What to Expect for Festive Gatherings in Q4
Catering Versus Home Cooking
For the fourth quarter, many shoppers plan to serve homemade foods alongside ones that are catered or from deli departments. They can save money on one end and time on the other. “Turkey pre-orders have been huge in recent years,” notes DeCicco. “While home cooking is still big, convenience is huge. Many catered orders are combined with something fun made at home.”
In response to this trend, DeCicco’s has upgraded online menus and ordering technologies. “We’re making our restaurant software more integrated and customizable,” says DeCicco. “Shoppers can pre-pay or pay at pickup.” This year, the grocer is also upgrading online ordering for customized cakes.
At SpartanNash, in Grand Rapids, Mich., CMO Amy McClellan cites strength in prepared salads, meals and other deli items. “As shoppers host more holiday gatherings, many are opting for simplicity and convenience so they can spend more time reconnecting rather than prepping in the kitchen,” says McClellan.
“Trays” and combo meals have experienced significant growth, notes Baker, adding that pre-packaged party platters offering variety are also trending: “Deli prepared is having a real ‘moment,’ which will play a key role in holiday shopping.” Hosts can personalize platters by buying individual products to create their own unique spreads, and bread is a must at these occasions. St Pierre’s products work with both savory and sweet items. The brand’s offerings include brioche burger buns and hot dog rolls, sliced brioche loafs, brioche sliders, and brioche baguettes.
Despite optimism regarding fourth-quarter purchasing, rising prices continue to raise concerns. Experts are unsure whether inflation will affect holiday entertaining. “It’s hard to predict,” admits IDDBA’s Prach. “While people want smaller amounts, we’re still seeing decadent buying trends. It’s hard to deduct from last year, because there was a COVID scare around the holidays.”
Regardless of how big or small holiday gatherings are and what is served, one tradition will persevere: There will always be hot cocoa and a plate of cookies for Santa.
Alcoholic beverages have always been part of holiday gatherings. This year is no exception, with experts citing interest in local and seasonal beers, special-occasion wines, and ready-to-drink cocktails.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash offers a variety of wines at multiple price points. CMO Amy McClellan notes consumer interest in wines from “under-the-radar” countries and local regions. During the fourth quarter, however, consumers usually embrace more “serious,” higher-priced wines, including sparkling ones and deeper, darker reds.
Many of SpartanNash’s stores have dedicated wine stewards “who are incredibly knowledgeable about our wide selection,” adds McClellan. “They’re great at identifying similar taste profiles at any price range.” The company also emphasizes beer, with fall bringing popular seasonal flavors like apple, pumpkin and Oktoberfest varieties, she observes.
Customers of Pelham, N.Y.-based specialty grocer DeCicco & Sons are interested in regional microbrews, including pilsners, lagers, and seasonal flavors like pumpkin. IPAs with lower alcohol content are also gaining ground. “People want flavor and drinkability, but don’t want to feel too full when pairing beer with food,” says Joseph DeCicco Jr., partner/head of purchasing. DeCicco also cites strength in hard seltzers, which are growing faster than beer.
The pandemic heightened interest in homemade cocktails, augmenting DeCicco’s business in high-end bitters, tonics, ginger beer and other ingredients. “There’s a correlation between home chefs and homemade cocktails,” notes DeCicco.
Consumers’ desire for quality ingredients has raised the bar in ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails. Unlike the artificially flavored RTDs of years past, today’s products are made with better-quality spirits and natural mixers. Launched last year, Brody’s Crafted Cocktails contain ingredients like fresh juice, fresh ginger, botanicals and honey, “as opposed to anything artificial,” says John Neunson, co-founder of Collingswood, N.J.-based Brody’s.
The brand’s five prohibition-era cocktails feature an updated, trendy twist. Touch of Grey, for example, contains London-style premium dry gin, Earl Grey tea, black raspberry, honey and lemon, while Black Orchid includes premium vodka, violet liquor, black raspberry and very tart lemon flavors. Packaged in 375-milliliter glass bottles (12-plus ounces), the cocktails are meant for sharing, yielding three to five servings. The ABV is 16% to 25%, and suggested retail prices range from $12.90 to $14.99.
“Our attention to detail brings a true experience to home entertaining,” asserts Neunson, “and you don’t have to act as bartender.” Later this summer, the brand plans to add three additional cocktails to the lineup.