Grocers Can Give Thanks for a Season of Plenty

November 25, 2020

Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

Consumers may have had to drastically alter how they celebrate Thanksgiving in deference to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but by all accounts, grocery retailers are deftly meeting the needs of folks cooking the holiday meal at home, regardless of the size of the guest list.

In most cases, grocers made their Thanksgiving purchasing decisions months ago, before anyone thought the restrictions brought on by the pandemic would last into the fall and winter months. That being said, many NGA member retailers say they were still expecting brisk sales of turkey and other proteins due to more people preparing their own holiday meals at home rather than gathering with other family members or eating in restaurants.

While some grocers expect to sell more smaller birds, as well as turkey breasts and hams, others anticipate that their customers will still plan to prepare larger turkeys so they can have leftovers beyond the holiday. Additionally, grocers are ready to provide guidance to their customers for preparing meals most appropriate to individual needs. Others will be offering ready-to-eat holiday meals with all the trimmings for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

It’s clear that consumers are looking for as much normalcy as they can achieve, according to a recent survey by NCSolutions, which revealed that 68% of respondents said they plan to buy the Thanksgiving items they usually purchase, compared with 10% looking to buy new items.

And apparently, normalcy means turkey, which ranks as the favorite Thanksgiving Day food for 70% of NCS survey respondents, followed by mashed potatoes (66%) and stuffing/dressing (64%). Rounding out the top 10 Thanksgiving foods were gravy (55%), rolls and bread (55%), pumpkin pie (48%), sweet potatoes/yams (44%), apple pie (43%), cranberry sauce (39%) and corn (37%).

Meanwhile, more than a third of respondents (34%) appear to be looking for nostalgia, saying they’ll purchase foods that “remind you of your childhood.”

Perhaps more significantly for grocers, of the 2,024 U.S. adults surveyed, 73% said they expect to increase or maintain their Thanksgiving spending in 2020, with 15% planning to spend more than last year and 58% planning to spend the same amount (27% planned to spend less).

And despite the rapid increase in household penetration of grocery e-commerce over the past year, 80% of survey respondents planned to buy the components for their Thanksgiving meals in person at the store, with 19% planning to buy online for delivery and 15% for curbside pickup (respondents could choose more than one purchasing method). Further, 67% respondents said they planned to do their Thanksgiving shopping at grocery stores, 58% at superstores and 26% at warehouse clubs.

Grocery retailers and their partners in the supply chain in large part are better prepared now as they’ve experienced the spikes in the demand that came in the spring. They’ve already prepared for the traditional increased demands of the holiday season and continue to take extra steps to ensure high-demand products remain available despite pandemic-related pressures.

So, even with a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases heading into the fall and winter holidays, it’s clear that Thanksgiving isn’t canceled, least of all for supermarkets.