Banknotes’ 2022 holiday DTC gift guide (and giveaway)

May 13, 2024
Emmy Liederman
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It’s that time of year when temperatures drop, brands release fun promotions, and the world gets ready for the best thing about the holiday season—gift-giving.

If you want to show your gratitude to friends, family, special creators, team members, and clients, you need to nail your gift-giving ritual this year. 

And, quick hint: the way to do that is not with a prepackaged edible arrangement. It’s with a thoughtful, trendy gift that screams, “Thank you! No, seriously, thank you. You mean a lot to me and sending you this super cool gift proooves it.”

So, if gift-giving doesn’t come naturally, do not fear. It’s one of my natural-born talents, and I’m here for you with some cool ideas. 

All of these options:

  • Range in price from $20-$200
  • Come mostly from small DTC businesses
  • Will knock the green-and-red-striped-holiday socks off your giftee

This gift guide comes with killer recommendations. And to add some cream to your cocoa, Banknotes is also sponsoring a $500 giveaway. Enter the giveaway for your chance to buy some of these products for your friends and colleagues courtesy of  Banknotes.

Ready, set, give! (None of these are affiliate links).

The best dang food and drink gifts in all the land

What better way to start a gift guide than with gifts that tickle the palate? Here are some of my favorite food and drink recommendations.

1. Swedish Candy Mix from Bon Bon NYC

I gave my clients and freelance pals this Swedish candy from Bon Bon NYC last year, and it was a total hit.

This candy is the real deal. All of their products are imported from Sweden, and they strive to keep as many products as possible gluten-free, vegan, and free of artificial colors.

Best of all? The candy is not like anything you’ll get in the US or Canada, and it’s absolutely delicious. I like the sweet and sour mixes and am particularly fond of the Sorbisar—it’s like a licorice-cherry, sweet, and sour delight.

If you have any friends who are vegan, they also have a special vegan mix.

If you’re feeling like adding a bit of fun context to your gift, Google “Saturday Candy in Sweden” and include a little history.

2. Osmom Try-Em All Set

Last year, I worked with a killer editor who had a penchant for delicious food and fun flavors. He also loves to cook.

I could absolutely not get away with sending him  a generic Harry & David gift basket. Instead, I sent him the Osmom Try-Em All Set. Once again, a hit!

It’s hard to go wrong with Osmom. Osmom was founded by two sisters, Vanessa and Kim Pham, who are daughters of Vietnamese refugees. Their mission is to bring “proud, loud Asian flavors to your fingertips,” and boy, do they deliver.

The best part is they include recipes with every flavor packet. They’re easy to make, authentic, and delicious.

If you want to go the extra mile for your giftee—and for the Pham sisters—consider giving a subscription.

3. Artisan Cheese & Charcuterie Boards from Boarderie

It makes sense why cheese and charcuterie boards are all the rage on TikTok. It’s a board full of one of life’s greatest pleasures—cheese, crackers, meat, and other little yum-yums that pair well.

I’m big into the Boarderie cheese board this holiday season. And I can confidently say this particular charcuterie board brand is a good gift-giving decision because it’s also one of Oprah’s Favorite Things of 2022.

I love that the brand has beautiful packaging and presentation and multiple options. You can choose from boards that serve 3-4, 5-7, and 10-12, making it a good gift for an individual or an office.

May I recommend paying particular attention to the Ultimate Baked Brie Board?

4. Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery

If a gift guide doesn’t include at least two artisan cheese companies, is it really a gift guide? I’d venture to say no.

I received this cheese last year from one of my freelance pals, and I was so delighted I almost died.

The cheese is organic, farm-to-your-client’s-table, and delicious. I recommend the Cowgirl Classic, but all of the cheeses are great. Consider adding one of their chocolate bars into the mix as well.

5. Cometeer Coffee Gift Box

I do not know what Cometeer is doing in their production labs, but they are making the crack of coffee. 

Their team partners with the best roasters to get the highest-quality beans. Then, they use advanced alien technology (a guess) to extract flavors and aromas from the beans. Finally, they use liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze the flavor at -321 Fahrenheit. This process preserves the fresh flavor and eleminates bitter taste. So, when you’re ready to partake of the coffee, it’s just as fresh as the day it was brewed.

If you have a coffee lover on your hands and they haven’t tried Cometeer, you’ll make their life with one of their gift boxes.

6. Portuguese Vinho Verde

Admittedly, I’m not a Sommelier who spends her days tasting and reviewing wine. But I do know when something tastes better than anything in the whole world, and that thing is Portuguese Vinho Verde.

I took a trip to Portugal in April, and our food tour guide introduced me to their regional green wine—that they have on tap, by the way. Vinho Verde is made from grapes that come from the area between the Minho river and the Douro river.

Green wine can be white, red, or rose wine, but the most popular (and my favorite) is the fizzy-ish white wine. It feels almost like sparkling wine, but it has a lower carbon dioxide pressure compared to sparkling wines, so it’s not as bubbly.

