By Lucas Witman
When entrepreneurs came up with Bisquick and Jiffy Mix in the 1930s, they could never have imagined that these relatively simple mixes of flours and leavening agents would be the precursors of a massive 21st century market for baking and dessert mixes. These two originary brands are still going strong, but they have been joined by hundreds if not thousands of specialty food companies marketing mixes that help home cooks prepare gourmet delicacies. Today, there are mixes available to make anything from blueberry lemon lavender pancakes to shoofly pie to gluten-free Italian herb foccacia.
With the mixes market burgeoning into a truly gourmet enterprise, pre-packaged baking and dessert mixes have gone from basic blends to luxurious updates on classic kitchen staples. Gone are the days when home cooks pulled out a boxed biscuit mix in order to just get breakfast on the table. Today, consumers are more likely to pull out an organic southern buttermilk biscuit mix in order to treat family and friends to a special breakfast treat.
As the mixes market has gone gourmet, featuring high-end recipes, fine ingredients and appealing packaging, these products have become increasingly popular as gifts. The modern foodie is likely to find pre-packaged mixes in her or his Christmas stocking right alongside imported olive oils and stainless steel truffle shavers.
One company at the forefront of the mixes-as-gifts movement is Ohio-based The Invisible Chef. The Invisible Chef markets a wide line of attractively packaged mixes for coffee and tea cakes, breads, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, brownies and more. The company’s products are made with premium all-natural ingredients and feature recipes like those one might find at a high-end bakery. Consumers can prepare Almond Crème Coffee Cake, Chocolate Chipotle Brownies and Chai Latte Cupcakes with the help of The Invisible Chef’s mixes.
“We pretty much cover all the bases in terms of baking mixes,” said Jill McCauley, co-owner of The Invisible Chef. According to McCauley, it is the convenience of her company’s products combined with their gourmet flavors that truly set The Invisible Chef apart. “You can have something mixed up and in the pan before the oven is even preheated,” she said.
When it comes to giving mixes as gifts, The Invisible Chef has consumers covered. “We have some different or intriguing flavor profiles,” McCauley said. ‘If you’re going to buy something as a gift, maybe you want something a little different.”
For retailers, The Invisible Chef’s appealing packaging makes it ideal for holiday merchandising displays. Simply place the company’s Cheddar Chipotle Beer Bread Mix alongside a festive glass loaf plan, and customers have a ready-made gift right in front of them.
Finally, since they are a relatively inexpensive gourmet product, The Invisible Chef’s mixes can be given as gifts for virtually any occasion. “If you just go in and buy a mix, most are under $10 retail, so it’s a really affordable luxury,” McCauley said. “All-natural, great ingredients, nice flavor profile—and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.”
Another company that offers a line of unique mixes that are beautifully packaged and perfect as gifts, is Virginia-based Purely American. Purely American offers more than 80 dessert, bread, soup, chili, seafood and pasta mixes.
In particular, Purely American’s signature Storytelling line of mixes make great gifts by themselves, or they can be a terrific addition to a themed gift basket. Each mix in the Storytelling line,which has been crafted since 1984, tells its own story. Mixes for tasty treats like Amish Country Snickerdoodles, Shenandoah Valley Apple & Spice Cake and Santa Fe Cornbread each tells their own regional tales about specific American locales.
“Our original line—the storytelling mixes—each has a story on the package that celebrates a famous American food, experience, place or tradition,” said Ray Leard, founder of Purely American. Each of the Purely American lines is all-natural, no MSG, low fat and high fiber.
This holiday season, Purely American is offering consumers a number of mixes for holiday-themed goodies, as well. These mixes are ideal as hostess gifts. “Our Christmas at Grandma’s Cranberry Bean Soup is an excellent gift idea,” Leard said.
For specialty food retailers trying to capture extra sales this holiday season, a carefully curated selection of gourmet mixes from high end companies like The Invisible Chef and Purely American is a great way to attract customers looking for the perfect gift for the hard-to-buy-for foodie in their life. With so many expertly crafted mixes available today, however, the hard part is deciding which ones your customers will want most.