to offer distributors a year-round opportunity to sell our products ... so they could expand their profit-making opportunities with existing customers rather than only knocking on new doors," said Shechtman.
There are any number of explanations for the popularity of food products, and countless ways to incorporate them into your promotions, but as Alvey explained, the best reason is also the most obvious. "I think [it] is pretty simple—good food is universally loved," she said. "It can be difficult to find rewards or incentives that target certain individuals or groups. The great thing about food is that it gathers people and gives them a reason to come together. That's why food makes perfect sense for events and parties, but also as thank-you gifts and rewards. It's easily shared and beloved by all."