Business Gifts: Pros and Cons of Holiday Food Gifts

Updated on December 25, 2017
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a promotional products expert and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business.


Who wouldn't want a delicious food gift from a business for the holidays? Well, it depends on who's the intended recipient. What may be delicious to one, may be deadly or offensive to another.

Here are some common reasons why holiday food gifts may be declined or trashed:

  • Allergies. Allergies to nuts, dairy products, chocolate and gluten can wipe out a wide swath of common food gifts including candy and cookies which are commonly used for holiday giving. Those with the most severe allergies could experience a serious, even deadly, reaction from unknowingly eating the wrong things.
  • Diets. It's common for people to indulge their sweet tooth over the holidays and then set a New Year's resolution to shed the packed on pounds. But some folks may even "be good" and shun a holiday sugar or fat overload.
  • Disease. In addition to allergies, the list of diseases that can be aggravated by eating the wrong foods is legion, everything from arthritis to zits.
  • Philosophy. This group would include those who practice vegetarian, vegan, organic, environmentally friendly or socially responsible lifestyles. For example, those who are trying to be more socially responsible may only wish to eat fair trade chocolate.
  • Religion. Giving certain meats or other prohibited foods to kosher-observing Jewish recipients is just in poor taste (taste pun intended). Also be aware that Jewish communities are not the only ones with religious diet restrictions.
  • Expired Shelf Life. Many promotional candy items have a shelf life of about 3 to 6 months if stored properly and then they need to be trashed. However, some can expire in only a few days! Others may require special handling or refrigeration. ALWAYS check with your promotional product distributor on shelf life of the food item being purchased and discard them when that date arrives to avoid giving bad food to customers.

It is even more interesting to note that according to the Advertising Specialty Institute State of the Industry/Product Matrix reports from 2013 to 2014, food gifts dropped from 2.2 percent market share of revenues to 1.5 percent—a 32 percent drop—in just one year's time. There may be many explanations for this including cost of food gifts. However, the health and preference issues discussed above that often get media attention cannot be discounted as a contributing cause.

But the BIG no-no for food gifts for business? NEVER make them yourself! Too much liability!

But the BIG no-no for food gifts for business? NEVER make them yourself! Too much liability!

— Heidi Thorne

Alternatives to Consider When Food is NOT Appropriate

Giving the wrong type of food gift can also hurt the company's brand. So what should a business who wants to "treat" their customers do?

  • Know Customers' Concerns and Sensitivities. A thorough understanding of the business' market demographics should make some of these issues obvious ones to avoid. But if not, err on the side of caution and make an alternate gifting choice.
  • Non-Food Options. Selecting non-food gifts may be a safer alternative for customer groups that are known to have serious or widely varying sensitivities and preferences.
  • Let THEM Decide. Retail gift cards or debit cards can let customers decide what's right for them.

When Holiday Food Gifts Might be Appropriate...

For markets that are not sensitive as those discussed earlier, holiday food gifts can actually be an economical choice. Here's why:

  • Sharing. One larger gift or gift basket given to a business or other group is often shared. This reduces the cost of purchasing and shipping individual gifts.
  • Repeat Performance. Consumable food gifts can usually be given multiple times with little rejection. Some recipients even look forward to the annual treats!
  • 2-in-1 Gifts. If packaged in a reusable container, the gift can be enjoyed during the holidays and throughout the entire year.

Disclaimer: Any examples or references used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Heidi Thorne


    Submit a Comment
    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      3 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Alison! Thanks for chiming in and sharing. Hope all the goodies you get are good ones. Cheers!

    • profile image

      Alison Henderson 

      3 years ago

      Great information as always! Already posted on my FB feed! Interesting that my husband keeps talking about all the food they are getting in the office every day (and the turkey we got at Thanksgiving and the ham he brought home yesterday!) I think you are ahead of the curve!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Poetryman6969, I ALWAYS love a cookie food gift! :) Thank you for stopping by and chiming. Have a wonderful day!

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      4 years ago

      Some good advice on gift giving. Especially on how to avoid liability. As for me, I love food as a gift if it's something like cookies!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Just added another important consideration on shelf life when considering holiday food gifts. Please read!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi purl3agony! Yep, food gifts can be tricky. You really need to have a good handle on the recipients' preferences. Thank you so much for sharing and support. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 

      5 years ago from USA

      Great hub on a very tricky subject. I once worked with a woman who was highly insulted that her husband's employer gave out turkeys at the holidays because they kept a kosher house. I had never realized all the intricacies of business food gifts. It seems like a great idea, but I think often it turns into a waste of money and these items get thrown out. Thanks for sharing!! Voted up and very useful!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi teaches12345! You're right in that a simple task such as choosing gifts can be difficult. Glad you found the hub helpful. Happy Weekend!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      Your gift suggestions are great and will make it easier to decide what to give. It is often a difficult decision to make when the time comes to celebrate or honor an employee (0r boss). Your list of what to keep in mind is so very useful. Great write and well done!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Yes, PegCole17, it is sad that personalized gifts are falling by the wayside. But today's society is so litigious that it's better to err on the safe side. I used to love getting goodies from vendors, too. At one company, we were such brats that we would tell one of our good buddy vendors what we wanted. :) Thanks for stopping by and chiming in! Have a great week!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      The changes in attitudes (and liabilities) toward home made gifts is remarkable. I worked in a purchasing department for years and gift giving at the holiday season was normal, within a certain dollar limit. At that time, several of our vendors gave the department gifts ranging from turkeys, to deli platters, to home made cookies, which we always loved. It seems sad that personalized gifts are now out of fashion.

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Monday, FlourishAnyway! Oh dear Lord! When I see people giving homemade food gifts for business, I just cringe. You make a great point about company policies on gift acceptance. Many have a dollar value (such as $25 maximum) and some don't accept them at all. Maybe we should even add a tip for vendors to ask their clients about gifts before giving. Your "been there, done that" insight is always so helpful. Thanks for your support and have a great week!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Well, billybuc, I'm already making my gift list for "The Boss" (me!). Since I don't have too many food allergies, I'm thinking a big box of chocolate truffles is in order. Hope you got some great ideas to give to your own "CEO." ;) Happy Monday!

    • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

      Heidi Thorne 

      5 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hello amitsondagar! Glad you found the gift tips helpful. Have a great day!

    • amitsondagar profile image

      Amit Sondagar 

      5 years ago from Ahmedabad

      thanks for given us nice information about "business holiday gifts" i like your idea

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      So, should I give myself a gift???? I get so confused being the boss and only employee. :)

      Greats suggestions as always my friend. I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      You are absolutely right about never making them yourself! It's also important to know the recipient company's policy on accepting gifts. Gifts over a certain value often have to be returned, for example, unless they are consumable and able to be shared by an entire department, team, etc. You make some excellent points with religion, values, allergies, etc. You just never know!


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