Smithfield Foods Enters Corporate Gifts Market

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Smithfield Foods Inc. thinks American businesses are hungry for gourmet food. That's why the Smithfield, VA, specialty foods direct marketer recently launched a business unit targeting the corporate gifts and incentives market.

For more than 10 years, Smithfield Foods has mailed its consumer catalog featuring gourmet food items to Virginia-based companies. It has found that "food is a gift people almost always appreciate because it makes life easier," said Pete Booker, general manager of Smithfield Specialty Foods Group, the division responsible for business-to-business marketing. "We saw a real opportunity to expand on a proven formula that is already working and create a separate communication vehicle."

With this in mind, the company launched a site at www.smithfieldincentives.com May 3. It offers 200 existing gourmet food products including the company's signature ham and other pork products, beef, fish, poultry, peanuts and specialty nuts, and a line of desserts and chocolates.

The Web site also offers Smithfield's new gift card, which can be personalized with a greeting card.

Smithfield sees the initiative as a year-round program, not just a holiday one.

"Incentives happen all year long, and there's always a need for an option that includes food," Mr. Booker said, citing tailgating, Easter and baseball games. "We want to be positioned as the gourmet food option."

The site will be supported with print ads in corporate gifts and incentives trade magazines starting in September. The company also is finalizing plans to support the Web site with pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization and e-mail blasts.

The BTB program also includes direct mail. In May, the company mailed a letter to 500 existing business customers announcing the new business. A postcard also announcing the launch went to 2,000 industry leaders.

The business plan calls for creation of a BTB catalog at year's end that will be based on what the company learns from its first holiday season in the market. So far, Smithfield has learned several things about the BTB specialty foods buyer. Specifically, corporate gifts and incentives buyers are "looking to give a perceived value to employees but are still looking to get it at a price that is competitive," Mr. Booker said.

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