Sometimes sweets are an appropriate gift, and sometimes a cheese-and-sausage assortment may be the right thing to send. But for meat lovers, there is no better gift than a nice steak, expertly cut and trimmed, and delivered to their doorstep. This is exactly the type of product that Imboden’s Meats Ltd. specializes in, and the company has a knack for making gift-giving a truly special occasion.

The idea of producing gift boxes came about as a way to differentiate itself from the competition at retail. Imboden’s is a meat processor located in DeKalb, Ill., but it also runs a fancy foods retail store, where its meat cuts, hams, sausages and other protein products are sold along with European pastries, beer and wine and a large selection of cheeses.

The company sells its gift boxes to customers at the store, but it also has corporate accounts that order multiple boxes to use as customer gifts, incentives for sales teams and more.

“We do a lot of specialty things. Nothing’s written in stone,” says Tom Imboden, president. “If someone came in and said, ‘I would like to have two pieces of 7-ounce salmon, two extra-thick seasoned pork chops, two New York strips and two fillets, and I’d like to have 15 of those units’ — or 20, or 120 — we’d be more than happy to help them.”

While Imboden’s has several “standard” gift box ideas, it can customize an order for any customer. The company is particularly well-suited to it, because it stocks so many unusual items in its fancy foods store. However, the amount of customization does come with an upcharge, particularly if someone is just ordering one or two boxes. A customer who buys a large number of gift packages will catch more of a break when it comes to added charges.
Because DeKalb is located so close to the Chicagoland area — Imboden jokes that he can look east and see nine million people — many of the boxes are delivered locally, so the company does ship nationwide.

“The majority of gifting is during the Christmas holidays, but it doesn’t end there,” Imboden adds. “If you do it right, you can perpetuate that.”

Creating the perfect gift box requires much more work than just putting some things in a box and shipping it. If there are multiple items, the presentation must be correct.

The right type of container is also important. Meat, for example, looks better in a box than it does in a gift basket, which may be appropriate for other items like cheeses or pastries. The right size package is also important, as a strip steak shouldn’t look like it’s swimming in a too-large box.

Part of the company’s success is to make sure both the box and the contents inside provided the much-needed “pop.” Imboden’s uses black laminated boxes, different foil packaging, and customized stickers to make the box look as good as possible. The meats inside have to be of perfect quality, as the last thing any customer wants to hear is that a gift he or she sent contained substandard products.

“The person who’s buying the gift is putting their trust in you, that the gift you are going to give to their client is going to be superior quality,” he says. “There’s a lot of trust on behalf of the customer.”