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2023 Holiday Grocery Trends: Meeting Shifting Consumer Needs

December 04, 2023 by FreshByte Software

A new survey by NielsenIQ highlights that while the holiday season is a time for celebration, it can be a financially stressful time for consumers, especially when it comes to trips to the grocery store.

“With the rising cost of food and other expenses, it’s more important than ever for CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands and retailers to understand what motivates consumers to buy and how it’s going to affect holiday grocery sales,” says NielsenIQ. “But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news. There are still plenty of ways to get the most out of holiday grocery shopping.”

Indeed, a survey by Forbes Advisor found that despite lingering inflation, about half of consumers (45 percent) expected to spend the same this holiday season as they did in 2022 and more than a third (36 percent) expected to increase their holiday spending this season.

“There might be talk of consumer spending slowdowns, but it isn’t impacting holiday season budgets,” reported Forbes Advisor. “Food and festive meals will be one of Americans’ biggest expenses, according to 51 percent of respondents.”

For some, it surely won’t be the same as their grandma’s Christmas menu, as consumers sample everything from instant noodles advent calendars to seasonally spiced Greek yogurts.

5 Key Holiday Grocery Trends 2023

The NielsenIQ article published in November says that retailers need to understand the shifting needs or risk their profit margins disappearing faster than the cookies left for Santa after midnight.

“With consumers gearing up to shop for the holiday season, knowing the right levers to pull to stay competitive is vital. But that’s easier said than done as so many factors affecting demand are adding pressure,” says the article.

Here are the 5 key holiday grocery trends showcased by NielsenIQ:

  • Lingering Inflation Pressure: While it’s good economic news that inflation has receded from the high water mark of 9.1 percent in June 2022, it remains stubbornly above average, especially for the food category.

“The story of 2023 has really been the story of consumers dealing with the impact of inflation. Unsurprisingly, as many consumers are still grappling with increased costs, they’re finding it harder to justify spending on non-essentials,” says NielsenIQ.

Numbers to keep an eye on:


o   84 percent of global consumers say they are prepared to spend less, the same, or nothing on holiday gatherings and celebrations this year.


o   Private Label (which can save consumers on average 13 percent) now accounts for 19.3 percent of CPG sales in the U.S.

Bottom line: Brands that can convey value this holiday season may find they attract more consumer spending.


  • Made-from-scratch Sides Have Their Moment: Maybe we need to thank TikTok but made-from-scratch sides are having their shining moment in 2023.

    “Shoppers are increasingly interested in making their own side dishes for their holiday meals, eschewing the pre-packaged fare. These include things like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole,” reports NielsenIQ.

    Behind the numbers:

o   18 percent said they would use savings from making their own sides and spend it more on socializing and gatherings.


o   56 percent of the group spending those savings were going to buy more premium and quality ingredients for at-home entertainment.

Bottom line: Brands should take advantage of this made-from-scratch momentum by offering recipes and cooking tips as while as offering high-quality ingredients and fresh foods for dishes.


  • Consumers Looking for Convenient Food Options: The consumer quest to save some pennies has led to more demand for convenient food options.

“With ongoing economic pressures and a range of other things to buy for the holidays, many consumers will actively focus on convenience when it comes to groceries,” says NielsenIQ.

Sales growth numbers include:

o   Prepared foods are up 6 percent over last year.

o   Salty snacks are up 11.2 percent.

o   Ready-to-heat rice is up 17 percent.

Bottom line: Brands need to offer “true value” to consumers, not just low prices. Convenient solutions can lead to stronger sales.


  • Demand for Healthy Options Not Going Away: Consumer demand for healthy food and beverage options is far from a fad as NielsenIQ estimates that 15.5 million Americans follow a vegetarian lifestyle and around 2 million follow a purely vegan lifestyle.

“One key trend is the increased demand for fresh, healthy options. Some consumers are looking for fresh, local, and seasonal produce to use in their holiday meals. Others are seeking out plant-based and alternative meat options,” reported NielsenIQ

Bottom line: Brands can partner with local farmers and suppliers to offer farm-to-table options and fresh produce in their stores. Consumers also appreciate help in the form of recipes and cooking tips on preparing healthier dishes.


