For the Love of Chocolate

Maple Ridge Farms understands our nation’s intense love affair with chocolate. If we ever stop appreciating this, our yearly

“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt” – Charles Shultz

“All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt” – Charles Shultz

sales statistics quickly bring it back into focus. Our chocolate items are consistently among our top sellers. We decided to do a little searching to determine just what makes it such a hit!

Love of chocolate is nothing new. Known use of chocolate dates back to 1900 BC in Mesoamerica. Chocolate was introduced first in Spain, and then other European countries around 1600, and made its way to the United States around 1755. Once a culture embraced chocolate, its popularity invariably spread.

So what is really behind the lure of chocolate? A guilty pleasure, a moment of bliss in a sweet? When we’re sad and stressed, what do we do? Many of us resort to chocolate. Is there some scientific truth to the mood boosting ability of chocolate?

Put the Power of Food to Work for Your Organization

Food is a powerful tool. It gives us energy, powers our performance, and brings us together. People across the country and around the world are gathering around tables this holiday season to celebrate and put differences aside. Here’s how to continue to put the power of food to work for your organization the whole year through.

Get Fit

Do you want to encourage your organization to be healthier? Host a kickoff event to announce your new health and wellness program. Hand out healthier alternatives that still taste great, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, granola and nuts. Share easy-to-make, delicious recipes that incorporate nutritious options, and invite employees to make their favorite healthy dish at a potluck event. Reward progress and encourage participants to continue making good decisions by bringing healthy, delicious snacks into the office. Remember, investing in a healthier organization is a long-term commitment which contributes directly to your bottom line.
Resolve Differences

A successful organization resolves differences that come up during business. Perhaps you have two salespeople who don’t see eye-to-eye or departments that aren’t working well together. Bring them together during a meal and work to resolve any outstanding conflicts. When people eat together, it helps break down barriers and grudges, so you can work together towards a solution.
Celebrate and Improve

A team that achieves together should celebrate together. Reward team members who achieve key milestones and perform at a high level with celebratory meals. Talk about how you achieved these goals, and share best practices to encourage future performance. Remember to highlight every member’s contributions, including people in behind-the-scenes roles.

On the contrary, you won’t always achieve specific goals and meet expectations. When that happens, bring everyone together and discuss what happened. Ask team members to share what worked and what didn’t and offer suggestions for improvement. Don’t point fingers and place blame; work together to improve moving forward. Hosting this discussion around a table of delicious food or snacks should help ideas flow.
Recognize Teams and Individuals

Food is an excellent way to recognize everyone who contributed to an achievement. Meals and food gifts are perfect for groups to share and encourage people who work together to get to know each other better. Getting to know fellow team members and co-workers usually leads to improved performance. There’s just something about bringing a group together to work toward a common goal that’s powerful.

At the same time, it’s important to recognize individual contributions as well. In any group, there are leaders who move to the forefront, members who execute and implement your plans and out-of-sight worker bees who power the operation. Encourage all members to contribute by recognizing individuals as well as groups. Individual recognition helps reduce members who ‘ride on the coattails’ of their peers. Reward individual members by inviting them to lunch with their direct supervisor or team leader, so they can share their thoughts and feedback on team performance. This is especially powerful when you’re recognizing employees who perform in the background and may feel as if their voice isn’t being heard.
Host Company-Wide or Group Discussions

Do you need to discuss a topic as a company or group? Bring everyone together with food. There’s a reason why so many families discuss important events around the table; it’s a great place to host a group discussion. Hold a company-wide potluck or ask departments to meet over lunch to discuss proposed policy changes, suggest ideas to improve the culture or contribute to important company decisions. Your employees will feel like valued members of your organization and will appreciate that they’re being asked to contribute to important company decisions.

 

Enjoy the magic and wonder of the holiday season as you gather around tables and break bread with colleagues, family members and friends. Don’t forget about the power of food once the calendar turns to a New Year though. Continue to utilize food to motivate, incentivize and bring your organization together the whole year through.

 

5 Ways to Help Secure Those Last Minute Holiday Orders

It is the hectic holiday season and you want to make the most of the opportunity – fourth quarter holiday food gift business can significantly boost your bottom line. Historically, 20% of holiday food gift orders are placed in December, so there is still a lot of business out there. But what about that procrastinating customer that comes to you at the last minute? This is where we try to be the solution to last minute customer madness!

Historically, 20% of holiday food gift orders are placed in December.

Historically, 20% of holiday food gift orders are placed in December.

