While many industries are still struggling to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more are thriving in the wake of it. One of those is the food hamper industry, which you may or may not be surprised to hear reached a colossal $33 billion in 2021.
2020 and 2021 were fraught with uncertainty and isolation. Birthdays and Christmases were celebrated at home without the usual hubbub of social activity, weddings were reduced to a handful of guests, and corporate events and work parties were off the agenda.
Naturally, an increase in online shopping was inevitable, and many of us showed love by sending gift baskets of delicious produce.
They replaced the usual seasonal parties, social occasions, and business events, and became an important way to show sick friends and relatives we were thinking of them.
After all, it wasn’t always possible to show up on their doorstep with an armful of medicinal homemade goods.
It became clear from the very beginning of this analysis that we’d first have to address the language disparity between the terms “food hamper” and “gift basket”.
If we compare the two keywords for both the US and the UK, the US favours the term “gift basket” with about 200% more searches on that term than “food hamper”.
What we do see, however, is an association with the UK among the “food hamper” searches that exist — the term with the highest search volume is “uk food hamper”.
The top “gift basket” search term is “birthday gift basket barnett”, which relates to a specific brand of chocolate and shows that food items are strongly related to “gift baskets” in the US.
In the UK, there is a preference for “food hamper” over “gift basket” — it’s only around 20%, but among the most popular “food hamper” terms are references to supermarket chain Marks & Spencer, Christmas, and particular cuisines.
When it comes to the “gift basket”, top search terms suggest these are seen less as food-related and more synonymous with showering new parents with baby supplies and gifting spa or bath items.
The other area we need to look at relates to seasonal interest. The biggest spikes for “gift basket” in the US are in the run-up to Christmas, followed by the week before Mother’s Day, then Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, then Easter. 2020 also saw a significant increase in early May and December while the pandemic was in full swing.
When it comes to the term “food hamper”, the data is slightly more complicated. It is literally “up and down”. We see prominent spikes in December 2019, August 2021, September 2021, October 2020, and October 2022.
October isn’t so surprising when you take into account that it is the most common birthday month. There’s also a significant period with no dramatic reductions in interest over the Summer 2020 period, which could be put down to COVID-19 cases, or even wedding season and graduation.
But the lack of inconsistency suggests that “food hampers” aren’t as much a seasonal thing as “gift baskets” in the US.
When it comes to comparing the average search volumes between December 2019 and December 2020, we can see that — despite the major difference between the plural and singular — there’s a 52-58% increase in volume for both “gift basket” and gift baskets”.
Additionally, search volume went down between 30-39% in 2021, but it’s still between 21-23% up from the pre-pandemic figures.
Our third party tool did not have enough data for comparisons with “food hamper” or “food hampers”, again suggesting the US are very much in the “gift basket” camp.
Harry & David
- Organic traffic: 548K
- Organic keywords: 123K
First established in 1934 by the two sons of a hotelier-turned-pear-farmer, Harry & David originally sold pear gift baskets as business gifts.
Now their products also include other fruit, sweet treats, and charcuterie items, and they’re sold worldwide. They are now owned by 1-800-Flowers, but still maintain their brand and their sister brands, Wolferman’s and Stockyards.
When we look at Harry & David’s organic traffic stats, they’ve been fairly consistent across the board until April 2020, when there was an understandable spike in traffic during the onset of COVID-19.
December 2020 saw about a 500K increase in traffic from the previous December, a height which they matched in December 2021. This year is the first they have avoided significantly dropping below 500K in traffic throughout the year.
They had a meteoric rise when it came to keyword performance between September 2021 and March 2022, and have maintained their keywords at well above 100K. This is in spite of dropping from 220K in March 2022 to 178K the following month after the March 2022 Product Review Update.
This update favoured reviews demonstrating first-hand expertise of products. While it wasn’t a major update, it did skew rankings for a lot of businesses because lower-quality reviews now held less weight with Google.
On the other hand, they are still in the best position they’ve been in for a while in terms of search results with their top three keywords having risen by 252.
Fortnum & Mason
- Organic traffic: 443K
- Organic keywords: 56.5K
Fortnum & Mason is a British brand founded in Piccadilly, London in 1707 by royal footman William Fortnum and his landlord Hugh Mason.
They are popular for their high-end produce with gourmet food hampers ranging from a cool £70 to an eye-watering £1,000 for a single hamper.
They currently have four London stores and another in Hong Kong. While there isn’t a brick-and-mortar store in the US, Fortnum & Mason still has plenty of interest from American Anglophiles online looking for “uk food hampers”.
It seems there’s a significant market for British-themed food hampers in the US, with Fortnum & Mason’s organic traffic improving year-on-year between Decembers and equalling their December 2019 traffic in June 2022.