As I said, I’m not a Sommelier, but—trust me—if you want to give a gift that’s a surefire wine-win, opt for Portuguese green wine.

This might require a pit stop to Total Wines (or Portugal), but my favorites are Aveleda Vinho Verde and Broadbent Vinho Verde.

7. Non-alcoholic Null Wines

I had to go outside of my experience to get one of the best non-alcoholic wine recommendations. But, I wanted to include a fun wine option for sober friends and for those who are interested in fancy beverages but not interested in alcohol.

I asked a fellow foodie and co-founder of the video production company, Group Project Media, Josh Stofferahn, for the perfect non-alcoholic wine recommendation. He recommended Null Wines. I also asked him what he loved about Null Wines.

“It's their passion for making a great bottle of wine that separates Studio Null from their competition. The emphasis on traditional winemaking, the sourcing of the grapes from small vineyards paired with cutting-edge techniques to distill out the alcohol...all while keeping the nuances, body, and flavor you would want in a great glass of wine,” says Stofferahn.

“The first time I tried their Sparkling Rose, I had to double check the bottle to make sure it was Non-Alcoholic...the first time that's happened with an NA wine. Honestly, they make great wine, period, NA or not.”

8. The Holiday Triple Threat by Fly By Jing

Since I included a (totally worth it) recommendation you’d have to order from a wine chain, I need to redeem myself and get back to one of the coolest female-founded DTC companies.

Fly By Jing is for anyone in your life who wants their daily cuisine to experience an incredible flavor explosion. The founder, Jing, is from Chengdu, located in central Sichuan. However, Jing says her sauce flavors aren’t traditional Sichuan.

They’re her personal recipes, nothing you’ve tried before, and incredible. I like everything I’ve tried from Fly By Jing—especially the Sichuan Chili Crisp—but pay special attention to the Holiday Triple Threat promotion.

You get Fly By Jing’s three best-selling flavors, including the Sichuan Chili Crisp, Zhong Sauce, and Mala Spice Mix.

9. Seed & Mill

I’m not a halva expert, so I had to turn to my network to get a good halva recommendation. The recommendation was none other than Seed & Mill, a tahini and halva company founded by three friends in New York City.

The first eye-catching thing about Seed & Mill is the creative and delicious halva flavors, including chocolate, marble, ginger, and tart cherry. The products are also vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and kosher, making its products a good gift for anyone following specific diets.

Seed & Mill has individual products and also 14 gift bundles—all of which come wrapped, ready-to-go in beautiful packaging. 

Along with the delicious products, you can direct giftees to the Seed & Mill website where they have several recipes for how to prepare the halva and tahini—that’s if you aren’t eating them straight from the package.

Awesome non-food gifts

While you can rarely go wrong with sending a food or drink gift, there’s plenty of other products that are too good not to consider. 

10. A holiday stocking with DTC essentials

This isn’t one particular product, but one of my favorite client holiday gifts is to custom-curate a holiday stocking with the best DTC products.

It’s a great way to show your giftee that you care enough to curate individual products and a stellar way to support small businesses.

I did this one year and filled stockings with some of my favorite local products. Here are some of my favorite DTC products that make awesome stocking stuffers:

  • Lake Pajamas. Lake Pajamas uses the comfiest, the coziest, the softest fabrics around, and its products are cute to boot. Navigate to the “stocking stuffers” section of its website and pick from sleep masks, socks, head wraps, or even a gift card. Can’t. Go. Wrong.
  • SPY Optic sunglasses or blue light blockers. As someone with pale green eyes that can handle about as much sunlight as a vampire, I’m a bit of a sunglasses connoisseur. I recently learned about SPY Optic, and I’m in love. A little bird told me the brand will be doing a 20% off sitewide, no code necessary discount for Black Friday, Cyber Monday.
  • Huron. If you’re in the DTC world, you likely already know about this men’s body product brand. If not, it’s time to introduce it to some of your favorite guy pals. The bar soap, eye stick, or gift card would be perfect for your stocking. The brand will also be running a BOGO deal on Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
  • Stryx. Huron isn’t the only skincare product for men. Stryx has excellent skincare products for men and also functional cosmetics. Any of its kits would make a fun gift for men.
  • Salis Skincare. It’s a little more challenging to pick a favorite DTC women’s skincare and body product line since there are a million. But, lucky for you, I have the perfect recommendation. Salis Skincare is a female-founded, organic skincare line. Try the salt scrub.
  • Jones Road Beauty. Jones Road is another DTC brand that rocks. It can be challenging to find colors that match skin tone, so avoid purchasing things like foundation or concealer. But gifting a lipstick shade or the start-up kit is a great idea.

Throw some Swedish candy mix in from BonBon NYC into that stocking, and you have just won the holiday gift-giving Olympics.