1. Does your customer have these details ready?  Having answers to these questions will save time during the ordering process:

  • What packaging and food choice does your client want?
  • How many items does your client need?
  • What type of imprint or decoration does your client want on the items?
  • Is the artwork approved?
  • Do you want cards included in the order, and if so do you have the cards or the message ready?
  • What are the ship-to addresses?
  • Is the client willing to pay rush shipping fees if necessary?
  • When is your absolute latest in-hands date?
Our website tools can make it easier for you to quickly find the perfect gift for your customer

Our website tools can make it easier for you to quickly find the perfect gift for your customer

2. Our website tools can make it easier for you to quickly find the perfect gift for your customer. We’ve included some time saver tools, such as search by price – just type in your client’s price range, you’ll see all the gifts in that price category.

3. Absolutely need an imprinted gift shipped in 2 days? Check out our 2 day gift section. We have over 40 gifts that can be imprinted and out our door in 2 days from receipt of complete order.

4. Our sales consultants are happy to discuss the various shipping options available to you. They can provide you with estimated transit times and give you a freight quote on the various shipping methods. Speaking of shipping, let us do the work for you and save you a few precious holiday crunch days. Rather than you or your client, reshipping the gifts we can ship the gifts to the final recipient, and even enclose gift cards. Just provide us with the shipping list and details of the gift cards.

5. Need a gift out even quicker? This might be the time to show your customer our gift certificate program! We are currently offering free overnight shipping on our Gourmet Gift Certificates. Each recipient can choose from the following:  Spiral Sliced Boneless Ham, Tower of Sweets, or Smoked Turkey Breast.

9 Tips to Help You Enjoy a Healthy Fourth Quarter

healthy_signThe fourth quarter can be a challenge on many levels; working on client holiday programs can be hectic, even more so when you’re also juggling your own holiday plans.  Staying healthy is an important part of a successful season, and we’ve got 9 tips to help you out!

5 Ways to Combat Freight Charge Concerns

boxes_on_beltThe freight landscape is ever-changing, and staying on top of the policies and rates of couriers can be a challenge, whether you’re shipping hard goods, soft goods, or food gifts.  Freight charges are probably not the first thing that your client is thinking about when they’re selecting their gifts, but they can have a significant impact on budgets!  A bit of elbow grease and creativity can help to ensure that freight charges don’t become a dealbreaker.

Have Freight Estimates Prepared
Although this won’t affect the final total, having a good idea of what to expect with freight charges can set everyone’s mind at ease—especially if your client is on a tight budget. Many factors go into determining freight, including size of the item, the potential need for ice and insulation, the delivery location, and the ship method.  Armed with freight estimates, you’re better able to determine if there will be any shipping concerns and address them upfront, instead of waiting for the invoice.

Explore the Free Shipping Section
Maple Ridge Farms offers a rotating selection of items eligible for free or flat rate shipping in the Free Shipping section of mapleridge.com. If your client has concerns about freight costs, check here first—there are great gifts available with free shipping to one location or $6.95 flat rate shipping to multiple locations (as of this writing).

Ship on a Third Party Account
Do you or your client get great rates through UPS or FedEx? We’re happy to ship on a third party number so you can take advantage of those!  Just specify the UPS or FedEx account you would like the freight billed to on your purchase order and we’ll take care of the rest.

Consider Truck Shipment
Is your client ordering a large quantity for bulk shipment to one location? You may be able to save on freight by shipping via truck instead.  If you think your order may qualify, please contact one of our Sales Consultants to discuss a truck estimate.

Switch to an Item Not Sensitive to Heat
Although less of a concern during the holidays, during the warmer months your clients may face higher shipping costs on perishable items due to the need for ice and insulation. If the increased cost is of concern, consider switching to another item, such as our shelf stable cheeses, nuts, or home-style cookies and brownies.  Our Sales Consultants are happy to discuss alternatives with you.

With a little legwork and ingenuity, freight challenges can be easily assuaged.  If your client is concerned over high freight, whatever the situation, be sure to work closely with your supplier to find the option that works to best meet your client’s needs.  We’ve seen just about every situation out there, and are here to help make sure everything goes smoothly so that you’re left with a happy client.

Officegiving: A Fun Holiday Party Served with Gratitude

This year, throw a holiday party that your staff will be thankful for – Officegiving.

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It’s a fun, low-key affair that is focused on the heart of your business – your people. Bring them together around a table of delicious food to celebrate their achievements, show your gratitude and encourage them to get to know each other better.

We have a few suggestions to make your Officegiving shine.

Food

The host supplies the turkey or main course and the gravy. (Not a cook? We can help, and no one will ever have to know. 😉) Ask your employees to contribute a side dish, dessert or beverage of their choice. It helps to suggest categories to ensure that you have a variety of dishes: potatoes, vegetables, special dietary needs (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or sugar-free, if needed), hors d’oeuvres, stuffing and so on. Don’t forget to have plenty of ice on hand.

