The Holiday Table: Heaps of Produce Trends

The Holiday Table: Heaps of Produce Trends

The holidays: time for families and friends to come together to express gratitude for all that they have—and, for many, celebrations that revolve around very specific eating itineraries. Some families are strictly traditional when it comes to their holiday feasts; others dine on the year’s trendiest recipes. Either way, holiday meals require a cornucopia of fresh ingredients. In our industry, that translates to surges in demand for seasonal produce.

There are several points throughout the year when spikes in demand influence fresh supply chains, including the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Preparation and planning are key to ensuring that your fresh supply chain program is ready for the holiday surge.

Holiday big ticket commodities

There are a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that drive purchases at retail leading up to the holidays. Based on historical data from IRI FreshLook and consumer trends, potatoes, apples, and onions are at the top of shoppers’ lists and drive the largest volume. Cranberries, pomegranates, and rutabagas are among the items with the highest lift.


To help ensure you’re capturing—and maximizing—your shoppers’ holiday purchases, place high-lift items on displays at the front of the store and produce department, cross-merchandised with high-volume items. Promote and keep these items fully stocked the two weeks leading up to the holidays.



Although most holidays have one key selling week when sales surge, Thanksgiving and Christmas will typically see dramatic sales bumps in the two weeks leading up to the holidays. Avoid missed holiday sales by focusing on operational excellence: eye-catching displays, good organization, quality, freshness, and in-stock product can all help drive impulse purchases.

Macro trends are driving changes at holiday tables

There are several large-scale, sustained shifts in consumer eating habits that impact the food they shop for, the recipes they make, and the meals they serve over the holidays.

One holiday, many celebrations.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over half of all American families are blended—a number that’s rising at a rate of 1,300 per day. Many families spread out their holiday celebrations, visiting or hosting different family members throughout the day. This is changing the ways consumers eat and the types of meals served; brunch and midday appetizer spreads are replacing traditional sit-down, full-course dinners. That said, consumers continue to incorporate their favorite fresh ingredients into new recipes based on eating occasion and type of meal that is most convenient for their families. For example, rather than being served in a casserole side dish during dinner, green beans can be fried and served with a mushroom dip as an appetizer.

Food and health trends.

Culinary and health trends (plant-based, low-carb, or gluten-free) are fueling new eating habits, and there are a number of ingredients that consumers are increasingly substituting to accommodate everyone on the guest list. For example, cauliflower is a popular substitute for carbs and meat.




New variations on old traditions.

Many of the dishes served at holiday gatherings are family favorites, but consumers are experimenting with new ingredients and reinventing their heritage recipes. Certain dishes, like sweet potato casserole or sweet potato pie, are meaningful staples; swapping or substituting key ingredients simply won’t do.




Millennials and health-conscious consumers may incorporate more root vegetables into their diets—something that has been positively impacting sales of rutabagas, parsnips, and turnips—and they are increasingly adding root vegetable gratin and mashes to the menu in addition to their favorite traditional potato dishes. Once considered the token Thanksgiving and Christmas fruit, cranberries are now increasingly being paired with pomegranates in drinks (like seasonal sangria), sides (like a show-stopping cranberry-pomegranate bruschetta), sauces (think turkey glazes and relishes), and desserts (like a festive cobbler).




Final thoughts

Consumers want unique flavors and are increasingly experimenting with different items and preparations, and we’re seeing this trend seep into our most sacred and traditional holiday mealtimes. Whether your family sticks with the classics or dabbles with of-the-moment fare, I hope you enjoy the holidays with the fresh ingredients and delicious foods you love.

Make sure you’re prepared for the next seasonal surge. Connect with one of our experts to talk about your fresh supply chain.

Angie Rowland

Angie Rowland - Senior Customer Analyst

Angie Rowland joined Robinson Fresh in 2015 as a senior customer analyst. She has 18 years’ experience in the retail industry influencing customer performance through consumer focused analysis, industry benchmarking, shopper trend discovery and collaborative plan development.

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