Eat Your Heart Out
FOOD SEEMS TO be a favorite topic in circles of every kind. It is discussed in boardrooms across the country and in bedrooms late at night. After reporting to work following a fun-filled weekend, one of the fondest memories is usually the dining experiences one had, or wished to have. It is precisely for these reasons edibles are stand-out promotional products. What better way to get people talking about one’s brand, products or services than by serving up irresistible food items? Distributors who take heed will have more than their fair share of the profits available with edible promotions.
“Everyone loves food and candy,” observed Mike Shulkin, president of Chicago-based A La Carte. “Rarely is someone unhappy with a food product, unless the product doesn’t taste good.”
Like Shulkin, a representative from Maumee, Ohio-based Hickory Farms said clients can’t go wrong with edibles.
“Everyone likes to eat—you don’t have to worry about size, color or style,” she said. “Food gifts are perfect, as they can be shared at an office or with family.”
It would be hard to find anything at A La Carte that doesn’t taste good. The company stocks a variety of food and candy items, including custom-molded chocolate, imprinted candies, containers with candy and nuts as well as microwave popcorn. Its best sellers are fortune cookies, cellophane bags of candy and mint tins.
Hickory Farms has been in the gift-giving business for more than 55 years. From its award-winning Beef Stick Summer Sausage and cheeses, the company also offers a variety of nut assortments, fresh fruit and confections. Its Pfaelzer Brothers line offers Famous Filet Mignons, steaks, seafood and gourmet desserts.
Unlike many other promotional items, edible products have the uncanny ability to create relationships, often lasting ones, between the giver and recipient. “A well-planned promotion takes advantage of this relationship to create the maximum impact,” Shulkin said.
As much as people enjoy eating, it turns out edibles are only recently gaining popularity in the promotional products industry. Shulkin said as a growing number of distributors are becoming more comfortable with “our food and candy products as promotional tools,” A La Carte’s sales have surged. “More distributors are expanding their use of edible products—going from an emphasis on gift items to combining the items with a promotional element and even using edible products solely for promotional uses,” he explained. “Our promotional line is growing much faster than our gift line.”
Not only are edible items good for building relationships, they’re also great for generating traffic at trade shows and similar events. Shulkin cited a case history in which a health benefits company needed to increase the traffic at its recruiting booths at job fairs. “The distributor designed a test program with a postcard mailing to each student suggesting their future was good if they visited the company’s booth and promising several prizes,” he explained. “We produced fortune cookies with the company’s logo on the wrapper and custom messages inside with several winning messages. The booth traffic increased so dramatically at the first job fair that the company expanded the program to all of their job fairs and to their interview programs, as well.”
When selling edible products, distributors should most consider “matching the client’s objectives with the inherent advantages of food and candy promotional tools,” advised Shulkin. “If the client is introducing a ‘hot new product,’ hot sauce or Red Hots can get the point across with ease.”
It is such creative tie-ins as the aforementioned that make edibles stand-out promotional products. “I think any business can use food and candy for creative promotional uses,” Shulkin said. “Candy is a great way to make a connection with a customer.”
Although smaller than most other industry categories—accounting for only 1.74 percent of total industry sales in 2005, according to a PPAI survey—food is gaining ground. Shulkin said A La Carte is “very bullish” on its “outlook for our portion of the industry.”
The Hickory Farms representative agreed. “Food gifts are becoming more and more popular as people are seeking fresh alternatives to traditional items, such as wearables and hard goods,” she said.
So, the next time a client requests a top-of-the-line item to aid his or her promotional efforts, a hearty taste-testing session would be in order.