The must-stock food and drink products for fine food retailers this Christmas

30 September 2020, 07:31 AM
  • We take a look at how the past few months have shaped future food trends, and how it can help inform the food and drink products you stock this Christmas
The must-stock food and drink products for fine food retailers this Christmas

In December 2019, the industry’s predictions for food trends may have come to fruition. Now, however, nine months on and six months into a global pandemic, those trends are looking quite different.

Lockdown has arguably changed consumer habits quite considerably, with many people shifting diets to include healthier food choices, focusing more on cooking from scratch, taking an increased interest in provenance and consuming more plant-based alternatives. So how will this impact Christmas food trends for 2020?

For starters, we all know that Christmas will look a bit different in terms of the number of people that will be celebrating together, but it’s worth noting that some big brands such as M&S are predicting that this year’s celebrations will be even more than ever. So when you’re thinking about the food and drink you need to stock for Christmas, think homely, comforting Christmas classics and festive family favourites, alongside indulgent, premium treats thrown in for good measure.

Centre stage
Whether or not restrictions on gatherings will still be limited during Christmas remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: this year won’t see extended family and friends celebrating in one place. This is likely to impact what people buy for the dinner table, particularly when it comes to the centrepiece.

Many turkey farmers are already voicing concerns about sales, with many turkeys simply too big for just six diners. Traditional consumers may still want to put turkey on the table, though, so it’s worth working closely with your local farmer or producer to source smaller birds, as well as other options to serve smaller groups. Working with your suppliers also means you can showcase the story behind the meat, from the sustainability to ethics.

Green, clean and local
There’s been a huge spotlight on organic food and food with provenance over the last few months, likely owing to the coronavirus-induced ‘Support local’ initiative. We’re still seeing consumers eager to support small, local businesses after lockdown, but many have also said that they are willing to spend more on products that are traceable, and have been produced with the planet and our own health in mind.

With Christmas being a special time of year where consumers are more likely to support those in their community, it’s a trend we’re likely to see carry through into the festive season, so no matter which products you choose to stock, it’s worth considering their environmental and health credentials and sharing them with customers.

Even before the pandemic took hold, the country’s appetite for meat-free foods was on the rise. According to research from Mintel, sales of meat-free foods have grown 40% from £582 million in 2014 to an estimated £816 in 2019 – and that number is expected to be in excess of £1.1 billion by 2024. So needless to say, stocking up on vegan meat alternatives and vegetarian-friendly products this Christmas is definitely worth considering.

So with all of this in mind, what should you be stocking? Plenty of organic options, for one – whether that’s spuds for the roast dinner, condiments, meat or chocolate.

When it comes to plant-based options, many consumers may be whipping up centrepieces like nut roasts from scratch. However, there are an increasing number of products and brands on the market that you could consider stocking, such as Cook, which produces vegetarian and vegan ready meals that are perfect for the festive season, as well as Field & Forest, which produces vegan-friendly sausage rolls and savoury bakes.

A bit on the side
Condiments always form a key part of roast dinner. Throughout lockdown, an increasing number of consumers were experimenting with new and unique ingredients. While people’s Christmas menu is likely to focus more on classic, traditional foods, there’s still scope for something more special, so it could be worth considering stocking unique products like the Black Truffle BBQ Sauce or Black Truffle Hot Sauce from Cotswolds-based TruffleHunter.

Tracklements is always a popular option, too, and this year the brand has released a new Special Edition Rhubarb & Apple Chutney, which pairs perfectly with cheese, oily fish and turkey.

A cheeseboard is always popular at Christmas, and with the challenges faced by the dairy industry throughout the pandemic, this the perfect time to stock local speciality cheeses whilst championing British produce. The type of products you stock in this respect will vary largely based on what is available in your area, and it’s worth working closely with producers in your community. Additionally, some top brands to consider include Belton Farm Red Fox, an aged Red Leicester with a firm texture and Cerney Ash, an award-winning goat’s cheese with a dense texture and citrus notes.

There is also an increasing number of vegan cheese selections for those keen to make this Christmas a dairy-free one. Products include the Vegan Festive Cheeseboard from leading speciality cheese company Ilchester, which features the new, award-winning Applewood Vegan smoked cheese; Violife’s Christmas Dairy-free Platter; and Sheese vegan cheeses from Bute Island.

That’s the spirit
During lockdown, alcohol sales went through the roof, with everything from bottles of wine to pre-made cocktails being delivered to consumers’ doorsteps as celebratory occasions were marked at home and virtually.

