Hampers and corporate gifting.
Corporate gifting is something that we really love here at Hoogly. We adore it when people ask us to be involved in their hampers. Our teapods, which offer 5 of our unique flavours in teabag form, are the perfect addition to any hamper. We have teas to fit every season, so they can be slipped in as a Christmas thank-you present or perhaps as congratulations to someone who has just completed their first deal.
Let’s step back a little, though, to the origins of the hamper. The hamper is, in most of our minds, synonymous with traditional British family life. I experienced my own pastiche form of this. I remember well the excitement of filling it up with all the things we would eat, the blankets slung on precariously. These trips to various beauty spots for a picnic were an integral part of my childhood. Growing up in Kent, we had the North Downs to contend with, a 153-mile stretch of chalk escarpment, wooded for the most part, covered with wildflowers and cows where it wasn’t. We could also turn north, out to the marshes, to Dickens country, where the land became a little murkier. Still cows, of course, just sunken a little. Since I am not an Arthur Ransome character, I never quite experienced the picnic hamper at its peak. Lashings of ginger beer and corned beef sandwiches. I had to settle for supermarket pork pies and scotch eggs. For nectarines, not freshly scrumped apples (orchards in Kent are a serious business. I couldn’t dig like Mr Fox).
While this, the early twentieth-century British countryside picnic, is no doubt what we think of when we think of the hamper, its origins lie elsewhere. Originating from the Old English "hamper," meaning literally "wicker container," they are, in fact, an invention of medieval Europe. Not used for a picnic, but rather as a cheap box used for transporting food and clothes across great distances. It was as late as the Victorian era when they began to be used for picnics. It was also in this period where we see them begin to be used for gifts. Various artisanal products presented in a hamper for Christmas became a staple of Victorian society.
From this, the idea of corporate gift-giving flourished. Around the midpoint of the twentieth century, companies began to give hampers as gifts to clients. As trade flourished across borders and industries, the concept of sitting down and discussing business began to decline. Phones, for the most part, dealt with day-to-day administration, but, as we have all witnessed, they are less reliable for expressing gratitude. Suddenly, your grandma's Christmas hamper became a revolutionary product. Is there a better way to say thank you to a client if you couldn’t necessarily
be there, or as personalised staff gifts in the increasingly impersonal office environments? Indeed, they became a market in and of themselves, with companies offering to create the hampers for their various corporate clients.
As can be imagined, the internet was a major driving force in the growth of the industry we see today. The internet has allowed the flourishing of smaller craft industries, due to its eradication of barriers to entry, increasing the distances that we can trade with. Whereas before, chances are a quick trip along the high street would be all that could be done, now we have access to pretty much every small seller across the country. The hamper symbolically travels across those same distances it did in medieval Europe, only perhaps with a few more ribbons attached.
The internet also has a habit of reviving cultural moments, long forgotten even by the people within them. The hamper in its wicker container has come full circle and is back with us. While the internet helps to repopulate, the growth is no doubt as a result of increasing interests in sustainability, since wicker is a regenerative material.
We are proud to have been a part of that boom in luxury artisanal products at Hoogly. We embrace the importance of smaller sellers and are driven by sustainability. Our teapods are fully compostable and biodegradable. For a summer hamper, I would recommend one of our white teas, particularly Sparkling White, which is probably our most luxurious tea. Champagne in a mug! For the winter, any of our black teas or rooibos are perfect. Can you imagine anything better than our Chocolate Brownie Tea, for instance, on a cold winter's night?
Written by Euan Reid