The UK grocery market is set to experience 2.4% growth this Christmas, with shoppers predicted to spend £21.6bn over the festive period, according to the latest forecast from research organisation IGD.
With nearly half (48%) of shoppers agreeing that food and drink is the most important part of Christmas Day, the IGD says grocery has a key role to play on the December 25, creating opportunities for people to honour annual traditions or create new ones.
Key findings to note are: while 65% are planning to have turkey this year, nearly one in 10 (9%) will opt for a vegetarian or meat alternative; 7% are planning to use their Alexa/Google Home to help them prepare for Christmas meals; 35% of shoppers are tempted to buy certain food and groceries from adverts they’ve seen at Christmas, increasing from 29% in 2016; and shoppers anticipate spending an average of £90 for their household’s main Christmas meal this year, with 33% estimating they will spend over £100.
Vanessa Henry, Shopper Insight Manager at IGD, said: “Although Christmas is very much wrapped up in tradition, we’re starting to see some new and interesting trends emerging in the run-up to the festive period. In particular, and similar to a trend we’ve seen emerging over the past year or so, there is a greater focus on vegan or vegetarian options for the main Christmas meal centrepiece.
“Growing media and social media coverage, coupled with greater investment by both retailers and suppliers in these products, means more shoppers are considering these meat-free alternatives this year. Although some families have unique food traditions that they stick to every year with certain foods, Christmas can also be a time to experiment with new and different products.”
Whilst indulgence starts for some on Christmas morning, with 4 in 10 shoppers (40%) claiming to usually have an alcoholic drink before 12pm and 31% usually eating chocolates or sweets first thing, the majority of us save ourselves for the main Christmas meal. Indeed, the top breakfast choice to start the festive day is toast, enjoyed by 34% of shoppers, followed by breakfast cereal (29%), eggs (17%), bacon and/or sausages (17%) and a full cooked breakfast (15%). Over one in 10 (11%) skip breakfast altogether.
Although Christmas is known as a time of traditions, with two thirds of people (63%) claiming to have the same main meals every year, nearly one in 10 (9%) shoppers will be opting for a vegetarian or meat alternative main. Younger shoppers in particular are planning on experimenting with vegan and vegetarian recipes this year, with 20% of 18-34-year olds planning to make vegan dishes and 25% vegetarian recipes on Christmas day.
Technology will also play its part in Christmas day this year, with 7% of people planning to use their Alexa or Google Home device to help them prepare for Christmas meals. This rises to over one in 10 (11%) of families and 17% for 18-34-year olds.
Christmas is increasingly being seen as a time to splash out, with 71% of shoppers taking this view compared with 66% in 2017 and 54% in 2016, suggesting that the majority of shoppers perceive the festive period as an opportunity to treat themselves and their families, having been cautious throughout the year. Notably, shoppers predict they will spend on average £90 on their main Christmas day meal, with a third of shoppers (32%) planning to spend over £100; 8% intend to spend less than £25.
Savvy shopping tactics are playing a part here to allow shoppers to manage the cost of Christmas. Indeed, shoppers are increasingly starting to shop for their Christmas food and groceries early to spread the cost, with over half (54%) claiming they start their shopping well in advance of the big day, up from 45% in 2017 and 35% in 2016. 68% of shoppers claim to have already purchased some food and grocery products, and one in three (33%) believe they will have to purchase some items again before Christmas, with savoury snacks such as crisps and crackers being the most tempting product to tuck into early.
Advertising is increasingly influencing grocery purchases over Christmas, with 35% of shoppers admitting they are tempted to buy certain food and groceries based on adverts they have seen, compared with 29% in 2016. This rises to 49% of those under 45.
On the growing influence of advertising, IGD’s director of Insight Simon Wainwright, said: “For retailers effective advertising drives footfall, but for suppliers the challenge is turning shopper consideration into purchasing. Shoppers may be interested in purchasing a product after seeing it advertised, but if it isn’t visible in-store then they are likely to either forget about it or choose to purchase something else.”
Similarly, shoppers are increasingly looking to be inspired in-store at Christmas, with 42% saying they look for recipe ideas and inspiration over the season, showing an increase from 35% in 2017. Inspiration also takes the form of new and different products, with 62% of families saying they always look out for new and different products at Christmas (vs 52% of all shoppers). Desserts present the biggest opportunity for meeting shopper demand in new and different products, with a significant 42% looking to this category for interesting and new products followed by cheese (28%) and frozen party food (26%).
Wainwright concludes: “The challenge over the Christmas period is how to create cut-through amongst all the other products and messages that shoppers are presented with in-store. It is important that retailers strike a balance between creating a point of difference and remaining relevant to their target shoppers. Those retailers and suppliers who work together to deliver a compelling in-store experience for shoppers will be well placed to make the most of impulse opportunities.