Customized Holiday Food Products

Customized holiday food products will spread good cheer ... and your name, according to Diane Toops, in her monthly Food Processing column.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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As the holiday season approaches, you might be in a quandary deciding what gift to buy your babysitter, child's teacher, Little League coach, doorman or co-worker.

Your first reaction might be to hand out some greenbacks, but whether you celebrate Christmas, the African-American Kwanzaa celebration or the Jewish Hanukkah, why not distribute an individualized food product for those special individuals who provide services all year that make your life easier?

Although we all like to tear off the label to get to the chocolate, Hershey Co. lets you create a personalized wrapper for any occasion or, better yet, you can send a chocolate holiday wrapper photo greeting instead of a Christmas card. Just e-mail the Hershey, Pa., company a family portrait and they'll set it on a green background with snowflake and ornament images imprinted in the design, along with your holiday wish. The back wrapper adds the finishing touch with the message, "Wishing you peace & joy at this blessed time of year!" Cost depends on quantity, but they run about $2 each. A $10 photo/image fee will be added to your order. See www.wrappedhersheys.com.

Raise your glass of Spiced Holiday Wine from Tamuzza Vineyards, Franklinville, N.J., in a toast. For $85, you can design your own personalized holiday label and receive 12 bottles of semi-sweet spiced red wine with a kick of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a hint of strawberry that can be served cold or hot with a stick of cinnamon (www.tamuzzavineyards.com/holidaypage.html).

We've all had fun kidding around about Seattle-based Jones Soda Co.'s Turkey and Gravy soda, which sold out instantly in supermarkets. But Jones' philosophy of sharing ownership of its brand with consumers is a winner, particularly in the creation of personalized beverage labels. In five easy steps, you can upload a photo of your favorite person, select one Jones Soda flavor, customize the label and a personalized 12-pack will be delivered to your door for $34.95 in two to four weeks. More than four million photos have been sent to the company (www.myjones.com).

H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, wants consumers to remember to use its world-famous ketchup all year. You can create a personalized label (no photo, just a catchy message) to appear on a 14-oz glass bottle or 20-oz. squeeze bottle for a mere $6. Or you can choose a larger quantity of mini-bottles (2.25 oz.) of ketchup and mustard. There is a maximum of 18 characters per line and three lines on the glass bottle, 20 characters and three lines on the squeeze bottle and 15 characters and two lines on the mini-bottles. Delivery to your fridge takes four to six weeks (www.myheinz.com).

But those are all about packaging. For a personal greeting right on a food product, Masterfoods USA, a unit of Mars Inc. and the maker of M&M's, encourages consumers and corporations to order My M&M's in bulk for holidays, party favors, corporate gifts or extreme aficionados. The company's "My Branding" plan generates 800 to 1,000 orders daily.

The candy that "melts in your mouth, not in your hand" provides your imprinted customized message for a $100 set-up fee and $22.50 to $30 a pound (depending on the size of the order). Choose up to two colors; one side of the candy is personalized (you get two lines and eight characters per line) and the other side has the famous "m." Soon you'll be able to buy ready-made birthday or anniversary M&Ms in retail stores (www.mymms.com).

Of course, some "enlightened" party poopers may decide they want to fight obesity by avoiding food presents altogether. An option for them is to decorate with M&M's holiday lights ($15 a strand).

Or celebrate the champion in your life with Minneapolis-based General Mills' Wheaties Trophy Box. Take your best shot of a favorite athlete (or whomever) and it will be mounted on a Wheaties box and placed inside a clear acrylic display - a food version of an Oscar - for $34.95.  It takes three to four weeks, but you can rush an order for $5. Dimensions are 10 inches high times, seven inches wide and three inches deep (www.wheatiestrophy.com).

And as you unwrap that perfect gift, don't forget to share the bounty.

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