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Christmas is a time when fine food really has its moment – succulent turkey, sweet cranberry sauce and of course, indulgent Christmas puddings and fruit cakes. These desserts have all the ingredients that are classically festive, with plenty of fruits, spices and booze. But are traditional treats still at the top of the Christmas tree, and how can independent retailers upsell them this Yuletide?
Balancing tradition and innovation
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without classic favourites, and as shoppers seek out comforting nostalgia from their food this festive season due to the financial crisis, traditional puddings appear to be the top choice.
As Gemma Barton, head of e-commerce and marketing at Cartwright & Butler, explains, “In one sense the pandemic and the state of things generally have had us thinking back to times gone by. All very Proustian and his madeleines – smells and tastes that are evocative of childhoods and times and places that gave comfort.
“Therefore, traditional fare is still very much on top of the customers’ shopping list, albeit sometimes with a twist. Our overall best-seller last year was the Christmas Pudding with Orange Liqueur – a Christmas Pudding with a marzipan centre, while the number two best-seller was the traditional Christmas Pudding in both instances.”
This is something Ashton Marriott, head of marketing at Cotswold Fayre, has also noticed. “We feel as though consumers are looking for something a little different, perhaps more exciting in taste but not dissimilar to the traditional cakes and Christmas pudding nostalgia.
“We’re still seeing high demand for traditional cakes, yule logs, panettone and stollen as well as Christmas puddings, and current sales figures indicate they remain top of the tree!”, she tells Speciality Food. “However, within our top 25, alcoholic flavour twists creep in such as Limoncello Panettone, Sloe Gin Fruit Cake and Spiced Rum, Date & Salted Caramel Cake.”
For Halima Markey, business development manager at Skoulikas, customers are well versed in making their own traditions after three years of uncertainty and restrictions. She explains, “Consumers are always looking to try something different and start their own new traditions. Hence why we believe Panettone will continue to remain the top-selling Christmas cake, being very versatile with a range of different flavours available.
“The classic panettone will still be the best-selling, followed by chocolate and lemon. We are also seeing a massive demand for free-from panettone growing year on year.”
This is something Sajid Ghani, co-founder of ShelfNow has also identified. “One theme in particular we predict will be popular amongst consumers, is the option of healthier Christmas friendly desserts, such as winter fruits and dairy free,” he says.
Stocking Christmas cakes and puddings
Because cakes and puddings tend to be ambient products with long dates, customers usually stock up on them well before the big day, saving their last-minute shops for fresh and chilled produce. This means that early planning is essential when it comes to stocking festive cakes and puddings in order to capitalise on this pre-Christmas trade.
As Halima explains, “The Christmas period is very important for retailers, and many retailers make the most profit during the Christmas period. But retailers will only get the most out of this busy season if they start planning now, as most wholesalers have started placing orders to make the most of the Christmas period.
According to Sajid, “Early planning is essential and during the summer months, retailers should already be thinking ahead to finalise plans for product ranges and advertising displays.”
Halima adds, “Ensuring you have the right product ranges at competitive prices, and great customer service becomes even more important during the Christmas period, as well as knowing your product range. We all want to give the shoppers a reason to come back to their local fine food retailer this festive season.”
For Gemma, it’s about getting to grips with shopper behaviour.“The last two years have seen many independent retailers forced to close due to lockdowns – so it’s a year when we know consumers will be back. It’s Christmas, so not only do they want to spoil their family but also themselves.
“We think Christmas will come earlier this year as more customers look to spread the cost over more months due to the cost-of-living crisis – with longer shelf lives – cakes and puddings play perfectly into this trend.”
Turkeys, cheese and mulled wine usually steal the show during the festive season, so indies need to know how to upsell cakes and puddings to elevate the Christmas dinner party experience.
For Gemma, successful upselling is a result of creating visuals that make the customer want to buy the products. She describes, “The Cartwright & Butler stockists that do best are the ones that create beautiful seasonal displays, so it feels like Christmas as soon as you step into the store. It’s all about showcasing confidence and authority.”
To do this even more successfully, retailers need to be sharing their work on digital platforms such as Instagram, Tiktok and Twitter. As Halima explains, “Independent retailers are using social media a lot more by sharing photos of their eye-catching Christmas displays, showcasing products in unique and fun ways.
“Eye-catching displays putting various gift-pack ideas together is a great way to up-sell. Positioning Christmas Panettone, cakes and biscuits next to premium drinks, greeting cards, flowers and wine will help encourage shoppers to more willingly treat themselves, family and friends.”
Another tried and tested method of upselling is letting the quality and flavour of the product speak for itself. “Taste the cake and puddings yourself – this way you know first-hand how delicious they are and can communicate it to your customer”, Gemma suggests.
Ashton adds, “Provide in-store samples to taste before/to encourage purchase. Create an inviting display in multiple locations, cross-selling brandy butter, cream and custard. If you have a café onsite, offering a slice of the cakes and puddings to go alongside a hot drink goes down well, and speak to the customers about the retail products available.”
Keeping these tips in mind as you prepare your Christmas cakes and puddings offerings will help to push you towards successful selling in 2022 – here’s to a Yuletide full of indulgent sweet treats!
Christmas content supported by Woolcool – the pioneers of sustainable temperature-controlled packaging.