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06 Dec 2022

What does it take to develop successful Christmas food & drink products?

What does it take to develop successful Christmas food & drink products?

Christmas is fast approaching, the John Lewis advert is once again the talk of the town, and in the world of food & drink most brands are promoting a range of special festive variations of their products and ranges. In a crowded marketplace, and with a season full of passionately held foodie traditions, it can be a tricky challenge breaking through and becoming a holiday hit with consumers. 

Among the supermarkets it's the war of the Christmas dinners, with Poundland dipping a toe into the festive food market with a £5 per person frozen Christmas meal (ironically not the cheapest option among the big name retailers as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite).

Aldi is embracing the plant-based Christmas with its no-beef wellington, no-turkey crown and and no-beef and red wine pie, while Morrisons offers its Plant Revolution gammon joint (pictured) and no pigs in blankets as part of its vegan Christmas range. 

For food & drink brands it's hard to know how best to penetrate the incredibly competitive Christmas market, and IFE Manufacturing has caught up with two NPD and food industry professionals to learn what it takes to create successful Christmas products. 

Ben Peatfield, Lead Food Development Chef, Whitbread

What do you have to keep in mind when developing Christmas food & drink products?

Primarily the festive spirit. Tradition and the fact it's a chance for people to spend more than usual on luxury, to treat themselves and others.

Following trends - be it dietary, sustainability, or to an extent flavour profiles - is important. But people do expect to be excessive at Christmas and people expect the same staples, so innovation is set within these parameters. There is little value in reinventing the wheel. It's perhaps more of an exercise in EPD (existing product development) than NPD (new product development).

What do successful Christmas products have in common? 

Traditional done better. 

Are you seeing any interesting trends in Christmas NPD? 

The largest area of interesting growth is further advances in plant based proteins. Faux meats and fish - improvements in texture and functionality to make the traditional Christmas staples more appealing to the ever growing demographic of vegan or flexitarian consumers.

Charles Banks, Founder, thefoodpeople

What do you have to keep in mind when developing Christmas food & drink products?

Despite the macro head winds Christmas will still happen and it will be a time for family, celebration and festivities, the question for 2022 is how much and how big. Its’s widely reported that more consumers than ever are planning to spend less on Christmas this year, which will likely be compounded for discount shoppers.

As such, understanding where consumers are and what they’re facing is key, providing choice and offers that enable those that can trade up to trade up but also having options for those on a budget Christmas. In 2022 we have the unique effect of the World Cup, if England and/or Wales stay in this could drive a party vibe right into the Christmas holidays.

What do successful Christmas products have in common?

There are a number of factors that I’ve observed over the years, more often than not they’re unique but not outlandish, often an elevation or twist of something that is already familiar or known, there is often a memorable element, perhaps some theatre, multiuse as a gift or table centre all factors that will drive a ‘WOW’ or a big smile from those that are consuming.

Are you seeing any interesting trends in Christmas NPD?

There is always lots to talk about here, this year more than ever its driven by the forces in the wider environment such as more Turkey alternatives - Avarian flu and rising costs have meant more alternative centre pieces like Venison or layered vegetable wellington. We’re seeing many more foodie advent calendars this year such as the all year round nostalgia Walnut Whip advent calendar. Christmas on a budget is big this year from TikTok hacks for filo tarts and meringue Christmas trees to retailers bundling items for a fixed price Christmas dinner for £25 as an example.

We expect some of the traditional food that has perhaps been shunned in previous years to make a comforting and nostalgic comeback, searches for Christmas pudding recipes area already well up on previous years. All year round favourites get the nostalgic Christmas makeover with the likes of snow-capped baked Alaska with maraschino cherry topping, does anything say Christmas more?



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