Jodie Schillinger is the ultimate foodie. For her, food is the essential experience—almost spiritual. She’s nearly a gastronome, she says. “My excitement does not stop peaking, and my grocery bill can get out of hand if I am not strategic. My only fault is that I find endless opportunities for food experiences and not enough room in my body to house the food.”

For a connoisseur like Schillinger, she works at the perfect place. Schillinger began her career at Maple Ridge Farms 26 years ago. Today, she’s the executive vice president. Her favorite product? Toffee. “I have a fascination with real butter… must be a Wisconsin thing,” Schillinger says. “Considering the amount of real butter used in the signature English Butter Toffee, it speaks directly to my taste buds and my soul; it is my temptress and my calm.”

Schillinger was first introduced to the promo industry by her mother. “She would come home from trade shows with an assortment of niche products, and all of us kids would wait with a sense of wonder to see what she had as she opened her suitcase.” 

After her mom took her to an end buyer show in high school, Schillinger says the rest was history. “I saw the energy, opportunity, and new way to look at merch as a means of communicating with the rest of the world,” she says. 

But relationship building is what truly fascinated Schillinger. She says, “My focus with Maple Ridge Farms has always been in team building, culture and providing epic service in order to facilitate personal and professional growth for our team, community and customers. With this mindset, I knew that sales and business were two essential elements to any career path, which I needed to continue to build into my lifelong journey of learning.” 

Throughout her career, Schillinger has seen marketing adapt and elevate. “Today, marketing is no longer one streamlined message for one specific demographic,” she says. “Every element of our senses needs to embrace and emanate these marketing messages. Marketing is what we see, do, breathe, eat, hear, sleep.

“We are always communicating something and need to continue to elevate the ways in which we deliver and receive these messages.”

With food gifts, each of your senses are engaged, Schillinger says. “Multi-sensory simply means that we are looking to engage all of the recipient’s senses, as this results in interactively enhancing the overall memory of the gift.”

But the unforgettable gifts trigger emotions. “We are fortunate to have an option that invites the recipient to take a walk down memory lane with a quality flavor that is unforgettable on its own,” Schillinger says. “Pair that with the multisensory factors and a logo, and the event creates a remarkable memory that will last forever.”

The pandemic has changed how many of us work, and the same is true for Schillinger and her team. “Change is our only constant,” she says. “The rate at which change is happening seems to have multiplied as companies are shifting workforces that were once foundational. Knowing and embracing this is key to understanding how to move forward rapidly with solutions.”

Schillinger says learning how to ask the right questions and listen intentionally is key to providing epic service, especially during times of change. “This is all while delivering a ‘PROMO AF’ experience for the recipients,” she says. “This approach allows us to always be solution-focused for products and our genuine approach to relationships not only with our customers, but also their relationships with buyers, too.” 

To maintain great client relationships, Schillinger says to first reflect and listen intentionally. “Joining someone in their space and understanding where they are coming from can help us gain new perspective to approach the relationship in a new way, providing both parties with a renewed interest and endless solutions,” says Schillinger.

“It is not simply about showing that you care any longer. Learning how to understand the other party can aid greatly in providing solutions and also break down your own barriers along the way.”

If there’s one lesson she’s learned in the last year, it’s that “We are our people.” Schillinger says, “Without community, teams, people, customers. Without one another and a deep sense of appreciation for each and every one of them/us/we, we are nothing.”

PPB spoke with Schillinger to get her food-loving advice on upcoming trends in food gifting. 

A food gifting trend Maple Ridge Farms is anticipating is… as cheesy as it sounds, cheese! Cheese was the very first item in the MRF line, and our charcuterie gifts have tripled in sales in the past two years. Charcuterie gifts allow the recipient to create an experience with a variety of flavors on that board each time they use it. 

Flavor pairing is on-trend, and the opportunities are endless with our epic and delish Wisconsin cheese. Our case histories show endless uses for food gifting as a solution. Food has created a comfort that recipients crave. We fill that void in a genuine, delicious and meaningful way. 

It starts with trust, which is a buyer trend in and of itself. Anything experience-related. Recipients are more focused on experiential moments and buyers know that their marketing funds need to create moments to not only be remembered, but to also be shared and reminisced for years to come. 

A few things that I expect to see in food gifts in the upcoming years… is flavor evolution. The pairing of different flavors together. We currently do this very well; however, we will continue to introduce new flavors to your palate. 

There will be more protein-based snacking along with smaller snack size options for the ever-changing demographics of teams or work-at-home individuals.

There is room for improvement in food products because… the topic of food waste and sustainable packaging go hand in hand to support a more environmental approach to overall living. Our current approach to ideation and new product development leads with intentional design. We try to approach packaging with the idea that we want less than 3% of our gift packaging to go to a landfill. The majority of our elements are entirely reusable, recyclable and edible. 

Recipients will open their gift to discover English Butter Toffee & Pecan Turtles. These popular gourmet-quality treats will set your client’s brand apart. The magnetic gift box is also highly durable and reusable.

Maple Ridge Farms, Inc. / PPAI 114165, S8 /

Valdez is an associate editor at PPAI.