More Americans are giving food as gifts across occasions and food types, according to a report from Rockville-based Packaged Facts. While certain holidays such as Christmas and Easter lend themselves to giving food as gifts, the report reveals food gifting is on the rise for other occasions, too. Consumers give food for graduations, birthdays, and in some cases, just because, and Packaged Facts’ data show the average spend is up.

Consumer and corporate food gifting sales in the United States are expected to reach $18 billion in 2016, marking an increase of 3.5% over last year. Consumer sales represent the majority of that number, which Packaged Facts expects to rise 2.5% in 2016, while corporate sales are expected to increase 4%.

Corporate food gifting has seen considerable momentum due to positive employment and corporate giving trends, and companies creating gifts designed to appeal to business people are benefitting corporate food sales growth. For example, an entire line of gift baskets designed for Administrative Professionals Day by is offered to show appreciation for office employees.

Boxed chocolates and candies are the most common chosen food gift that people purchase for others by a wide margin, Packaged Facts said. Twenty-eight per cent of food gifters purchased boxed chocolate or candies for someone in the past 12 months. Other common food gifts include sweet baked foods, coffee/tea/hot chocolate and nut/salty snack foods.

The winter holidays see the largest share of food gifting among adults 18 years and older, Packaged Facts said. Close to half of those who purchased food gifts for others and nearly a third who purchased food gifts for themselves did so during winter holidays. Birthdays and Valentine’s Day also rank high for food gifting, according to the report. 

The coming months will be essential for bakeries looking to increase sales by making themselves more adaptable to the gift-giving season.