11. The smart home fragrance device, Pura

I interviewed a friend at Pura, and she sent me one of their devices as a thank-you. And now I am completely obsessed and tell everyone about this device.

It’s a smart home fragrance device, so you assemble it, plug it in, and control fragrances and fragrance strength from your smartphone.

I love it because you don’t have to worry about lighting candles to have a great-smelling home. You can also install two fragrances in the device at a time and switch between the two fragrances whenever you want. Finally, if you forget to unplug it, you can do it anywhere as long as you have your smartphone.

Pura has a ton of different flavors. They also have a winter collection of fragrances to choose from that are great for the holidays.

12. Give the gift of reading

I’m a huge fan of giving the gift of a killer book recommendation. But here’s the kicker—no Amazon or Barnes and Noble allowed.

It’s awesome to support independent bookstore owners, DTC reading companies, and small business book subscription services.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • The King’s English. Do you want to send the latest Colleen Hoover to your avid reader colleague? Don’t order from Amazon. Instead, try the King’s English, an independent bookstore in Salt Lake City. You can purchase individual books, browse staff picks, and the store even has a Book-A-Month Club. It’s similar to Book of the Month but runs from a local shop.
  • BookPeople. Do you prefer Austin to Salt Lake City? Cool. Consider supporting one of Austin’s best independent bookstores with this year’s gifting budget. You can shop signed first editions, gift bundles, or get an old-fashioned gift card.
  • Strand Books. It’s impossible to talk about independent bookstores and not mention Strand. Strand is a 95-year-old independent bookstore located in NYC. They sell books, collectibles, and even merch.
  • Reading With RIK. Do you have clients, friends, or employees with kids and a passion for reading? If so, consider the book kit subscription service that helps boost comprehension, makes reading fun, and turns children into avid readers. Remember to pick the box for the correct age group.

If you need a book recommendation, check out my favorite internet black hole, #BookTok.

13. Dope Dog for furry friends

Everyone knows that one person who is impossible to buy gifts for. Either the person doesn’t love gifts, buys everything they want for themselves, or you can’t crack the code on what they love.

Here’s the secret to finding a gift for these kinds of people (and you’re welcome in advance). You don’t buy the person a gift. You buy a gift for this person’s favorite furry friend. (If they don’t like animals, then you’re on your own).

There are a lot of cool DTC dog products, but I am feeling partial to Dope Dog these days. I have a Jack Russell terrier (see above). She is adorable but also hyper AF. The Dope Dog Calming Crunchies are a CBD treat, and a “tasty way to chill out,” as its website puts it.
Dope Dog has many other products you can pick from for both dogs and cats.

14. Littles Night Out from Drunk Elephant

Looking for a present for someone who is an avid traveler and also a total skin care snob? Boy, do I have a gift idea for you!

Stick with me for a minute as I use a personal anecdote to explain how awesome this idea is.

I travel at least once a month. I also am committed to my skincare routine. But here’s the thing. I don’t want to have to check a bag to pack my skincare products. I also don’t want to risk them getting lost, or forgetting about them in my carry-on and having the TSA confiscate them.

The solution? Travel-size skincare products from a high-quality skincare line. When I travel, I use Drunk Elephant, and it’s the best. Consider the Littles Night Out kit. It’s small enough for your travel buddy to pack and has the right products to keep up with skincare on the go.

15. ella+mila nails polish

ella+mila is an awesome brand to give anyone in your life who loves nails, make-up, or body care products. While all of its products are great, I recommend taking a close look at the nail polish.

This brand is especially cool because it focuses on creating an eco-friendly and cruelty-free nail polish product that is also high-end. This is something hard to do, but ella+mila achieves its goal well. 

While the lacquer is eco-friendly, it’s also highly fashionable and keeps up with trends. If you’re unsure what color to get, opt for one of its newest releases, as the brand releases new, trendy colors every few months.

For this holiday season, there are sales on several of the brand’s gift sets here. The Enchanted collection is a good go-to for the winter and the colors will look good on anyone.

16. Too Cool For School egg cream masks

I’m sneaking in another bigger brand because of how awesome it is. K-beauty is widely popular among skincare enthusiasts—and with good reason. K-beauty is cool and has some of the best products in the market.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone who is into either skincare or relaxation, then the Too Cool For School egg cream masks are the way to go. This is my favorite K-beauty brand and the best mask I’ve used.

They are super hydrating, mild, and nutrient-dense (i.e. egg-based). All of the egg cream masks from Too Cool for School are great, but my #1 is the yellow hydration mask. For the perfect gift, I’d suggest getting the Egg Mask Variety Pack.

There you have it—the best DTC gift guide of the year 2022!

If you’re looking to crush your gift-giving this season, you can’t go wrong with any of the recommendations listed above. 

They’re original, excellent products, and most of them come from small businesses that are perfect to support.

Above all, don’t forget to enter the Banknotes holiday giveaway. The winner will get $500 to spend.

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