Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gourmet Food Gift Trends

This article was sent to me this week and I wanted to share it here to offer some insight into the current trend in the food gifting market in the midst of our countries economic downturn.

Gifts: Food Outperforms Many Other Categories

In an economic climate that hasn't been kind to many gift categories, consumer food gifts grew by 9.6%, to $14.9 billion, between 2007 and 2009, according to a new "Food Gifting in the U.S." report from Packaged Facts.

In comparison, total consumer gift purchases rose by 7.4%, to $112.9 billion, during the same two-year period. However, total 2009 sales of gift cards slipped 3.4%, and while per-person total gift expenditures rose between 2006 and 2008, spending declined in all gift categories but household supplies, small appliances, transportation and education.

The food-gift trend was the reverse: Per-person spending declined between '06 and '08, but rose substantially last year and is expected to rise again in 2010. Packaged Facts projects that healthy growth across all food-gifting channels will drive sales to more than $21 billion by 2014.

Meanwhile, corporate food gift-giving increased 3.8%, to $2.7 billion, between 2007 and 2009. Total corporate gift-giving, which is a mature market that grows slightly each year, rose just 1.3% (to $8.1 billion) during the period.

Specialty foods -- meaning gift-packaged foods other than chocolate/candy -- are driving food gifting's growth (although gift chocolates sales have also increased, to a lesser degree), according to the report.

"Specialty foods are the main component of food gifts and baskets because people want to give gifts that are unique, personal, indulgent, convenient and fun," as well as likely to be used by the recipient, points out Packaged Facts publisher Don Montuori. "And for many consumers, buying specialty foods during a recession is an affordable luxury that meets their criteria for an 'ideal' gift for others, or even themselves" -- explaining why food gifts have historically done well during tough economic times.

Continuing consumer interest in organic, natural and gourmet foods, as well as more sales of "healthy" gift baskets, are also fueling specialty food gift purchases.

Supporting the market opportunity for quality, healthy food gift items, Packaged Facts consumer research conducted in May/June of this year found that 53% of adults are interested in high-quality foods and 30% say they want healthy products -- both of which represent increases in interest compared with PF's 2007 survey. This suggests that there's a clear market for better and healthier food gift items, the report points out.

Consumers also like the convenience of food gifting. For example, 74% of 2010 survey respondents said that they like being able to purchase specialty food gifts online. However, while online food gift retailers account for about a third of the market last year, brick-and-mortar retailers still had a nearly 50% share (and mass merchandisers have the lion's share among those traditional retailers). Purchases through direct marketers make up the rest of the market.

(Source: Marketing Daily, 08/18/10)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Localizing On-line Shopping

Consumers have been clamoring for Oil & Vinegar to make our international flavors available on-line. Replicating the experience of taste and smell one gets when shopping in a store, is of course a challenge over the internet. Wait no more, a selection of Oil & Vinegar products are now available to purchase on-line at

Considering Oil & Vinegar is a franchise chain with 100% independently-owned and operated franchise locations in the USA, a critical priority for the design of the new e-commerce solution was to allow the store owners to maintain their existing customer relationships as well as foster new relationships in their local territories. “We designed the on-line shopping solution with not only the consumer in mind, but also our franchise owner interests. Our goal was to ensure that the franchise owner would be able to capitalize on the sales opportunities presented from on-line shopping, without being burdened with the administration of a website.” Explains CEO Matt Stermer.

The new e-commerce system allows the consumer to enter the US website and select which store they would like to shop on-line with. Essentially, each Oil & Vinegar franchise location has their own website and allows that store owner to seamlessly manage and service the on-line purchase while the HQ maintains the product catalog and other content. “We strongly believe that the consumer experience and relationship with the brand it critical. A big part of that relationship with the brand is the interaction and loyalty that has been fostered by a local store owner and their staff. Therefore, allowing the consumer, no matter where they live in the US, to continue to be serviced "on-line" by that specific store is the only way we would have it work.”

In addition to one-line shopping, the new site incorporates a recipe module highlighting interesting dishes one can created using Oil & Vinegar products. Future planned enhancements to the site include a wedding registry and custom gift basket creation capabilities.

Oil & Vinegar is a specialty retail franchise with corporate Headquarters in the Netherlands and over 70 store locations worldwide. There are currently six franchise stores in the USA located in Washington, Texas, Montana, Virginia and South Carolina. Plans are to bring on 6-8 new stores a year in various states across the country. For more information about franchise opportunities, please visit or call Matt Stermer at (206) 285-0517.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Turn Your Passion Into Your Business

Being a big Costco fan, I often read the Costco Connection and came across this refreshing article written by Rich Sloan, co-founder of, a leading business advice and networking site for entrepreneurs. Rich's piece speaks to many points I often preach about what our franchise opportunity and business concept at Oil & Vinegar can offer to a prospective owner and what steps they should be thinking about when evaluating if our franchise is the correct fit, so I felt compelled to post it here.