 

Set Up

Impress your guests with a beautifully set table to create the tone for your event. (Presentation matters in business, right?) A tablecloth (or runner & placements), cloth napkins, china dinnerware, stemware, place cards, flowers/centerpieces and candles will make your staff feel special and appreciated. You can either assign seats to encourage mingling or allow your guests to take their place cards to the seats of their choice. Remember any serving platters, bowls or utensils that you will need and have plenty of water. Whether you have it on the table or in a designated beverage area, good food and constant talking will make your employees thirsty! Pleasant background music creates a comfortable atmosphere.

 

Schedule
/ Activities

As a show of gratitude, hold your Officegiving on a week day if possible. You can work a half day and then close the office for your celebration. Can’t lose your entire staff for that long? Block out two hours mid-day where everyone can get together. Invite your employees to dress casual for the day; it will be a nice treat if you typically have a more formal dress code.

While there’s no need to plan additional activities, they can add some fun and serve as icebreakers to get employees chatting.

  • Photo Booth: Create some fun, seasonal props and designate an area where guests can take selfies. Want to go all out? Roll out the red carpet (or leaf-lined trail) and rent a photo booth complete with props and photographer.
  • Awards Ceremony: Tastiest side dish? Best photo booth appearance? Most likely to eat turkey throughout the year? Everyone likes to win awards, even nonsense ones, so get creative with your categories and award names. Need inspiration? Check out The Dundies.
  • Get Physical: Depending on where you’re located, you can head outside to plan a friendly game of football or hold a competition indoors. Pin the feathers on the turkey (blindfolded, of course), an egg spoon race or obstacle course relay race will help burn calories and encourage teamwork.
  • Employee Trivia: This is a great way to help employees get to know each other better. Have everyone complete short questionnaires leading up to the event with questions such as, “Where did you grow up?”, “What was your first job?, “What’s your favorite hobby?” and so on. It will be fun to see who knows their co-workers the best.
  • Cook-Off: Encourage employees to bring in family recipes or branch out and try new foods. Allow everyone to vote for their favorite side dish and dessert or create your own categories.
  • Spend Time Together: Looking for more low-key indoor activities? Play a board game, watch a movie, work on a puzzle or color. Bring employees into the planning process by asking them to vote for their preferred activity and go with the top two or three choices, depending on space.

group-of-people-with-g6012sb

Show Your Gratitude

Officegiving centers around people and gratitude, so make sure to include the latter. Have each guest say one thing he or she is thankful for to kick off the meal or write them down to display in a common area in the office. It’s also a nice touch to give each employee a hand-written note from management thanking them for your hard work and contributions to the company during the year. The more personalized the notes, the better. If you’d like to go a step further, include a physical token of your gratitude, such as fresh baked cookies and brownies or a gift they can use in the office every day. While physical gifts aren’t necessary, they add an extra dose of appreciation.
Reduce your stress this holiday season and put the focus back where it should be – on people and gratitude. By holding Officegiving earlier in the holiday season, you’ll free up your employees to enjoy the special events and magic this time of year. So set a table, gather round and enjoy each other’s company. Cheers to a wonderful Officegiving!

6 Reasons to Choose Maple Ridge Farms for Your Holiday Food Gift Needs

Let’s face it: when it comes to options for holiday food gifts, there is a plethora out there for your customer to choose from.  Not only is there a number of options within the promotional products industry, there are also countless direct sellers, big-box stores, and small local companies—it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.  So why should you and your customer choose Maple Ridge Farms?

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Food for Thought – Let’s Talk about your Next Big Promotion!

Did you know that food gifts, also known as business gifts or executive gifts, are one of the least understood and under-utilized categories in the promotional products industry?  For many years food has ranked below the “other” category in the PPAI annual survey of product categories, accounting for only 1.55% or $300 million in sales.  As a whole in 2015, our industry did about $20 billion, so food sales accounted for a very small piece of the pie.
Sales Pie Chart
Out “there”, the mail order food business is bigger than our entire industry! According to a report in Food Engineering, the retail food gift business hit an estimated $21 billion in 2014, up 5% from the previous year. And it continues to grow!

The sad part about these numbers is, it’s your customers who are buying food (not from you) to give out.  So think about this simple correlation – if our industry did $20 billion, and the food industry did $21 billion the year before, is it possible for you to double your sales in one year just by going after the food business that’s already out there with your customers, who are buying direct?