In terms of organic keyword performance, January 2022 was their best since 2015, and they recovered remarkably quickly following a drop with March’s Product Review Update. Their overall ranking keywords have increased by 5.5K just recently.
Gourmet Gift Baskets
- Organic traffic: 168K
- Organic keywords: 45.5K
Family business Gourmet Gift Baskets has only been established since 2002. It started out in the basement of CEO Ryan Abood’s family’s New Hampshire flower shop and is now a multi-million dollar brand with a range of quality goods for a variety of occasions suiting most budgets.
As we can see in their organic traffic performance, 2020 brought two of their best surges in traffic in four years. More than 330K visits were logged on their site in April during lockdown, and more than 360K in December.
While those numbers dropped the following Christmas, they’ve since managed to keep traffic above 129K, which is better than all previous years.
For the most part, organic keyword performance correlates with the traffic data, but what is more obvious here is a steady incline until December 2021, when it drops following a Product Reviews Update.
The last lingering drop in organic keyword performance before this was the few months following the May 2020 Core Update.
Still, their top three keywords have increased by 539 in the last month, even if their keywords overall have dropped by 6.5K.
- Organic traffic: 110K
- Organic keywords: 12.1K
Another British-based company with worldwide delivery, Hampers started out as Clearwater Hampers back in 1979, mailing out smoked salmon. Now they do vegan food hampers, cheese and wine, and a huge range of sweet treats.
While a little late to the online party, they were still able to reap the benefits of Christmas 2020. While they naturally didn’t do as well in December 2021, thanks to celebratory occasions happening in person again, they doubled their traffic this summer from the previous year.
Keywords are up by 6.7K with an increase of 593 in the top three, and their organic traffic share in the US has risen by 1.4K — further proof the British food hamper is making itself known across the pond.
- Organic traffic: 566K
- Organic keywords: 147K
Based in France, Bien Manger has never had a brick-and-mortar store but has been trading since 2000 and delivers first-class artisanal goods as a delicatessen, organic store, and winery — among other things.
They started out with French cuisine but now deliver a variety of culinary specialities from all around the world. Naturally, they’re hugely popular among fans of European cuisine in America.
This company is where things get a little more interesting. We’re no longer looking at a somewhat generic food hamper business, but one focused on continental cuisine over cosy gifts.
The customer intentions are slightly different.
If they are buying gifts from here, it’s primarily out of an interest in continental food and drink. Generally, US buyers would be further down the marketing funnel — possibly researching more specific types of food hampers as gifts.
The other complication is, while people generally don’t buy food hampers of stuff they can find in a supermarket for themselves, they might well treat themselves to a box of European delicacies shipped overseas. So we’re not necessarily just looking at a gift market here.
While there are obvious spikes in December each year, we can see a consistent rise in organic traffic over the last five years, and this may be because Bien Manger is not only relying on gift-giving occasions.
As much as we’re seeing a rise in traffic for Bien Manger and Fortnum & Mason, there’s a certain stasis when we look at the broader picture for Harry & David and Gourmet Gift Baskets.
When we look at overall organic keyword rankings comparing 2020 to 2021, we see significant drops for Bien Manger, Gourmet Gift Baskets, and Fortnum & Mason.
This is most likely due to a reduction in the COVID-19 crisis — fewer people will be sending out care packages to sick friends and relatives and businesses no longer have to send out gift baskets in lieu of office parties.
Harry & David, on the other hand, have almost doubled their top-ranking keywords from 5,398 in November 2020 to 10,233 in November 2021 — not a result we could’ve predicted even with the company being so very well established.
Harry & David closed almost all its brick-and-mortar stores in April 2020, which could account for a rise in online interest the following year (once the world started turning again).
When it comes to Hampers, there’s not enough data to evaluate properly, given they’ve only been online since 2020.
The SEO Perspective
Food hampers don’t make for a particularly competitive industry, so there’s not much correlation between those doing particularly well and those using good SEO practices.
For example, Bien Manger might have the biggest incline in traffic, but it uses auto-translate for the English translation, so the text does not always read naturally.
The site also links to their blog, which is an insecure site under a different name. Blogs are very useful for drawing in customers on all levels of a sales funnel, but it’s not going to have much impact as an insecure site.
What it does do well, however, is page load speed. In our analysis, it seems Bien Manger and Harry & David had the best Core Web Vitals performance. In fact, international SEO issues for Bien Manger aside, all sites offer good site speed overall.
Fortnum & Mason is the only site with intrusive interstitials but they are, at least, delayed. Harry & David, Hampers, and Gourmet Gift Baskets all offer “perfect gift” finders, and all but Bien Manger have the option of live chat customer service — all great user experience factors.
The food hamper industry is unlikely to match its success in 2020 unless there’s another major lockdown, especially with the threat of a recession in the US. Luxury gift-giving does not have a place within a floundering economy.