Article from

Take What You Love and Make It What You Do

There’s no time like the present to start living your most meaningful life. For many, that means conducting a sober assessment of whether your current life and career are fulfilling you. If your look in the mirror leaves you feeling like there’s something missing, one option to seriously consider is transforming something you’re passionate about into a business.

When you start up a business built on a genuine passion, magical things can happen. You not only gain immense satisfaction from spending time doing what you love, but that same excitement naturally helps you excite and compel everyone you come across in business - your employees, financiers and customers included.

Want to join the hundreds of thousands of people who will start a business this year and embark on a life filled with activities that genuinely call to you? If so, here’s some advice:

Get in the Sandbox

First, get in your creative “sandbox” so you can establish a clear definition of just what it is you love doing. Force yourself to actually write down your description. There’s something about having to stare at the written words that helps you truly define and refine your thoughts. Next write down why that passion calls to you. Knowing the “why” helps you understand more of the lifestyle aspects and will enable you to craft two critical things: 1) The business model that’s most appealing, such as online, brick-and-mortar, home-based, part-time, etc., and 2) the role and responsibilities you would like to assume in the business.

Use a Role Model

Don’t be fooled into thinking that starting a business means you have to be completely original. As an example, there are a lot of wedding photographers out there who have businesses similar to thousands of others, and yet they thrive. So, instead of inventing a brand new business, consider copycatting another successful business owner who shares your same passion. Using that role model, you’ll likely be able to leapfrog past numerous, expensive experiments and naïve assumptions. This will save money and time and keep you in love with your work rather than frustrated. Take this concept to the next level by actually reaching out to the role model you identify and ask for direct advice and mentorship. If you’re in a non-competitive geographic market, this should work and help you immensely.

Create a Basic Plan

Knowing the details of how your business will function is fundamental to your eventual success. But that doesn’t mean you have to get sucked into a business planning black hole. There’s an expression commonly used among experienced entrepreneurs known as, “analysis paralysis.” Perhaps as a form of self-doubt or as reluctance to “pull the trigger,” some people assume that they have to map out every detail about the business in advance. The fact is, analysis in the earliest stages can only do so much, and it always pales in comparison to the value of gaining experience and real-world responses from the market. Sidestep the overly elaborate business plan. Know your basic financial performance expectations so there are no surprises. Make sure you have ideas in place about how you’re going to gain customers. Know the key people and resources you’ll require. But don’t over think it. Get into the market with your offering as quickly as possible.

Delegate and Offload

To keep your passion a passion and not a burden, it’s imperative that you stay true to yourself. That means delegating tasks and responsibilities that don’t “call to you” to other people. Identify employees, contractors or specialized vendors who are expert in providing such services. In this day and age, there’s always someone capable, willing, and passionate about those aspects of running your business that interest you the least. If interacting with clients is what you love, then by all means, offload the bookkeeping, website updates, inventory management, etc., to someone else. Even if delegating in this way costs more overall, you’ll gain more time to make more money by stirring up new opportunities for the business, and, very importantly, you’ll continue your romance with your daily work and be glad everyday to wake up and apply yourself to your passion.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spice Up Your Life: Oil & Vinegar’s Tips for Getting Healthy in 2010

January is always a good time to think about healthy eating and at the same time, do some experimenting in the kitchen. A great way to add flavor and keep things healthy at the same time is to add herbs and spices to any of your recipe creations. Herbs and spices are filled with anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals that are essential to a healthy diet. In addition, they are low in calories and while still packed with great flavor. Using herbs and spices is a great a way to get healthy in 2010, without compromising taste.

At Oil & Vinegar, we have a wonderful selection of herbs and spices to choose from and some great recipe ideas to go with them. Here are some fun facts along with some of my favorite ways to incorporate herbs and spices in your daily life:

• Rosemary has anti-inflammatory properties; Add this when making oven roasted potatoes with our Rosa Maria dipper.

• It is said that chili peppers speed up the metabolism; Add a sprinkle of crushed chili flakes to tomato soup.

• Garlic is heart smart; Add a clove to dips, omelets or just shake it on pasta with your favorite olive oil.

• If the gloom of winter is getting you down, coriander (found in our fish wish grinder, masala rub, Mélange de France); rosemary, (in our Rosa Maria dipper) and black pepper, (try our Italian black peppercorns), all have depression fighting properties. Make a delicious crudité and for the dip add Mélange de France to a thick Greek yogurt.

• Saffron is known to have a calming effect, so make some Paella and relax!

Our Bruschetta mix is certainly the most popular and easy to use product in the store. Make some up, spread it on crusty bread, melt some mozzarella on top and enjoy the many health benefits of the tomato at the same time.

Hope you enjoy these tips as much as I do and just remember a delicious meal is only a couple of pinches away!