Alternative concepts for Christmas dining, meat-free indulgence and festive NPD

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03 Dec 2018 --- As the year of “Mindful Choices” comes to an end and consumers gear up for the holiday season, food and indulgence is top of mind for many. Traditionally Christmas is a time of guilt-free “overindulgence,” however, today’s mega-trends toward health, wellness and looking after the body, might mean a different take on the traditional Christmas classics for some. As the countdown to Christmas begins, FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at “healthier” yuletides offering as well as some of the more traditional Christmas hampers and limited editions in NPD available around the world – and the trends that are inspiring them.

Christmas snacks and seasonal flavors

Innova Market Insights data shows that as snacks become healthier, wholesome and more satisfying, they are expanding their role into mini meals, which demonstrates a shift in occasions. There was a 17 percent increase in the growth of snacks with health claims from 2013 to 2017, the researchers’ statistics show, while there was a 22 percent jump in snacks with a “nutritious” claim. 

Click to EnlargeThe rise in consumers cutting out or cutting down on meat consumption is also driving the snacking category as the number of vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians continues to grow.

These trends are demonstrated through some of the NPD aimed at Christmas 2018. 

PepsiCo-owned Walkers has launched a festive line of flavors for Christmas including single-packs of Brussels Sprout flavor, Pigs in Blankets, Turkey and Stuffing, Glazed Ham and Cheese and Cranberry, all retailing for £0.65 (US$0.83) a packet. 

The Co-op in the UK has come up with an unusual sandwich idea, Bubble and Squeak. It contains sweet potato bubble and squeak fritters with pickled beetroot, Christmas spiced chutney and a red cabbage slaw. 

Marks & Spencer has also produced its own meat and dairy-free Christmas sandwich with mock turkey. The No Turkey Feast contains marinated roasted soy protein, with onion and sage dressing, cranberry chutney, fried onions and spinach.

Some other vegan sandwiches doing the rounds this year include Sainsbury’s Festive Falafel and Hummus, Pret a Manger’s Very Merry Christmas Lunch filled with grilled carrots, crispy onions and baby spinach, with a festive vegan stuffing and port and orange cranberry sauce. Additionally, there is a Starbucks Vegan Winter Sandwich which contains roasted carrot and butternut squash, smoky chipotle slaw, spiced pumpkin stuffing, cranberry and brussels sprout pesto and spiced pumpkin puree.Click to Enlarge

For the US market, PepsiCo has limited-edition Cracker Jack Holiday Sugar Cookie Popcorn – A flavor combination of candy-coated popcorn with festive sprinkles. Rold Gold Dipped Pretzels – The Classic Chocolate-Dipped Tiny Twists or peppermint-dipped snowflake flavors are marketed as “delicious snacks that will satisfy every taste and discerning palate.”

Rold Gold Holiday Rings – Limited-edition festive pretzel circles are simple to make into a chocolatey treat for a perfect mix of salty and sweet. 

Nestlé has introduced limited editions of Gingerbread Matchmakers and Nescafé Gold Gingerbread Latte in the UK. Gingerbread has a long been associated with Christmas. However, there has been a recent boom in gingerbread flavor’s popularity, according to Nestlé. 

Nescafé Gold GingerClick to Enlargebread Latte – Hot water is all that's needed for this delicately spiced latte with a warming gingerbread flavor. Made with high-quality coffee and British milk. 

Gingerbread Matchmakers by Quality Street – These are chocolate sticks full of a crunchy blend of milk and dark chocolate with a gingerbread flavor that is free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. 

“Nestlé likes to move with seasonal trends and recipe innovations, so it was only right we brought our latest limited edition to UK consumers in time for the festive season,” says Rebecca Holt, Quality Street Brand Manager.

Christmas beverages 

Click to EnlargeBrussels Sprout flavor tea is also on the shelves at UK retailer Sainsbury’s, which has also tapped into the “delight or repulse” polarizing nature of this Christmas classic vegetable with its own-label green tea. It contains lemon peel, granulated Brussels sprouts (4 percent) and sweet blackberry leaves.

Promoted as a novelty green tea that doubles up a stocking filler idea, the supermarket says the 20-pack box is the ideal gift for tea lovers. 

Alongside this, there is also Sainsbury’s own-label Pigs in Blanket flavor tea which, despite the name, is suitable for vegans with Lapsang Souchong Tea (69 percent), apple pieces, flavoring, sage (2 percent) and rosemary (2 percent).

Click to EnlargeJ2O’s limited-edition flavor, J2O Glitterberry, is back and this year after going down a storm last year when it debuted in the adult soft drinks category. It is a blend of grape, cherry and winter spice flavors fused with edible gold glitter to provide an exciting festive drinking experience.

“We know consumers are more social in the run-up to Christmas, as well as wanting to drink less alcohol over the festive season. This Christmas we want to help retailers make the most of the sales opportunities this presents,” says Phil Sanders, Britvic GB Commercial Director. 

New this year from PepsiCo for a limited time is Mountain Dew Merry Mash-Up, Mountain Dew Ice Cherry and Pure Leaf Apple Cider Flavored Iced Tea. Returning seasonal limited edition beverages also include Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Ready-to-Drink Iced Latte.

Back in the summer months, Kerry Taste & Nutrition (Kerry) published some research into consumer Christmas trends, key flavors and easy-to-make concepts, based on its proprietary research tool to help customers drive footfall. Among the festive drinks trends were iced drinks, especially chilled coffee, while authentic hot chocolate remains popular. 

Vegan Christmas dinners

Not to replace the turkey feast at Christmas, but plant-protein is booming and so this year there is an abundance of vegan plant-based, meat and dairy-free products on offer covering all manners of categories from confectionery to snacks. Tapping into vegan trends, a number of companies – from retailers’ own label to giants like Quorn – have come up with vegan or vegetarian versions of Christmas dinner centerpieces. 

However, 2018 marks serious growth in vegan product development. Tesco in the UK recently predicted that one in five guests would be preparing a meat-free Christmas dinner for guests this year. While turkey still rules the roost on the big day, vegan products and meals are becoming much more mainstream. 

One example comes from Iceland which has launched a “meal for one” plant-based No Turkey Christmas Dinner to keep pace with the rising demand from the growing number of vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians. The meat-free meal contains strips of mushroom and soy protein with butternut squash, kale, chestnuts, wild mushroom and sage gravy. 

Low-sugar chocolate calendars

Children (and adults) officially started the countdown to Christmas on Saturday by opening up the first (Dec 1) window of their advent calendar. Interestingly, this year Nestlé’s range of big brand advent calendars (Quality Street, Smarties, Milky Bar, After Eight) also includes a reduced sugar version which incorporates Nestlé’s restructuring breakthrough technology implemented earlier this yearClick to Enlarge

Milkybar Wowsomes, a new brand for 2018 that became the first chocolate bar in the world to use Nestlé’s new technology to reduce the sugar by 30 percent, is filled with a mix of milk and white chocolate and the pieces have creamy-tasting centers and crispy oat cereals.

Meanwhile, US chocolate giant Hershey's has released a Christmas chocolate collection for the first time in the UK, including a Cookies and Creme advent calendar.

By Gaynor Selby

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