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Incredible Edibles

By Cherri Gann, PPAI

Paula, the director of purchasing at a wholesale gifts company, frowned at the familiar logo printed on the outside of the large parcel sitting on her desk. Still annoyed from the tense phone call to her long-time floral design vendor that morning, she opened the taped box, wishing the design company would get its internal problems under control. Talent-wise, it was the best she had ever worked with, but she was running low on patience with the uncharacteristic yet growing litany of errors lately.

Pushing aside the vibrant, logo-imprinted tissue paper, Paula lifted out a giant, colorful, custom-decorated tin filled with three dozen plate-sized chocolate covered, chocolate chip cookies. Resting on top was a similarly logoed greeting card containing a handwritten apologetic note from her purchasing rep promising no more sub-par service. "Hmmm," she thought. "Very nice."

"What?!" her team cried in unison as Paula set the tin of fresh-baked treats in the center of the break room table that afternoon. "It's going to take more than a few gooey, delectable treats to make up for the mistake this morning," declared assistant department manager Daphne, each time she reached for another fudgy delight. Pausing only for quick sips of Diet Coke® and to lick the chocolate from their fingertips, each of the seven staffers vented recent examples of this merchant's sudden ineptitude.

As the stack of cookies diminished, the firestorm of complaints regarding so-so customer service, missed deliveries and incomplete orders steadily lost steam and were replaced with reminiscences of rush jobs with no extra charge, diligent painstaking searches for special materials and superior creativity on the part of the vendor. "For the most part, they have mostly done a great job-until recently," offered John, the online coordinator, as he stared into the empty tin and licked the last fleck of chocolate from the corner of his mouth. "Maybe we should give them a second chance." Break time over, the team stood, brushed the crumbs from their laps and agreed.

Although the above is a hypothetical scenario, it could occur in real life. A simple batch of cookies-or some other delicious treat-presented in the right way can make a big impact. That's the beauty of edibles. "It's universal," says Darcy Little, CAS, Mille Lacs Gourmet Foods' director of marketing. "Everyone has to eat, and most like to eat. Since you don't have to worry about size, food is always appropriate."

She's right! Food can be used in almost infinite capacities-goodwill gestures, celebrations, congratulations, thank you's, invitations, announcements, sales generators, leave behinds and trade-show giveaways. "Its universality is probably the number-one reason food gift products do so well in the promotional products market," says Tom Riordan, president of Maple Ridge Farms, Inc. "It's a product that works in all demographics. Fine chocolates are equally appropriate for a receptionist or a president."

Tammy Bowen, sales and marketing director at Captain Foods, Inc., says, "Even after the food is consumed, recipients will still remember receiving it and who it came from. Taste bud appeal lasts for a long time." Grant Erwin, president of Taylor & Grant Specialties Limited, agrees. "Food memories do tend to stay with us a long time. Maybe it's because we associate emotional experiences with it," he says.

Little also agrees there's something to that philosophy. "We all have a favorite dish or dessert our moms or other relatives make during the holidays. In addition to tasting good, eating it also evokes certain sentimentality. We like the food, but it also gives a special feeling toward the person who provided it. I think that can be translated to receiving food gifts in the business setting, too."

Cherri Gann, PPAI

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