Holiday Sales Sprint   //   December 1, 2023

Food brands bet on gift sets to drive holiday sales

Food brands are betting big on gift sets this holiday season.

As inflation has left people with tighter wallets this holiday season, a number of food companies are positioning their products as luxurious-yet-affordable presents. From classics like popcorn and hot chocolate to more home chef-friendly condiments and sauces, brands are increasingly promoting bundles and sets. The goal is not only to drive new revenue, but also acquire new customers. By taking existing products within their lineup and bundling them with some newer items or seasonal flavors, the hope is that these gift sets will put shoppers in a festive mood, and thus willing to take a chance on products from a new brand.

Direct-to-consumer startup Cheerie Lane is hyping up its “popcorn pods” as a gift or last-minute stocking stuffer. The brand’s popcorn pods consist of bundles of popcorn kernels bound together with cocoa butter, making them easier to cook, in flavors like rosemary garlic, tomato basil and classic butter.

Cheerie Lane co-founder Kate Greer said, “as a very new brand, this holiday season we’re really focused on new customer acquisition and building brand awareness.” She added, “we created our gift sets with those goals in mind, but of course offering giftable bundles also gives us an opportunity to drive Q4 revenue and move inventory ahead of the new year.”

So, Cheerie Lane created sets featuring ready-for-popping items with its corn pods, like a serving bowl and saucepan. A “Corny Set,” featuring Ridley’s 100 A-maize-ing Corny Joke Cards and Cheerie Lane merch, is also available to send with a gift note. 

Other brands in the category are taking a similar approach — DTC brand Popsmith, for example, is promoting a set of its kernels and stovetop corn popper for gifting. Meanwhile gourmet popcorn brand BjornQorn is looking to stand out with unusual flavors. BjornQorn collaborated with functional beverage brand Ruby Hibiscus on a new “tangy & salty pink popcorn,” dusted with tart hibiscus powder and nutritional yeast. The set is available on Ruby’s DTC website and Whole Foods this fall.

“We want our bundles to be approachable and easily shoppable for folks who already buy Cheerie Lane and for those folks who may be just discovering the brand for the first time this holiday season,” Greer said. One interesting takeaway so far, Greer noted, is that the brand’s subscription sales have nearly eclipsed its bestselling butter pack sales this month. “We’re seeing folks reach out to see if they could re-order the first month’s subscription pack,” she said.

Other brands are leaning heavily into holiday flavors. Baking brand Supernatural is selling a gingerbread decorating kit, in partnership with King Arthur and Vital Farms. Meanwhile, online spice company Savory Spice launched a hot cocoa bundle featuring several of its products, including Dutch cocoa, cinnamon sugar and peppermint vanilla bean sugar. The set, sold for $21.99, is being promoted as a luxury gift at an accessible price that won’t break the bank.

“We’ve been selling out of it [set] and have seen people respond really well to it so far,” Michael Kimball, senior manager of product innovation at Savory Spice, said. The company also launched new spice gift sets featuring its popular black garlic salt and black truffle parmesan seasoning. 

Mexican food startup Somos is selling a new salsa macha bundle, called the “Mi Macha es tu Macha” gift set, featuring two flavors of its popular chili crisp. The gift box comes with a hand-painted spoon lid, designed by Cemcui artisans in Jalisco, Mexico and features custom artwork painted by Maestro Margarito Melchor in Oaxaca. Sold exclusively through the brand’s website, the gift set retails for $34.99.

Somos co-founder and CEO Miguel Leal told Modern Retail the company, which launched in 2021, found success with gift sets last year. “We had a gift set offering our four signature salsas and a salsero dish we sourced from Mexico that was a hit,” Leal said. “So we knew we wanted to bring back a holiday gift set this year but make it even more customized.” Somos’ Salsa Machas have been one of the brand’s most popular new products this year, he continued, making them ideal for building a bundle around. 

Somos has been promoting the gift set on its social media channels, through email marketing and through its network of influencers to help get the word out. Leal didn’t disclose exact sales figures thus far, but said “since our holiday offering became available, we’ve seen consistent, steady sales over the past few weeks.” The company anticipates that sales will increase the holidays and shipping cutoff dates get closer.

“We do focus on the giftability aspect this time of year, so the presentation and packaging give these bundles a nice polished feel to them,” Savory Spice’s Kimball said. But perhaps the easiest sell is offering tried-and-true comfort foods to gift friends and family or self-gift. “Everybody wants nostalgic flavors this time of year,” Kimball said.