A very Covid Christmas 

With lockdown 2.0 and more uncertainty on the cards, Christmas 2020 won’t quite be as conventional as previous years, the impact of Coronavirus means one thing is for sure, things will play out a bit differently within the food industry.

The first half of this year has shown the importance of availability, adequate stock levels, continuity of supply and contingency supply chains, this will be even more crucial as we approach Christmas. Many food retailers announced their festive ranges early due to customer demand, making it perfectly clear to their customers that Christmas isn’t cancelled.

Stocking up

Uncertainty over what Covid restrictions will be in place over Christmas has begun to have a major impact on shopper buying patterns, supermarkets have revealed. Many have already seen a marked shift in behaviour, with customers stocking up their freezers and cupboards with festive essentials earlier than ever before. Which suggests they are getting used to expecting the unexpected, but preparing to enjoy themselves as much as possible.

Herefordshire turkey farmer, Jade Stock, Out and About Poultry explains ‘This year, several of the local independent shops we sell to have been asking for pricing in September, a month earlier than previous years.’

A combination of Covid restrictions limiting family gatherings and a massive fall in foreign travel – five million Brits travelled abroad over the 2019 festive period, is expected to lead to more in-home occasions.

©Lucy Newson Photography

The festive centrepiece

People want turkey on their plates at Christmas and that’s never going to change.

Shortages of British turkey meat have been predicted after sales of joints and smaller birds have rocketed in the face of Covid Christmas preparations. Turkey suppliers are predicting a bumper Christmas as Coronavirus is likely to see Brits cut down on overseas travel.

‘This year we have only grown small birds as we felt it was a safer bet, we don't have anything over 6kg. In comparison, last year we had a range of sizes from 4-6kg. I think the uncertainty around what Covid restrictions will be in place at Christmas has resulted in people assuming smaller gatherings, economic concerns are likely to influence decisions too.’ Says Jade.

Preparing for Christmas in a pandemic

For retailers, 2020 has been a year marked by uncertainty, and one of the biggest conundrums facing the industry was how to prepare for Christmas amid a pandemic.

Some 39% of shoppers are looking to buy their groceries online this Christmas, according to a YouGov survey of nearly 1,000 UK adults.

‘Online grocery shopping will be critical this year. Consumers want to avoid stores and the challenge will be meeting the increased demand.’ YouGov Survey

Helping to replicate the out-of-home experience with quality food ingredients, great-tasting drinks and show-stopping desserts will help to bring some much-needed sparkle to the nation’s Christmas celebrations this year.

Tapping into the ‘shop local’ trend

Coronavirus has seen many small businesses work with their local communities, providing online purchases and delivery services where they could. This has opened up a new avenue for many small retailers.  

People respect the value of local – especially now. One of the simplest ways to tap into consumers’ desire for products with local provenance is to tell the story through merchandising.

Jade explains, ‘Provenance has always been a key driver for our customers and Christmas is no exception, people want to know that they've bought the best and are definitely more concerned about where their food comes from. I've also seen a big movement in supporting local producers this year, people buy into the brand as much as they do the product.’

A beacon of hope

It’s clear that Christmas signifies a beacon of hope for many consumers, and while the festive season may not be quite how we envisaged it earlier in the year, there are plenty of learnings that many retailers and suppliers will be taking forward from recent months. Delivering clear updates for shoppers, ensuring robust preparation, agility and close collaboration with suppliers will be key for retailers, as we approach the time of year that’s so aptly associated with togetherness and hope.

Sources – Speciality food magazine, The Grocer, Out and About Poultry, YouGov

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