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Consumers kick off festive feasting



Consumers kick off festive feasting

With the festive season just around the corner, consumers are already shaping up for Christmas feasting. We love to indulge, and healthy choices become less of a priority for us. Health is a factor in 24% of our food and drink choices in December, down from 28% on average throughout the year. The Christmas classics such as roast dinners and sweet treats still have a big role to play, but there’s a growing trend for more functional, smaller festive occasions.

Tis the season to treat ourselves

Given the diminished role of health over Christmas, seasonal products and tasty treats become more important to consumers over the festive period and this is only continuing to grow. Last December, mince pies and boxed chocolates were the big winners, with mince pies consumed on 21% more occasions and boxed chocolates on 17% more. We’re more likely to have these indulgent treats at ‘emotionally engaging’ occasions (such as, a celebration, treat or social occasion). These occasions which tug on our heartstrings are ones we are willing to pay a premium for, providing manufacturers a great opportunity to make hay over the festive period.     

There's snow place like home

While we are still treating ourselves, we’re finding less time to eat out over the festive period, which is down 46 million occasions last Christmas compared with 2017. Not only are we eating more at home, we’re taking more time over our creations, with our time spent preparing main meals increasing from 23 minutes year-round to 42 minutes. This coincides with an increase in scratch cooking, with us becoming 25% more likely to cook from scratch during this period. 

In addition, we’re tending to opt for smaller and more functional gatherings. There were 125 million fewer meals with 5 or more people present over Christmas 2018, and these made up just 8% of occasions as opposed to 11% in 2017. Also, there were 25 million fewer occasions featuring guests than during the previous year, with guests being present at just 3% of all celebrations over the festive period.

Feast your eyes on this

Turkey crowns fared well last year, with larger full turkeys and larger birds not doing so well this year reflecting our need for less food at these smaller and more intimate meals. However, the typical Christmas dinner is still an expensive undertaking. The traditional turkey roast is the most expensive, coming in at £8.25 per occasion during the festive period, more than double what we spend on an average roast dinner throughout the year. 

Consequently, it’s no surprise that we spend more over this period. The average spend per meal was £3.50 in 2018, double the amount we spend on a special occasion throughout the rest of the year.  

What manufacturers and retailers must bear in mind is that as spend goes up, shoppers are more likely to shop across retailers, trying to squeeze more out of our money for the perfect roast dinners. Just 19% of food for our festive roast dinner occasions is sourced from a single retailer, compared with 30% for the rest of the year. 

To try and earn a greater share of the roast dinner occasions, manufacturers and retailers will need to appeal to the growing functional element of Christmas. This could come in the form of easy, pre-prepared vegetable combinations of festive favourites able to feed the whole family, or joint promotions across categories to keep customers in-store.

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Consumer Insight Director


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