Monitor: Thanksgiving dinner's comeback was modest

A survey finds more than half of respondents said they bought the same or less for Thanksgiving dinner in 2021 than they did in 2020, during the darkest months of the pandemic.

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Dec. 2, 2021
As the world emerges, haltingly from COVID-19, new challenges emerge. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

For a second year in a row, Thanksgiving dinner was served with a side of COVID-19. Despite availability of vaccines and closer-to-normal numbers of travelers, the results of a New Hope Network survey suggest the "turkey day" gathering didn’t exactly come roaring back. This survey is based on a sample of 500 respondents as identified as those who primarily make meal-planning decisions.

Respondents were asked to compare their Thanksgiving dinner in 2021 to 2020 in eight different categories. In every category, fewer than half of the respondents said they bought more for their dinner. Consumers who identify as natural channel shoppers were more likely than non-natural shoppers to say they bought more in all of the categories, but it’s notable that not a single category topped 50% of respondents saying they bought more.

That means more than half, and in some categories well over more than half, indicated they bought the same or less than they had in 2020, a year that would seem to stand out as a dramatically lowkey Thanksgiving. Some observers might have expected a transformative shift in 2021, but that did not happen.


Some of this modest change may have to do with the increased cost of putting a big dinner on the table. The Farm Bureau estimated setting the table for Thanksgiving this year was up 14% from 2020. The survey results do not offer an actionable takeaway on increased costs, however. The category natural-channel shoppers were most likely to say they bought more of in 2021 was appetizers and snacks, but turkey came in second. That doesn’t tell us that a huge number of consumers skipped the bird in favor of cheaper snacks.

What the results do suggest, however, is that natural retailers should not expect a dramatic return to form in holiday entertaining in the closing weeks of 2021. Omicron variant aside, many consumers may be more likely to gather in groups this year than in 2020, but the survey findings suggest they will not be setting the table in a grand manner.

Vaccinations or not, COVID-19 is still a side dish.

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