It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas - the first since lockdown. But what will the seasonal comeback look like this year and dare we hope for a return to the gluttonous celebrations we have, in the past, taken for granted?
After the uncertainty of last year’s cancelled festivities, shoppers appear to have heeded government warnings that the strain on the supply chain amid labour shortages could last several months. Fearful of shortages of turkeys and pigs in blankets, uber-organised consumers have been busy for weeks filling up their freezers and cupboards.
New data from Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket, reveals that 86 per cent of UK adults claim that nothing will stand in the way of them celebrating in style. Key trends it is predicting include a preference for Christmas brunches and colourful ‘instagrammable’ spreads, a surge in the popularity of turkey but a bleak outlook for traditional Brussels sprouts as younger generations abandon them.
Nearly half (47 per cent) of those quizzed want to spend more time with family than in previous Christmases, while 20 per cent plan to share the celebrations with friends. Additionally, a third (33 per cent) plan on socialising more, and one in six (15 percent) plan on hosting more parties and dinner parties than in previous years.
Alessandra Bellini, Tesco chief customer officer, said: “As we enjoy the freedom to extend the dinner table and make wonderful memories, it’s perhaps no surprise that so many say nothing will stop them from having a joyful Christmas in 2021.”
Beyond long-awaited extended family gatherings, so-called ‘Friendsmas’ celebrations are set to be bigger than ever this year after last year’s lockdowns, supermarket chain Waitrose predicts, with merrymakers seizing on every opportunity to whoop it up with their pals.
This all means that hosts will be spinning even more plates than usual, catering for a wide range of diets, from vegan to veggie and pescatarian. Tesco’s research found that one quarter (27 per cent) of those in the kitchen will be juggling different dishes for their guests in this way.
To ensure consumers spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, supermarkets have been pulling out all the stops to offer ‘quick fixes’ such as ready-made canapes, no-carve turkey crowns, roast in a bag joints and even pre-prepared vegetables that need no peeling.
Sales of traditional favourites like mince pies have bounced back, with market research company Kantar reporting that demand has roared back to pre-Covid levels. Along with a growing number of plant-based versions, new options to lure younger consumers include those laced with spiced rum, sloe gin and even biscuit-style speculoos fillings.
In the savoury aisle, more outlandish festive options are a pizza topped with maple-glazed turkey, garlic and herb-infused pork crumbs and cranberry sauce, available from Aldi from the beginning of December. And the ultimate in laziness? It has to be a Christmas dinner, or more accurately 'limited edition' soup, from Heinz, containing "big chunks" of turkey, pigs in blankets, brussels sprouts, stuffing balls and potatoes, with a gravy and cranberry sauce.
However, stocking up on festive fare can fuel food waste, with over a third of us admitting that we throw away more food at Christmas than at any other time of year, according to research by Love Food Hate Waste. That can be avoided through careful meal planning and learning to love your leftovers.