The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of consumer behavior and daily life. In 2020 and 2021, food gifting activity increased rapidly as conventional gatherings were limited, with many people spending more time at home and practicing social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ease with which e-commerce facilitates ordering and shipping made food gifting more popular during the pandemic. Additionally, food gifts are practical, comforting, and a good way to send treats to someone who cannot be visited in person. Thus, consumers and businesses alike have been sending more food gifts during a time of disruption.
Food gifts have been particularly important for companies as alternatives to holiday parties or other work-related events when offices are closed and more employees have been working from home.
What Are Food Gifts?
Food gifts are food items that are packaged in a way that is suitable for gifting. Food gifts range from baskets of treats to eat while watching football to food gift baskets given to people on Christmas or birthdays. Food gifts can be purchased for any occasion or no occasion, for someone else or for oneself.
One of the most commonplace food gifts is a box of chocolates, which is often given as a gift for Valentine’s Day. Chocolates and candy assortments are also given as gifts for a number of other holidays and occasions including Christmas/winter holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and work-related events.
Plenty of other food assortments are given as gifts, including:
- cheese assortments
- coffee/tea/hot chocolate gifts
- cooking condiment sets
- gourmet food or fruit baskets
- packages with wine or other alcoholic beverages
- meat/deli assortments
- nuts or other salty snacks
- popcorn tins
- sweet baked foods such as cookies, cakes, and pies
- sweet condiments such as jelly and jams
- international or regional food gifts
- other food gifts such as meal kits or prepackaged meals
Self-Gifting for Indulgent Snacks and Treats
Though food gifts are often thought of as gifts for other people, self-gifting has become very important to the food gifting market. In fact, according to Packaged Facts’ National Online Consumer Survey conducted from November to December 2021, 69% of consumers purchased food gifts for themselves compared to 67% of consumers who purchased food gifts for others.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the “treat yourself” factor has been very important for self-gifting trends as consumers have sought out more indulgent treats and snacks to eat at home. Some may turn to indulgent treats to relieve stress, while others may treat themselves for a special occasion or reward for personal accomplishments.
Additionally, self-gifting for no occasion is very popular – birthdays and no occasion are the most popular occasions for buying food gifts for oneself in Packaged Facts’ survey, whereas buying gifts for others is more linked to holidays such as winter holidays, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or Thanksgiving.
Attributes Sought in Food Gifts
Consumers who buy food gifts for themselves or others are most likely to seek out food gifts that are high quality. Food gifts are typically seen as gourmet items that are special or higher quality compared to foods typically eaten, lending to their importance for special occasions and holidays.
Appearance is also very important to food gifts, with many consumers looking for attractive packaging in a food gift. Attractive packaging gives food gifts an upscale image that can increase enjoyment and appreciation. Packaging that is unattractive or defective can give a bad impression, harm brand reputation, or even lead to the products inside being damaged.
People who buy food gifts also want a product they can trust that provides sufficient value and variety. Other top attributes sought in food gifts are good value, sourcing from trusted stores/sources, and a wide variety of products.
Additional analysis of the food gifting market can be found in the February 2022 Packaged Facts report Consumer and Corporate Food Gifting in the U.S., 8th Edition.
About the blogger: Cara Rasch is a food and beverage analyst for Packaged Facts. She studies consumer and industry trends in this space and has a B.A. in economics from Allegheny College.