It could be possible!  The biggest problem is that your customers don’t know that getting food gifts through their promotional products distributor is even an option.  In my observation of 26 years in this industry, most salespeople are remembered by the first thing they ever sold to that customer.  So in one customer you might be known as their pen guy.  Another customer might know you as the lady who sells them mugs.  But how many of your customers actually think about you as the sales professional who takes care of all of their business gift needs at the end of the year?

In selling food, the first step is to identify your customers who have the opportunity to use food.  Within every one of your customers there are three opportunities – there are executive gifts, which the President, CEO, etc. gives out to their circle of friends, golf buddies, or Board of Directors.  The second sale comes from Human Resources and that’s gifts for employees.  The third sale within every one of your customers is in Sales and Marketing for customers.  In some small companies this may be the same buyer; in larger companies there may be multiple departments that would buy food.  For instance purchasing might even buy something to send out the vendors. (As an interesting aside, I have actually gotten back my own products as a gift from some distributors who sent them out to their preferred vendors!)

L1021_NoBkgdMy belief is that the best time to start getting food catalogs out to your customers is in the month of August.  As I mentioned above, your competition is not the other distributors in town; the real threat is the mail order food vendors.  And they are already bombarding your customers with catalogs every 2 to 3 weeks.

Once you’ve made your rounds with the catalogs, by the end of August to the first part of September, you need to start going out with samples.  Giving out free samples to your customers will convince them on the quality of goods you are selling.

Chocolate Covered NutsThis method is tried and true, I know this process works!  Just last week I did a tabletop show with a distributor at a Counter meeting.  We placed multiple boxes of chocolates and nuts on the tables and began the presentation.  At the end of the meeting I went back around the tables to pick up any unopened boxes.  Not only were there no unopened boxes, there were no boxes period.  People at the table had taken the boxes with them as they left.  This is when you know you have a powerful promotion on your hands that reached prospects and customers with your food gift!

Once you start to see that customers are responding to your samples, it’s time to do the trial close.  Sit down and talk about budgets.  Ask them how many people they want to reach.  Ask them if you can handle the direct mailing for them.  Would they like to include something inside, such as a thank-you card or a brochure?  These are all items that can be handled for that customer, to take all of the pre-Christmas stress out of their hands.  Of course you don’t have to ship those orders immediately; orders can be delayed, but I always recommend that you ship food gifts to be delivered before Thanksgiving.  Two reasons for this: The first is that people always remember the first gift they get, so you want to get your customers gifts into their customers’ hands early.  The second is follow-up sales.  Inevitably customers will come back to you and ask to get a smaller run of product because there were people that were missed.

Gift Boxes with FoodIf you’re still struggling to close the sale on food gift orders by late September, perhaps consider sending samples.  This is a great way to show your customers exactly how nice their gift is going to look and exactly what the final product is going to look and taste like.  When you show a customer a beautiful presentation of boxes, ribbon, paper, etc. with the food gift inside, it’s a very powerful promotion that stays front of mind.  Some customers are visual and need to see, touch, and hold the product to be convinced to buy.  This is especially true with taste, often times the end user won’t buy unless they have had a chance to sample the product.

Once you’ve done that, it’s trial close time again.  Move that customer towards the close by asking for the order and telling them that you can get it shipped out to all of their customers on their list and have it in their hands so it’s fresh and ready to be enjoyed!

Despite their reputation, food gifts are not a scary sale.  It is simply a matter of letting your customers know that you can provide an entire service for them from the gift to the delivery.  It is time to think outside of the box.  Now is your opportunity to be known as something else other than “that guy we buy our pens from”.

Author Bio

Source: This blog post was originally posted in Spark Blog from Boundless Networks.

Definition: Kosher!

The word “kosher” is Hebrew for “fit” or “proper”.

How would you define kosher?  When the average consumer answers this question, they often think that the food has been blessed by a rabbi.  However, that is a common misconception.  As the winter holidays approach, you may receive requests for kosher gifts for your customer or their recipients.  It’s beneficial to know what the term “kosher” truly means so that you can best meet their gourmet gift-giving needs!

The word “kosher” is Hebrew for “fit” or “proper” and describes food that is appropriate for someone of the Jewish faith to eat.  Kosher is the process by which food production obeys dietary guidelines set forth in the Hebrew Bible and established by rabbinical authorities.

5 Ways You Can Overcome Local Candy Companies this Holiday Season!

So, your customer usually sends someone shopping?  Steer them your direction!

So, your customer usually sends someone shopping?  Here are some tips to steer them in your direction!

As the fourth quarter rushes in, many promotional products salespeople are reaching out and touching base with their customers that order holiday gifts.  When half of all business gifts purchased for the holidays are food gifts, one of the biggest hurdles is the statement “I was going to buy from the local!”  As a promotional products distributor, there are several ways for you to overcome that sentiment:

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