Wal-Mart Survey Reveals Changes to Holiday Meal

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In the days of yore, families gathered 'round the Christmas table to feast on home-cooked roasted goose, oyster stuffing, plum pudding, and plenty of wassail. But times have changed, and so has traditional holiday fare, according to results of a new national survey recently conducted for Wal-Mart, based here.

Turkey is now America's favorite Christmas main dish, the survey found. Ham comes in second; and 15 percent of consumers say they will be enjoying more than one main course this year. Meanwhile, half of respondents admit they serve at least some pre-made dishes at holiday meals, with desserts topping the list.

"Convenience and ease are leading the trends this holiday season, and pre-made selections fit perfectly into that," said Bruce Peterson, Wal-Mart s.v.p. of perishable grocery, in a statement. "By adding a few prepared dishes into their holiday menu, our customers have found that they can still have all the traditions associated with the season and leave themselves more time to enjoy those special moments with family and friends."

Other survey highlights include:

-- After desserts, appetizers were the next most popular pre-made dish, with 22 percent of people saying they'd buy already-made versions and 19 percent said they'd purchase a pre-ordered party platter.

-- Whether you call it dressing or stuffing, carbohydrates are still the number one choice for holiday sides -- more than one third of Americans rate it as their top pick. Mashed potatoes are another popular side dish, taking 32 percent of the vote. Sweet potatoes/yams ranked next, ahead of cranberries and green bean casserole, proving the nation still loves carbohydrates.

-- Nearly one-third of Americans say pumpkin pie is their favorite winter holiday dessert, while pecan pie satisfies the sweet tooth of others (19 percent). Bread pudding no longer takes the cake as a traditional holiday dessert -- only 4 percent name it as their favorite.

-- When asked which course they'd be willing to change by adding a new dish to the winter holiday meal, respondents were torn. One third say they'd bring or make a new appetizer, and the same amount reports they'd mix things up with a new side dish.

According to Wal-Mart, many of the most popular holiday ready-made selections include those from the deli and bakery. Seasonal favorites include deli party trays such as shrimp trays, chicken wing platters, and cheese and meat trays. Customized holiday cupcake cakes, gourmet brownies, and decadent dessert cakes are also making their way onto holiday tables with increased popularity as easy, delicious additions to any celebration, the company said.

"Favorite Winter Holiday Meal" study was conducted by StrategyOne on Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, 2006. The online survey was completed nationwide among 1,093 adults who were aged 18 and older. Margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.
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