Thanksgiving amid COVID-19: Home-cooked meals proliferate but meal kits rise during pandemic
25 Nov 2020 --- Thanksgiving is different this year as the F&B industry is adapting its approach to tackle the hurdles COVID-19 presents. Meal kits and ready meals are more popular than ever amid social distancing and smaller family gatherings are the order of the day. Meanwhile, seasonal launches and fall flavors are proliferating, with “comfort food” positionings to increase their appeal.
Despite COVID-19 related difficulties, consumers are geared to celebrate Thanksgiving this year as normally as possible. According to a LendingTree survey, the F&B industry will benefit as consumers are spending more to treat themselves this holiday season.
US consumers who are hosting Thanksgiving dinner expect to spend an average of US$475 on the holiday, up from US$310 in 2019. LendingTree surveyed 2,042 people, including 841 who are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, to gauge spending expectations and sentiments surrounding the food-centric holiday.
Thanksgiving staple flavors
According to Innova Market Insights, the most popular Thanksgiving flavors include cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, gravy, roasted turkey, pumpkin spice, yams, green bean casserole, collard greens and cornbread.
The US accounted for 34 percent of all food and beverage launches with a Thanksgiving flavor in 2019, followed by the UK and Canada with 14 percent and 5 percent market penetration, respectively.
Canada experienced strong growth with 13 percent average annual growth in food and beverage launches with a Thanksgiving flavor (Global, CAGR 2015-2019), the market researcher notes.
Meanwhile, Ready Meals & Side Dishes was the top market category for launches with a Thanksgiving flavor in 2019.
Gathering for the holiday
Consumers don’t seem to be deterred from celebrating with family, despite the COVID-19 threat. According to a University of Michigan study, some parents may prioritize continuing Thanksgiving Day traditions with their children over reducing transmission risks.
One in three parents says the benefits of gathering with family for the holidays are worth the risk of spreading or getting the virus, according to the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine.
However, parents are weighing competing priorities. While over half indicate it is very important that their child sees extended family and shares in family holiday traditions, three-quarters also believe it’s important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at family gatherings.
Half of the parents say COVID-19 has substantially decreased the amount of time their children spend with extended family members and some may be growing weary of these separations, Clark says.
The nationally-representative report was based on responses from 1,443 parents of at least one child aged 12 or under.
Smaller gatherings, more meals
Consumer research from both Butterball and Hormel Foods, which together sell most of the more than 40 million whole turkeys that are eaten for Thanksgiving, suggests that big gatherings will be broken into several smaller ones, most of which will still center on turkey.
Here may lie opportunities for food manufacturers to boost sales by promoting their products as giftable. This is most notably for gourmet and seasonal items and touting holiday essentials for those struggling financially or premium items for individuals looking to indulge, according to Hormel Foods.
The company says that a diverse mix of product offerings is key this year, depending on the individual and where they are cooking, how many people they are preparing a meal for and the person’s confidence in their kitchen skills.
Hormel Foods even has a turkey hotline staffed by chefs. It expects the service to get more calls than normal this Thanksgiving due to a spike in first-time cooks and more people tackling the holiday on their own.
Stress-free feast and vegan options
To help take the stress out of home-cooking, Blue Apron is introducing its first-ever Thanksgiving feast, featuring chef-designed recipes.
Blue Apron’s southern-style menu offers options to suit every holiday table for parties of up to eight people. Complete with a step-by-step guide on how to organize, prepare, and cook a Thanksgiving meal, Blue Apron will also support its home-cooks by sharing tips on its social channels to help make the holiday as fun as possible.
“Thanksgiving is going to be different for many families this year, and we’re happy to join them in the kitchen by creating a one-stop-shop to make their entire holiday feast a little easier,” said John Adler, Vice President of Culinary at Blue Apron.
“Building upon positive reactions to our dessert offering last year, we wanted to give our home-cooks more Thanksgiving options, especially as some people may find themselves playing different roles, either as a first-time host or just cooking for themselves.”
For the vegans who are celebrating, Whole Foods Market launched a Meatless Plant-Based Roast with Gravy through its own 365 by Whole Foods Market brand. The soy-based vegan roast includes a bread stuffing with onions, celery and cranberries, and a side of gravy. Whole Foods is also offering a Limited Edition Riced Cauliflower Stuffing to complement the meal.
Indulgent baked treats
In the same spirit, Edible, a franchisor of fresh fruit arrangements and other treats, expanded its portfolio further into the baked goods category with the launch of Edible Bakeshop. All Bakeshop products are hand-crafted, so consumers can enjoy savory treats that taste homemade.
The official launch of Edible Bakeshop features the debut of miniature pumpkin cheesecakes, which will be available for a limited time this fall, as well as brownies. The Edible Bakeshop portfolio also includes miniature New York-style cheesecakes and assorted cookies like chocolate chip and white strawberry chocolate.
By Kristiana Lalou
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