SOLON, Ohio -- Nestle is so optimistic about its Stouffer's online gift certificates that it may expand the Internet marketing initiative to include other brands both inside and outside the company.
Nestle's Prepared Foods Division here, part of Nestle USA, is selling the certificates for many of its Stouffer's products, including HomeStyle dinners, Family Style Favorites meals and French Bread Pizza. The venture, which kicked off about five months ago, marks the first time Nestle USA has sold gift certificates via the Internet.
Nearly 100 orders were placed as of last month, according to Jennifer Purchase, associate marketing manager. Single-serve entrees and French Bread Pizza have accounted for the bulk of the orders.
Depending on how well the program grows, Nestle may include other brands within the Prepared Foods Division, including Stouffer's Lean Cuisine and Skillet Sensations, Purchase said. There also "may be opportunity" to include brands within Nestle USA, she added.
Nestle may even incorporate other brands, possibly by offering a premium item with purchase, such as a serving dish from a cookware company.
"The sky's the limit," Purchase said.
Certificates can be ordered at the Stouffer's Web site, www.stouffers.com, in packages of two to five, ranging in price from $14.95 to $23.98. They arrive within seven to 10 days with a personalized message to the recipient.
"This is a way for Stouffer's to reach out to consumers and get them our products in a different way," said Purchase.
Nestle is marketing the certificates in a way that complements that Stouffer's brand slogan, "Nothing Comes Close to Home." Its public-relations effort is targeting consumers who may be unable to make a home-cooked meal, like the elderly, college students and new mothers.
"These certificates are the ideal way for consumers to give something from the heart," Purchase said.
Response to the certificates demonstrates growing consumer confidence in Internet security. While Nestle allows customers to order either online and through the mail, about 95% have chosen the online option.
"We initially thought consumers would be leery about giving out the credit card number online," Purchase said.
When Nestle was developing the certificates, its biggest concern was making them easy for retailers to process. For this reason, it made them similar to the Stouffer's VIP coupons, discount certificates provided at promotional events.