Tradition Trade-Outs – The New Holiday Normal

Tradition Trade-Outs – The New Holiday Normal

Thanksgiving traditions are shifting, affecting everything from how people shop to what they cook to who they’re celebrating with. The ways in which we prepare and eat the big meal are changing as well, and as the U.S. becomes increasingly more diverse, Americans are adding new traditions to their holidays. They’re even trading out some of their customary plans with new ones as a way to modernize the holiday.

While it can be challenging for retailers to keep pace with quick-shifting consumer trends, savvy operators are winning by leveraging technology to enhance the shopping experience and meet consumers’ evolving desires. Grocery stores offering “click and collect” options—those that allow consumers to order groceries online and then pick them up at a store—are growing in popularity, including during the busy holiday season. In fact, three in 10 online shoppers in the U.S. say they use click and collect options when shopping for groceries online, and households with children are using this time-saving service more than their counterparts without children.

In addition to shifting food-buying trends, some Americans are actually altering their actual Thanksgiving meals as well. For many, gone are the days of having one big meal with your family on the holiday. Today, many Americans enjoy multiple meals. In fact, the average person now eats 1.7 meals with their families during Thanksgiving. Who eats the most? Millennials lead the way over the Thanksgiving holiday, eating 2.7 meals with family and 1.8 meals with friends in the increasingly popular “Friendsgiving.”

Friendsgiving, a newer tradition that involves celebrating the holiday with friends instead of family, is also growing in  multicultural flair. In fact, 39% of the people who celebrate Friendsgiving plan to add a side dish from another culture to their table. Comparatively, 32% plan to add a main dish from another culture and 31% will include a dessert from another culture.

The other big trend this holiday season: meal kits. Falling in between takeout and home-cooking from scratch, meal kits deliver pre-measured ingredients and recipes to help consumers cook with ease. And they’re gaining traction over the holidays, as 32% of Americans say they prefer to make their holiday meals from a kit. And consumers aren’t just using kits for their main courses. Salad kits alone have seen a tremendous rise in sales, accounting for $3.7 billion in sales in the year ending April 2, 2016, up 8% from the previous year. Making meal kits available to time strapped consumers will help alleviate the stress of complex recipes and running the aisles for ingredients.

With traditions old and new, Americans have more ways than ever to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Retailers and manufacturers that can keep up with evolving trends and ensure that consumers can find everything from multicultural flavors to meal kits at their favorite stores will keep consumers coming back year-round.


  • The insights in this article were derived from a Nielsen Omnibus English language survey of 1,159 adults aged 18+ in November 2016.
  • The sales data was derived from Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts, 52 weeks ended April 2, 2016.