Simple, aesthetically pleasing recipes can inspire millions, becoming viral sensations. In early 2020, the whipped coffee craze took off after TikToker Hannah Cho posted a 15-second video of herself making the drink. The video has been liked over 2 million times. This foamy, cream creation, also known as “dalonga coffee,” has now been made into ice pops, matcha lattes, tiramisù and martinis as retail chains and cafes play catch up.

Today, consumers are cooking and baking more, and with recipes easy to find online, anyone can cook. A 2021 study found that Americans are cooking 51% more often and baking 34% more compared to pre-pandemic levels. During the early months of the pandemic, food was a safe haven.

Now, there’s joy in the kitchen again, and it’s here to stay. As consumers discover new ingredients, brands and products, they’re becoming more confident and creative.

For those with a passion for food, social media is the best teacher. According to research, consumers are five times more likely to use recipes they have found on social media than on TV. Cookbooks have taken the backburner with more than 70% of people preferring to get their recipes from social media, according to a 2020 survey.

Consumers want convenience, new dishes, cost savings and simple ways to make impressive meals to share with family and friends. Social media has set a new food standard for consumers. The same goes for food gifts. Recipients want a thoughtful, tasty experience and won’t settle for anything less.

To Emily Dunnigan, account executive at Minnesota-based distributor Quality Resource Group, food is a gift giving love language. She says, “It creates a familial sense of care and community between yourself and your recipients. It shows care and thoughtfulness. Instead of the staying power of a physical item, food gifts are successful because of the emotional connection they can create between the brand and its audience.”

COVID-19 led to a boom in food gifting. In 2020 and 2021, food gifting became a practical and comforting way for families, friends and companies to connect with someone who can’t be visited in person.

For Dunnigan, the best food gifts are anything but cookie cutter. She says, “I have many types of favorites because my goal is to create signature food gifting items for each brand partner I have. I rarely gravitate to a food item that feels store bought and mass produced. I look for the unique gems with a homemade feel that bring with them a sense of nostalgia and make taste buds happy.”

People also used food gifts to pamper themselves. According to a 2021 survey, 69% of consumers purchased food gifts for themselves compared to 67% of consumers who purchased food gifts for others.

Paula Wygnoik, MAS, president of Michigan-based distributor Competitive Edge, says there are two ways to create unforgettable food gifting. “Either beautifully packaged and decadent that says, ‘You are special… we value and appreciate you,’ or clever and humorous that says, 'We are creative. How can we help you deliver an unexpected experience for your employees and customers?'

When gifting food, Dunnigan says consistency matters. “Find the food gift items that work for you and then stick with them. I like to think of food gift items as a perpetual program. Set it up right and there is no shelf life for the program. Think of a family member or friend that has a signature dish that you love. Every time you get together, you hope they bring it and can’t wait to have it again.

“I take that approach with finding a food item that can resonate the same way with clients and their recipients. I want to create that signature food item experience between our client and their recipients. They receive it, they love it and they want more of it is the approach to take with food.”

In early 2021, a popular cheese nearly vanished from grocery store shelves after a pasta recipe went viral on TikTok. The feta-tomato pasta requires cherry red tomatoes roasted in oil and a big block of cheese. At the time, The Charlotte Observer reported “finding a block of feta cheese is like a ‘golden ticket’ in Charlotte right now,” thanks to the popular recipe.

Last year, the top food-related search on Google was baked feta pasta, according to a report from global market research firm Mintel. But feta wasn’t the only cheese on the block. Americans’ total cheese consumption grew 3% in 2021. Consumers are craving cheese. This familiar favorite is a decadent treat to be paired with fruits, meats and other flavors.

The ever-popular charcuterie board rose to cultural phenomenon in the pandemic. The array of cured meats and cheeses altered restaurant menus, social gatherings and eating habits. But the simplicity and versatility of cheese is what makes it so popular. In uncertain times, people rely on comfort foods like grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza and mac & cheese.

Promo pros can be certain a food gift will never be too cheesy.

The Wisconsin Classics gift is a classic presentation. The bamboo cutting board features a handle cutout, contrasting accent stripes, and your fire branded imprint, and comes packed with a block of your choice of natural or shelf stable Wisconsin cheese, summer sausage, and crackers great for serving them both. The cleaver is included, too.
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The Take Me Out To the Ball Game Helmet Snack Kit has one eight-ounce mini plastic helmet, a two-ounce bag of caramel popcorn, a two-ounce bag of honey roasted peanuts and one Big League Chew packet.
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For popcorn lovers, send this crave-worthy Hammonds Gourmet Caramel Glazed Popcorn with a greeting card to spark a conversation or create a fun promo gift. Choose from flavors sweet & cheesy, caramel glazed, or chocolate caramel. Great for birthday programs, thank yous, celebrations or just because, Hammonds’ POP-ular flavors hit all the taste buds.
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Delight recipients with not one but two treats. This Double Fudge Brownie and Cookie Tin comes with three Mrs. Fields double chocolate fudge brownies and three Mrs. Fields chocolate chip nibbler packs.
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The Pass the Remote kit will level-up any recipient’s snacking game with an assortment of binge-worthy treats paired with custom blue-light blocking glasses. This kit includes sunflower seeds, citrus glazed pecans, sour cream & onion crisps, and a honey sriracha couch mix.
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This cocktail inspired gift set is a great gift without the hangover. Choose from two combinations: Jelly Belly cocktail mix, whiskey cordials and chocolate almond martini olives or champagne bubbles, chocolate almond martini olives and an ultimate bar mix. All candy and snacks are non-alcoholic.
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When recipients lift the lid foil-stamped with your client’s logo in white, they’ll find everything they need for a nostalgic snack time: pretzel sticks with a sweet and hot dipping mustard, a snack pack of trail mix, and two chewy chocolate chunk cookies. Recipients will appreciate your client not only as they enjoy the treats, but also each time they reuse the durable magnetic box.
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This Sweet Dreams kit comes filled with mini chocolate covered pretzels, or a variety of delicious gourmet snacks and treats, in a clear box with gold foil accent. A simple treat that will surely delight is perfect for new hires or rewards. There’s a one-color imprint on the top of the lid.
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Valdez is an editor at PPAI.