Food/Gifts, Sales Under $20 Million

GOLD: Print Channel

Wild Pure Delicious by Vital Choice, Holiday 2009

Can a catalog specializing in wild salmon and other pricey organic foods survive in a recession? Vital Choice shows with its Wild Pure Delicious title that it can indeed.

WHY IT WON A GOLD AWARD: Even panelists who prefer just about any other victual to fish were wowed by the cover photo of a beautifully flaky piece of halibut, lightly kissed with seasoning and resting on a plate alongside a colorful salad — and by the photography throughout the rest of the book as well.

The luscious close-ups of salmon steaks, sashimi-grade tuna and wild blueberries were complemented by copy that promoted not just the products, but also the concept of paying more to eat healthy, environmentally responsible food. That was critical, given the prices.

“Vital Choice has achieved something no other food catalog has: It created a health concept out of its food offering,” said a judge. “This catalog shows how to use a cause to sell products and take what is essentially a narrow product category and broaden it into something that receives outstanding response.”

IDEA TO STEAL: The catalog features several haikus by customers praising the products, healthy eating and sustainable living. These were among the entries to a contest Vital Choice ran last year. Soliciting testimonials in this way is great for engaging customers as well as for providing useful copy elements for the catalog and Website. — SC

SILVER: Print Channel

La Tienda, The Best of Spain, Holiday 2009

The marketing concept and merchandising niche of La Tienda are clear from the get-go: The catalog sells, as its tagline declares on the front cover, “the best of Spain” — Spanish food and cookery items. What’s more, it establishes La Tienda as a source of information about Spanish cuisine and products.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: The merchandising — of hams, cheeses, olives, oils, beans, pitchers, pans, wineskins — garnered unanimous praise for the breadth of items and price points. “This appears to be a wonderful representation of popular food across Spain, along with a selection of utensils with which to prepare or serve it,” summed up one judge. “For those who love Spain’s cuisine, it’s irresistible.”

Not content to cater exclusively to those who already love Spanish food, however, La Tienda uses its product descriptions and editorial sidebars — about the curing of sausages, the differences between Spanish and South American tortillas, and the different types of ham, among other subjects — to try to win over converts.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD: Although the panel felt most of the photography was enticing, some of the images were distractingly dark or blurry. One judge added of the front cover, “It has too many products out of focus. There’s good representation of product, but you cannot see most of them well.” — SC

SILVER: Print Channel

Uno Alla Volta, Holiday 2009

Uno alla volta means “one at a time” in Italian, and the Uno Alla Volta catalog aims to be a source of unique, handcrafted gifts. The judges felt that its Holiday 2009 edition certainly met this goal and delivered a solid catalog presentation.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: From hand-painted Christmas ornaments to hand-blown vases, from hand-set onyx jewelry to handwoven scarves, the merchandise mix of Uno Alla Volta was definitely its strength, the judges agreed. “The product line is truly exceptional, with a constant reminder that the merchandise is unique and created by artisans,” enthused a panelist.

Indeed, another judge added, “This catalog is about merchandise that is right on brand, look and feel.”

Although page layouts adhered to a basic grid, there was a great deal of variety and fluidity from spread to spread, and judges noted the effective use of creative hot spots, hero photos and pacing. “The product density is impressive but not overwhelming,” said one panelist, marveling at the volume of items offered.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD: Several judges commented that the catalog didn’t sell hard enough. “More headlines are needed to grab reader attention,” suggested one, “and these products need to be romanced more, with stronger copy. This is a missed opportunity to sell more product.” — SC

SILVER: Web Channel serves a community of enthusiastic bakers and gives customers a reason to come back for products and recipes. The site also knows how to attract new customers with a well-organized and user-friendly format.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: seems to sell everything a baking enthusiast needs once they get hooked on a recipe. Judges applauded the strong offers promoted across the site. At the time of judging, promotions included free gift with purchase and free shipping offers.

The judges also liked the “spend $X more to get free shipping” tracker within the shopping cart.

Search is a strong point: Search terms not only bring up related products, but related recipes and related articles on the site. The site’s handling of search, including autofill and autocorrect options, pleased the judging panel as well.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD: Some minor details kept from getting a Gold award. For example, one judge found the left-hand navigation to be a bit confusing. Another panelist didn’t like the lack of confirmation that an item had been added to the shopping cart. — TP