  • Consumers Care about Sustainability: Sustainability is another issue that is only gaining importance with NielsenIQ saying a whopping 95 percent say they are trying to take some action to live sustainably.

    “This could include using sustainable packaging, sourcing ingredients from sustainable farms, and reducing food waste. But affordability is also a major factor to consider. 41 percent of consumers say that the higher costs of sustainable products are a barrier for them,” NielsenIQ reported.

    Bottom line: Brands can promote their commitment to sustainable practices and products.

Key Takeaways from Forbes Advisor Holiday Spending Survey

The holiday season can be filled with joy and great gatherings of family and friends.

Yet, this is also the season when many Americans run up debt on their credit cards as they purchase gifts, food, and more.

Here are some key takeaways from the Forbes Advisor survey published at the end of November 2023:

  • Over a third of respondents (36 percent) anticipate spending more this holiday season than last year. Food and festive meals will be one of Americans’ biggest expenses, according to 51 percent of respondents.

  • Of Americans who intend to host Thanksgiving, 58 percent anticipate using credit cards and accumulating debt to help cover costs. The figure jumps to 67 percent among Gen Z respondents.

  • Almost half of respondents (44 percent) expect to spend $751 or more on gifts this year. Credit cards will be the favored payment method while gift shopping, with 52 percent of respondents opting to pay by card.

  • Nearly 42 percent of surveyed respondents noted they plan to use a credit card when holiday shopping and expect to accumulate $500 or more in credit card debt.

  • “Buy Now, Pay Later” payment methods are a popular alternative to traditional credit card financing, with 40 percent of respondents electing to use this method for expenses related to Thanksgiving and 33 percent expecting to use it for holiday gift shopping.

“The holidays can be a joyful time of year for Americans, but you don’t want to be greeted with a financial hangover once they’re over and you wake up to how much you spent in celebration. Our survey found that spending won’t slow this holiday season even if Americans aren’t fully prepared to pay for everything out of pocket, with credit card debt and other financing being a reality for the majority of respondents this year,” concluded the article.

Food Trends in December 2023 to Watch

When it comes to holiday spending on food and festive meals, Americans are focusing on a menu that might shock past generations.

Trend Hunter reported the following among the Top 100 Food Trends in December 2023:

  • Seasonal vegan-friendly café menus
  • Health-focused salmon sausages
  • Festive convenience store coffees
  • Plant-based coffee-ready milks
  • Pea-based lasagna noodles
  • Cheesy soup dumplings
  • Plant-based meat pizzas
  • Exclusive miniature hot sauces
  • Fried egg-flavored snacks
  • Seasonally spiced Greek yogurts
  • Freeze-dried fig snacks
  • Artisanal holiday ice creams
  • Tuna advent calendars (!)
  • Spice advent calendars
  • Canned meat snack bites (SPAM!)
  • Instant noodles advent calendars
  • Charcuterie advent calendars

Advent calendars are moving away from the traditional chocolate or sweets found as a daily treat. Trend Hunter says to look for:

  • Savory Advent Calendars: The rise of savory advent calendars reflects a growing demand from sugar-conscious individuals who seek flavorful alternatives to the usual chocolate-based daily countdowns.

  • Unique Calendars: Unique calendars offer a delightful twist on the traditional holiday countdown, appealing to a wider range of taste preferences.

  • Flavor Discovery: Calendars like Hickory Farms' 12 Days of Charcuterie Advent Calendar help foodies discover new favorite flavors, products, and brands.

“The food and beverage industry can capitalize on the rise of savory advent calendars to cater to sugar-conscious individuals seeking flavorful alternatives,” advises Trend Hunter.

And as for that tuna advent calendar … It is very real!

“Tuna sales usually slump during the holiday season," Jeremy Zavoral, Brand Marketing Director at Bumble Bee said in a press release, "But we're trying to change that trend by showing how tuna makes a great snack meal before the main meal."

Tags: Inflation, Food Trends

FreshByte Software

Written by FreshByte Software

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