If you've ever been trapped in the supermarket checkout line behind a parent with a small child, you already know what we're about to tell you: People go crazy for candy. Remember little Timmy up there ahead of you? So sweet. So innocent. Then his mom said "no" to a Snickers bar, and his head started spinning like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist. Only scarier, and with more cursing.
Sure, Timmy was 4 years old, but there's something about chocolate, candy and mints that inspires similar enthusiasm in people of all ages. (Send a gift basket to any office and watch the ensuing rugby scrum over the last hazelnut truffle, and you'll see what we mean.) That makes sweet treats big moneymakers—if you know how to sell them. Learn how with the following guide to pitching, selecting and packaging chocolate, candy and mints.
The first thing distributors will need to address when selling chocolate, candy and mints is when to sell. Traditionally, edibles have been viewed as a fourth-quarter promotion, something to be sold for the holidays. And this is true, to an extent. "The fourth quarter is what we call 'low-hanging fruit' for a distributor to open new doors and new business opportunities moving forward, which is also an opportunity that many times can be missed," said Sheila Shechtman, CEO of Gifted Expressions, Shrewsbury, Mass. "It is a wonderful way to engage a new customer, versus cold calling, etc."
Still, if you're only selling edibles in the fourth quarter, you're missing out on a huge chunk of business. Chocolate, candy and mints sales are there year-round, but only if your clients know you're selling them. "Many companies purchasing promotional products do not have any idea that the distributor offers food solutions for shared gifting—not only for the fourth quarter, but for year-round hospitality gifts, company stores, corporate events, incentives, marketing promotions and more," Shechtman explained.
Robby Cordes, CAS, director of ad specialty division, Hospitality Mints, Boone, N.C., agreed, citing a survey where customers, when asked about items they wish distributors would present, named edible products 58 percent of the time. "Many distributors do not realize that mints are a recommended sale," he added. "Not too often does a client call for an individually wrapped mint. You have to recommend and add the mints to the order."
Cordes gave an example. "Any time you sell someone a beverage item—a mug, a tumbler, a water cooler—never leave the item empty," he said. "An excellent way for an add-on sale is to fill that beverage item with a specifically tailored, individually wrapped mint. The logo on the wrappers could be the company name, a holiday [theme] or the theme of an upcoming meeting, or just a way to say 'Thanks a mint' to your employees or customers."
That advice isn't limited to mints, of course. Chocolate, candy and other edibles can be used in a similar manner, as long as you get creative and keep your client's promotional goals in mind.
While it's true that just about everyone loves sweets, translating that love into promotional success isn't as simple as throwing a bunch of random candy into a logoed tin. You've got to pick the right product, and that starts with the supplier. "Make sure you are working with a supplier that you trust is providing you the freshest food," said Margaret Dengler, marketing director for Mid-Nite Snax, Mineola, N.Y. "Find out if products are made to order or packed in advance. The supplier should be monitored by the FDA."
After that, things get a bit more subjective, depending on the client. Working with a big company or major corporation? Dengler suggested jellybeans or other candies available in corporate colors. Does your client want a thank-you gift for a loyal customer? Shechtman recommended gift baskets with a variety of treats that can be shared. "Food is a shared consumption product line," she said. "By that I mean the gift can be enjoyed by a group, office or family, so the impact is viral and everyone shares in the excitement and enjoyment."
Another idea is to identify your client's intended message and pitch chocolate, candy or mints that tie in with that message. Think cinnamon candies for a business marketing a "hot" new product or breath mints for a company advertising "fresh" deals. Dengler provided another example. "Careerbuilder.com used our gummy worms in a header bag to get the message across about what they do, but in a fun and innovative way," she said. "The front of the header card said 'here's your bait,' and when you turned it over it said 'Now go catch someone exceptional.'"
If your client is still unsure what kind of candy to choose, try giving samples until you find something that works. "I think the biggest key to success is having samples for the end-user to try," said Dengler. "Just as someone touches a shirt to feel the fabric, they would want to taste food before buying."
There's a reason restaurants put so much emphasis on plating—if food doesn't look good, people won't want to eat it. The same is true in the promotional industry, especially with decorating food packaging for end-users. "Presentation always matters a great deal when it comes to promotional products, but especially with food because it appeals to all senses," Dengler noted.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for creating effective packaging. Dengler mentioned standard decorating methods, as well as a few edibles-specific ideas. "Aside from printing, we offer corporate-color sprinkles and foil wrappers for our chocolate-dipped treats, and bows in every color and size to decorate packaging," she said.
Shechtman recommended combining chocolate, candy and mints with other branded items to create a gift basket or bundle that complements your client's goals. "We suggest either stock or custom gift bundles based on input from the distributor as to the nature of the event or theme, the demographic of the recipients, logo colors, and of course, their budget," she explained.
Shechtman gave an example. "For a Universal Studios holiday promotion, we designed a Grinch Who Stole Christmas theme," she said. "[We] used elegant gold star packaging and a globe keepsake bank, their logo being a globe. We filled it with great treats for each of their clients, movie stars, etc. to enjoy, and towered all the components into a beautiful bundle," she continued. "A Grinch plush was provided to us by the distributor, to bring a smile when the tower was first opened. The gift was so successful that we were brought back in to design another campaign for their 100th anniversary celebration."