Top Grocery Trends for the Holiday Season

In the US, the most important shopping season of the year takes place in November and December, encompassing holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s.  According to the US Monthly Retail Trade Survey, November and December accounted for nearly 18% of food and beverage store sales in the US in 2018, and a full 20% for beer, wine, and liquor stores. I had the chance to sit down with Dewey Warner, who heads Euromonitor’s US food and nutrition research, and Bob Hoyler, who leads Euromonitor’s US grocery retail analysis, to discuss the most important trends playing out in the US grocery market as the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years’ holiday seasons approach.

Traceability, meal kits to define holiday food trends

The ability to trace a food product’s origins through the supply chain is still a niche request from consumers, says Euromonitor food and nutrition analyst Dewey Warner, but it is growing. There is growing buzz about traceability in particular for turkeys, a popular entrée for many American households for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In late 2018, several major turkey brands including Cargill’s Honeysuckle White and Jennie-O announced new traceability options for consumers.

Technological advancements for tracking food through the supply chain make it more possible to know the origins of a turkey.  “I could definitely see increasing demand this year as consumers become more aware that it’s an option,” says Warner.

Meal kits are another grocery trend for the 2019 US holiday season. “[I saw] meal kits this summer that appear well-positioned for grilling season.  I wonder whether kits featuring stuffing might materialize around Thanksgiving, or if we might see gingerbread cookie components around Christmas,” Warner suggests.  Like traceability for turkeys, a select number of meal kit companies began offering holiday-themed meal kits in 2018, and consumer adoption should grow as shoppers become more aware of the offering.  Examples include HelloFresh’s Thanksgiving Box, which cost $159 in 2018, and Plated, which offered a variety of holiday side dishes in its menu options during the holidays in 2018, such as potato latkes for Hanukkah and pecan pie for Thanksgiving.

Private label, grocery delivery emerges as key trends for grocery retail

2019 has seen a great deal of investment in private label products, and those bets will come more into play as consumers look to stock up on holiday essentials.  “Grocery retailers from every price tier are putting a lot more money into private label and store brands,” says Bob Hoyler, senior analyst at Euromonitor.  Examples include Target’s Good & Gather line, which launched in September 2019 with approximately 650 food and beverage items, and Kroger’s Simple Truth Plant Based collection, which build on the retailer’s existing Simple Truth private label brand by adding new plant-based options.

A second trend to watch as the holiday season ramps up is continued efforts by retailers to capture the online grocery market in the US.  “Last year we talked about the rise of Instacart and third-party same-day grocery delivery services.  This year we’re seeing grocery retailers trying to take control of that side back,” says Hoyler. “Albertsons is testing its own fully owned-and-operated same-day delivery service. The other big one we’re seeing is Walmart – they’ve had some delivery but now they’ve now rolled it out across essentially their whole US geography.  Walmart has been very resistant to working with Instacart, so them having their own service is a big deal.”

In the lead-up to the holiday season, several retailers in the US announced new policies on grocery delivery.  Last month, Amazon announced it will eliminate delivery fees for Amazon Fresh orders. In September 2019, Walmart announced Delivery Unlimited, a new program that lets shoppers access unlimited free delivery on groceries for an annual or monthly fee.