The New Normal for Holiday Meals

Dec 06, 2010

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

The law of unintended consequences
is one that just keeps on giving. We have discussed multigenerational households
in this forum and the implications of young people not flying the nest or,
conversely, setting up home on their own, increasing the number of 21st century
single-person households.

What we have not covered are the implications of
extended family households created when parents separate and set up home with
new families, possibly having more children and certainly having more in-laws
to invite for holiday meals. Geography, as well as demography, plays a part
with family members living much further than the proverbial stone’s throw
from one another.

All these factors are contributing to families’ multiple
Christmas celebrations. The
Daily Telegraph
has reported on a trend spotted by two of England’s
most popular supermarkets — Asda and Waitrose.

After polling 3,000 customers,
Asda apparently found that 53 percent cook two Christmas meals while 32 percent
have to sit through more than three. As a result, 38 percent more frozen
turkeys have been sold this year, compared to the same time last year.

situation "is thought to have come about because the rising divorce
rate has led to more families living apart — meaning more homes to visit at
Christmas time in order to ‘keep the peace’."

Waitrose, while increasing
its offering of fresh birds over the coming weeks, "sold
56 percent more frozen turkeys last week (mid-November) compared to the same
week in 2009" as well as a significant "increase in sales of pre-prepared
vegetables and frozen desserts that are easier to serve."

The two stores’ turkey
buyers agree that it is a long-term trend with shoppers "buying
more than one turkey at Christmas … as they celebrate with their different
families," according to Asda. Waitrose’s buyer pointed out, "We
know that the weekend before Christmas is only rivalled by Christmas Day and
Boxing Day for festive entertaining. Many families cook up a full Christmas
dinner with all the trimmings for those that they won’t be spending Christmas

Discussion Questions: Do you see a bigger opportunity with American families
around multiple holiday meals? How can food retailers capitalize on these trends?

commentary] All this with a whole month before December 25. By the time receipts
are toted up post-holiday, many retailers may be giving thanks for all the
gifts consumers have given. Who knew there was a plus side to broken marriages?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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9 Comments on "The New Normal for Holiday Meals"

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Dan Berthiaume
Dan Berthiaume
11 years 5 months ago

With half of all US marriages ending in divorce, there are many children (including adult children) having multiple holiday meals with all the trimmings, not to mention interfaith families celebrating more than one seasonal holiday at this time of year. Add in how much bigger modern portion sizes have become and a general trend toward “bigger and better” holiday celebrations, and retailers have a feast (pun intended) of opportunity.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
11 years 5 months ago

The ideal of having an all-inclusive Christmas dinner has been tried and enjoyed but it has been overshadowed by the vicissitudes inside our changing societies. That creates a need for all the human turkeys involved to participate in multiple turkey dinners. So, food retailers, rejoice.

Joel Rubinson
11 years 5 months ago

Interesting insight. Funny how we abandoned ideas about the synchronous society in terms of TV watching, housewife doing all the shopping, man is the breadwinner, yet we (at least I) had not thought about this particular form of asynchronous society.

Good insight, definite marketing and merchandising implications. (For one thing, some of the people will be at all meals so how do you create holiday variety?)

Ralph Jacobson
11 years 5 months ago

Of course these evolving holiday celebrations only increase retailer and CPG opportunities. The retailer that caters to multiple dinner needs, such as “buy one small turkey, get one free,” etc, will attract those shoppers. Also, smaller family gatherings, with single parents, etc, present further varieties of “pre-assembled” meal solutions.

Anne Howe
11 years 5 months ago

Oh the power of insights! This is an opportunity that many food brands can and should start planning for NOW for 2011 merchandising. I agree with Joel Rubinson, it’s even more interesting to think about multiple meal solutions that provide variety for those around the table but don’t just put the cook into stress-out mode.

If I were Kroger or any retailer with loyalty card data, I’d be looking closely at my data right now to determine the size of the opportunity. I’m guessing it’s bigger than everyone thinks it is and guess what, it’s not limited to November and December.

My shopper marketing brain is buzzing with ideas about maximizing this insight!

Charles P. Walsh
Charles P. Walsh
11 years 5 months ago

When juxtaposing the American consumer’s cultural dissonance and synchronous social/familial vicissitudes, one wonders on the impracticability of retail planning and buying. 🙂

John Lofstock
John Lofstock
11 years 5 months ago

While dinner during the holiday season tends to be an extra special time for family get togethers, I wish I could interview a small portion of the 32% that is sitting through three holiday dinners for a report on marriage. There must be a ton of key takeaways we can all learn from, specifically what not to do to keep your marriage intact.

Kate Blake
Kate Blake
11 years 5 months ago

With all the divorces in the country, it is conceivable that a family could celebrate over four times. As a retailer, I have had customers tell me that they have to celebrate with the exes’ family, the grandparent from both sides, etc. And that means lots of gifts as well! Let the guilt continue!

Odonna Mathews
Odonna Mathews
11 years 5 months ago

Yes, multiple family gatherings are a growing reality. This brings increased opportunities for retailers to offer convenient meals and dishes around the store. Ingredients for a festive meal should be easily found, with recipes offered and as many products for a recipe found in one location as possible. There are also opportunities for retailers to offer healthful and tasty selections in additional to traditional offerings. Promoting store brands in ads and recipes and good value pricing overall are essential.


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