This Christmas, you can bring the bar to your customers by stocking something special. Linking back to the concept of supporting local businesses, and with the environment in mind, brands offering sustainable spirits, organic wines and ready-made cocktails will hit the spot. 

In August, Sainsbury’s released its new report, Plate of the Nation: The Drinks Dispatch, which offered interesting insight into consumer trends. The supermarket chain has witnessed a 24% spike in the sales of premium wines, with sales of its English sparkling wine soaring by 300% for the year-to-date June, proving that consumers are keen to buy local drinks as much as local food.

Interestingly, orange wine is an emerging trend, with Sainsbury’s seeing a 468% year-on-year increase in searches for the product. It’s still relatively new on the market so options are limited, but the Orange Starter Pack from Modal Wines could be worth stocking this year to offer customers something truly unique.

Sustainable beverages are also on consumers’ radar this year, with Sainsbury’s witnessing a 35% year-on-year increase in sales for its organic range since last year. There are various organic, vegan-friendly and sustainable drinks worth considering, including Nc’nean’s organic single-malt whiskey produced in Scotland; the carbon neutral Arbikie’s Nàdar Gin, billed as the world’s first climate-positive gin made from peas; and Discarded’s sweet vermouth, which is made with the leftover fruit from coffee berries. For a selection of wine, SeaChange is worth considering, with its range of international wines that are all eco-friendly.

Keep in mind that many consumers may be taking the low- or no-alcohol option this year for health reasons. There are some great new brands on the market that will have customers feeling like they’re still part of the party. Brands and products to stock include NLL, a New London Light bold and refreshing non-alcoholic spirit created by Salcombe Distilling Co; British brand REAL’s Royal Flush, a no-alcohol alternative to champagne; and Small Beer, a low-alcohol beer produced by an independent small brewer based in London.

Leave room for dessert
Despite the rise of health-conscious consumers, there’s always room for dessert at Christmas, and it’s one area where there’s plenty of scope to stock traditional products like mince pies, essential ingredients for homemade bakes, as well as more creative and unique ready-to-eat products.

In its Christmas 2020 trends report, M&S said that sales of its baking goods have risen by 90% compared to last year; demand for pies and tarts has also increased by more than 100% in the last six months, while demand for custard and hot puddings has risen by 20% during that time. So it looks like Christmas will be filled with excuses to tuck into indulgent treats.

For those customers who will be sticking to tradition, Rosebud Preserves’ vegetarian-friendly Almond & Orange Mincemeat is a subtle twist on a British classic, and is the perfect filling for homemade mince pies.

For consumers who won’t be making theirs from scratch this year – perhaps to enjoy more quality time with the family – ready-made desserts and chocolates never go out of style.

Consider Baker Street’s new range of stollen, including marzipan and apple varieties; and LillyPuds’ range of desserts, which includes classic, vegan-friendly and gluten-free Christmas pudding options as well as plum pudding with damson gin and sticky toffee pudding. The brand even boasts a range of lush sauces including sticky toffee sauce and brandy butter, perfect accompaniments to stock up your dessert section with.

And of course, everyone needs some chocolates to hand at Christmas. Great products to stock this year include organic and Fairtrade brands such as Divine, which has launched new festive treats such as an advent calendar, salted caramel hot chocolate and limited edition sharing bars. Chococo has also launched a new chocolate baubles collection, available in milk, dark and gold chocolate faceted baubles. The brand’s chocolate salami is also a unique addition to customers’ festive spread.

Plant-based options are a key consideration in the dessert category this year, too, from vegan mince pies, to dairy-free ice cream. In fact, according to research from Mintel Global New Product Database, vegan ice cream accounted for 7% of all global ice cream launches between August 2019 and 2020, more than double the 3% five years ago.

With that in mind, products worth stocking for Christmas include Coconuts Organic natural non-dairy ice cream; Beau’s vegan gelato; and OGGS’ range of vegan cakes and mince pies.

Thoughtful gifts
Remember that many of your customers may be shopping for others as much as themselves, so don’t forget to stock items that make great edible gifts.

Companies such as gourmet popcorn producer Joe & Seph’s have some sweet options, from Christmas cracker gift boxes, to a gourmet advent calendar, and even vegan-friendly goodies. Biscuiteers produces letterbox biscuits and biscuit tins that make the perfect gift; York-based Sloemotion Distillery has an indulgent box of sloe gin truffles; and Tracklements has a tasty selection of condiments in its 9-Mini Jar Gift Set.

Despite Christmas looking different this year, the holiday certainly isn’t cancelled. Help your customers celebrate the season through fine food and drink that will make this year merrier and more memorable.

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