November was a vibrant month marked by the anticipation of the festive season. Across the UK, festive markets sprang to life, Christmas adverts have arrived, and retro flavour profiles like ‘Black Forest’ have made a comeback. Consumer purchasing behaviour has undergone a large shift, with lots of down-trading across the board due to economic constraints… we still can’t resist a special treat on Christmas Day though! Read on for November’s Top Food & Drink Trends.
🎄 Gearing up for Christmas 🎄
As we step into the festive season, Christmas markets have popped up in cities across the UK, transforming them into hubs of seasonal delights. Platforms such as @Leeds+ and @manchester.foodie have been showcasing some of the best food and drink on offer, featuring everything from traditional favourites like bratwurst and mulled wine, to more new-age innovations like Baileys-infused hot chocolate and crumble in a pot! Over at the Manchester Christmas Markets, our client, The Cocktail Co, has been busy serving some of their delicious new cocktails from their four bars, the likes of which include White Christmas Mojitos, Hot Apple Gin-gles and Chocolate Orange Espresso Martinis.
View this post on Instagram
November also opened the highly anticipated Christmas advert floodgates, with household names like John Lewis taking a whimsical turn this year with an unusual Venus flytrap Christmas tree, the return of our beloved Kevin the Carrot from Aldi, and Coca Cola’s plea for more Santas. However, despite being a little weird, my favourite this year is Tesco’s ‘Become More Christmas’ advert, which sees people turn into Christmas characters as they feel more Christmassy.
This Christmas, the trends shaping shopping habits are evolving, with quality reigning supreme in the minds of 80% of shoppers, as revealed by M&S’s Family Matters report. Within this, the traditional notion of Christmas brunch has undergone a remarkable transformation, growing to become an adored staple in UK households. Retailers have been taking notice of this trend and are catering to it by offering an extravagant array of premium lines, such as Tesco Finest’s Lobster and King Prawn Thermidor Rolls Kit. The concept of a lavish Christmas brunch has entrenched itself in our culture, signalling a trend that’s not just fleeting but firmly establishing itself as an integral part of the festive season.
Meanwhile, rum has long been predicted to follow in the footsteps of gin as the next big spirits trend. This Christmas, it appears to have made significant progress in that direction. Dark rum, once a favourite among mixologists, has transitioned into a central fixture in this year’s festive spirit lineup, permeating not only drinks but also emerging as a pivotal flavour in various culinary creations. In fact, searches for ‘rum Christmas cocktails’ have spiked by +24% from the previous year (Google Trends), underscoring the growing interest in incorporating rum into holiday drinks.
Moreover, nostalgia has seen the revival of the multiple retro flavour profiles, with the likes of Black Forest, cheese & pineapple cocktail sticks, and the prawn cocktail all making a triumphant comeback this year. This retro resurgence signifies a broader trend of infusing a sense of nostalgia and tradition into our Christmas culinary offerings.
🥃 Spirits on the rocks as consumer down-trade 🥃
The spirits category is experiencing a shift in consumer behaviour, notably marked by a decline in purchases, attributed largely to cost considerations. Whilst this trend is less pronounced in the UK and Europe compared to the US, it’s evident that both on-trade and off-trade spirit consumption has experienced a downturn. Even as drinkers seek to socialise in the on-trade post-pandemic, they’re demonstrating a preference for beer and cider over spirits due to cost – with a pint being a more affordable option when compared to a cocktail.
The economic landscape, rife with concerns about soaring bills, high-interest rates, and an increasingly fragile job market, has significantly impacted discretionary spending on spirits. This shift is reflected in the fact that take-home alcohol sales in the UK have seen a downturn of -2.8% in value and -5.2% in volume, with spirits being the primary contributor, accounting for 72% of this decline (Kantar, September 2023).
The current conditions for the drinks sector bear an eerie resemblance to those witnessed during the 2007-08 financial crisis. As economic uncertainties persist, paralleling the concerns of job insecurity and financial instability, consumers tend to opt for more affordable alternatives.
🥑 Budget-friendly peas on toast trump avocado 🥑
With food prices soaring at the fastest rate since the 1970s, consumers are revisiting familiar comforts, embracing classics like shepherd’s pie, macaroni cheese, and oven chips. These timeless dishes are reclaiming their place, whilst pricier or exotic options take a backseat. Notably, the once-popular symbol of indulgence, smashed avocados, is yielding ground to a more economical and eco-friendly choice – “peas on toast,” praised for its affordability and the UK’s 90% self-sufficiency in pea production. Have a read of this coverage we secured for our client, Yes Peas, after we generated a reactive news angle around the #peasontoast hashtag amassing over 3.3m views on TikTok.
Consumer behaviour is certainly shifting towards a preference for simpler meal choices and familiar, comforting foods. Shoppers are strategically seeking deals, opting for own-label products, and choosing larger pack sizes to maximise value. Interestingly, unlike during the 2008 financial crisis when consumers shifted from dining out to ready meals, this time around, Britons are adhering to traditional British dishes to avoid wasting money.
Health-centric trends are also making waves in purchasing patterns. There’s a growing interest in gut health, resulting in increased sales of fermented foods like condiments, pickles, sauces, and kimchi. Additionally, there’s a notable surge in demand for no- or low-alcohol drinks, with a significant portion of consumers trying their first “no- or low-alcohol” drink in 2023.
Want to know how your brand can tap into these food and drink trends? Get in touch for a chat at email@example.com