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The power of online for the gift of food

Strawberries in Basket edited
Emma Cowan on August 13, 2014 - 9:44 am in In Depth

Food Gifting is one of the latest trends to take off in the United States. Emma Cowan investigates what’s happening in the niche sector here.

Watching what’s happening stateside often gives an insight into what might just be the next big thing on the our side of the pond and the indications are that, in the food sector, food gifting is a niche market worth watching. In 2012, the food gifting market in the US was worth $11.15 billion, up 2.5% from the previous year along a steady growth trend. According to a recent report, however, the sector is set to buck that trend with 4.9% growth forecast for 2014, bring the market value up to just over $12 billion. For a niche sector, that is growth worth taking notice of.

The Packaged Facts report suggests that growth in the United States is buoyed by continued purchase and purchase frequency among higher-income consumers and growing food gifting strength among middle-income consumers. By age, food gifters aged 35-44 and 65+ are most likely to have given food gifts 5+ times in the last 12 months. Online sales have been crucial to growth, but telephone and mail order are also essential channels.

While festive celebrations such as Christmas and Easter present very obvious opportunities, food gifting has been carefully marketed to ensure and all-year-round business opportunity and, indeed, the report stresses the vital importance of marketing in growing the sector: “Across food gifting categories, food gifting marketers are more than meeting consumers halfway, pushing the personalisation envelope, building the brand cache required for that food gifting special occasion or recipient, cross-marketing additional products to meet more occasions, filling more ‘everyday’ needs and wants, and even striving to meet health and diet needs.”

For example, one of the easier and more successful marketing ploys has been the BOGOF (buy one, get one free). It seems that, while purchasing gifts online for others, more than half of shoppers also want something for themselves. BOGOF offers effectively encourage shoppers to buy an item for themselves as well as a gift for someone else and, in overall terms, to spend more.

BitetosavourBite to savour

Closer to home, based in Kilkeel, County Down, Jenna Stevenson has been dipping her toes into the food gifting market with . Having spent some time living and working in Australia, Jenna came home to Northern Ireland with a beautiful range of extra virgin olive oils and a connoisseur’s range of balsamic vinegars from Pukara Estate. Starting off ‘doing the food markets’, which is still a feature of Jenna’s business, her product range is now listed in around 20 selected, high end delicatessens across Northern Ireland, such as Arcadia Deli on the Lisburn Road, and Saywers im Fountain Centre, both in Belfast.

She also has an online shop doing a healthy trade in her product range, incorporating individual products, gift packs and the very popular Pukara Estate recipe book. Sales through this channel have been growing steadily and this is where Jenna is concentrating her efforts at the moment, with the launch of BITETOSAVOUR.

Launched just over a month ago, this online speciality foods shop has already been gaining sales, predominantly from England and Ireland . Jenna would like to grow her local, Northern Ireland market into online sales too and hopes this will happen as BITETOSAVOUR becomes established.

Central to the online business is Jenna’s gourmet box scheme. Jenna explained: “We source locally produced products that are carefully selected by our tasting team and send them to customers through our seasonal subscription (spring, summer, autumn and winter) so they can experience and discover new flavours and products throughout the year.

“There are three options for boxes (which typically contain 6 – 7 items) on our website. A trial box is a one-off box to let people sample what’s on offer. With a seasonal subscription you sign up with BITETOSAVOUR for the year and receive four boxes, Spring, Summer, Autumn and winter. This is our most popular option, especially for gifts.  The third option, which is coming soon, is our BUILD-A-BOX which is a customised box from the selection on offer. I am very excited about it and hope it will grow to become out best seller.

“Customers still have the option to buy individual products on line and, in everything we do, we are totally passionate about helping small producers get products on to the market, so customers will find products on BITETOSAVOUR that they won’t easily find anywhere else.”

Jenna’s marketing proposition also includes a charity element, where BITETOSAVOUR will donate a mean to UK and Ireland Foodbanks with every box purchased. The response to date has been very exciting and Jenna has plans for growth and expansion with the assistance of Invest NI.

Out of IrelandOut of Ireland

Based in the west of Northern Ireland, is a beautiful online shop stocking a delicious range of high quality, artisan and gourmet food gift products, including teas and coffees, biscuits, preserves, chocolates, cereal products and even seaweeds. Shoppers can buy individual products or hampers, ranging from around £4 for a gift bag to bespoke hampers priced individually on contents and container options.

The selection available includes some of Northern Ireland’s best known gourmet food brands, such as Suki, Ditty’s, Ristretto, Melting Pot and Bella Jo as well as Irish favourites such as Butlers chocolates.

Jane’s offering is targeted at a range of customers, from the individual to hospitality operators such as self catering establishments and a wholesale option for bulk orders. Established in November 2013, Out of Ireland started as a conventional format business offering a range of hampers locally. Jane expanded the range of artisan products and gifts items and her web site was launched in February of this year.

Jane explained: “Currently our business comes from all-Ireland and the UK and we are marketing predominantly through the web site, but also by attending trade fairs here in Northern Ireland. We’ve only been in business for eight months but already in that time sales have grown about 40%. Extending our product range and creating a website has enabled us to target a wider customer base and increase sales.

“We offer discounts on our website from 20 – 30% at certain times of the year to boost sales and currently have an offer of 30% off all products to help promote our website. We also offer discount on bulk orders.”

Jane is geared up for further growth and, along with working her web site she will be further developing her product range and looking to expand her customer base by attending selected food shows and fairs.

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  • August 14, 2014

    Emma you might want to check us out on twitter. @GoodFoodWineCo. We have just wine four great taste awards and finalists on 3 products for the Irish Quality Food Awards next month!

    Michelle. Director.