The food and drink trends to know for Christmas 2023

06 December 2023, 07:00 AM
  • With festivities just around the corner, we explore how customers plan to spend – and what they’re craving for Christmas feasts this year
The food and drink trends to know for Christmas 2023

Retailers have already made their big stock bets for Christmas, and the coming weeks will reveal customers’ appetites for the big day. Speciality Food delves into the data to see what the latest research reveals about purchasing behaviours.

‘Festive feeling’ expected to boost sales

With inflation and the cost-of-living crisis still in the headlines, it won’t be a surprise to retailers that just over half, or 51%, of customers say they plan to keep a stricter budget this Christmas due to financial concerns, according to Mintel research. More consumers than last year also plan to spend on credit this year (28% versus 22% in 2022).

In November and December, for both in-store and online food and non-food, retail sales by value will hit £94.5 billion, Mintel predicts - up 3.6% compared to the same period last year. However, growth was solely driven by inflation this year, and total sales by volume are actually expected to decline by 2.9% as consumers tighten their purse strings.

Despite this, Nick Carroll, category director of Mintel Retail Insights, says there are signs of a “well-timed recovery in confidence ahead of the big day”. 

“Several weeks ahead of Christmas Day shoppers may be cautious about their spending intentions but, as history shows, once the festive feeling takes over, some caution is thrown to the wind. This should mean more opportunity for retailers this December compared to last year.”

But with a greater difference between higher earners and lower earners, Nick says the spending period will be “highly polarised”.

“Brands and retailers can cut through this festive period by giving some much-needed mood-boosting relief after another difficult year,” he continues. “Tapping into this feeling, the tone taken by most marketing campaigns so far has been more playful.” With customers “looking to keep a lid on spending while having a good time,” he suggests they may splash out on lower-priced pick-me-ups, like premium ready meals. “There’s also the chance for grocery retailers to receive a boost from the switch away from out-of-home spending by trying to recreate the benefits of eating and drinking out, from the comfort of people’s homes. 

“For retailers as a whole,” he says, “there’s everything to play for.”

Far-flung flavours

When Christmas menu planning comes around, there’s always one question at the centre of debate: go traditional or throw caution to the wind and try something different? This year, a quarter of those surveyed said they will be eating something different to the ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner this year.

Over the past five years, 59% of us have seen an increase in the use of non-traditional festive flavours in our Christmas cooking, with 22% tasting new spices and seasonings in their festive favourites, according to Censuswide research commissioned by Wise, the international money transfer company. 

“This is consistent with multicultural Britain and a rise in confidence with world flavours in home cooking,” said chef and consultant Mallika Basu. “Retailers and product developers would do well to explore how the ingredients, taste and flavours that are making their way into our kitchens via chefs, food writers and artisan producers could feature on the Christmas table, enhancing traditional ingredients, produce and products.”   

Come Boxing Day, our cooking becomes even more adventurous as we look to give our leftovers new life with international flavours. More than a quarter of us (26%) will turn our Christmas dinners into a new dish, the survey revealed, such as pasta, curry or stew, with 30% eating something different to ‘traditional’ festive food.

Tradition wins out

Despite the rise in adventurous cooking, there are still three-quarters (76%) of Brits who plan to go the traditional route this Christmas. 

Retailers can explore Speciality Food’s advice for selling traditional elements of Christmas feasting, like cheese, turkey, chutneys and pickles, and puddings and cakes.

Whatever your customers are eating this year, it’s worth noting that food will be a uniting force, with most having larger gatherings. While nearly four out of five people (77%) will have immediate and extended family for dinner, nearly one in five are inviting friends and neighbours (18%). 

What’s on the drinks menu?

Customers are expected to stock up on Prosecco and wine this Christmas, according to research commissioned by The Maynard hotel and restaurant in the Peak District. Its survey revealed 21% of Brits will choose to have Prosecco with their Christmas dinner this year, with reasons given including that it feels like a fun, special treat, it pairs well with different flavours, and it’s not too heavy.

This was closely followed by red wine (20%), white wine (18.8%), Champagne (16%), Buck’s Fizz (10%) and cocktails (9%). The results showed that 8% will enjoy alcohol-free wine or sparkling beverages, while just 2% will choose to have beer with their Christmas dinner.

“It has been fascinating to hear what people are planning to drink with their Christmas dinners this year, and why,” said Rob Hattersley, founder of The Maynard. “It’s clear that Prosecco has continued to grow in popularity, most likely due to the fact that it’s light and the flavour is unlikely to clash with any of the rich, delicious foods that we all enjoy on Christmas Day.”

For retailers who stock locally made English sparkling wine, now is the time to put this tipple front and centre for your customers.

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