"On Special" is a monthly look at evolving store categories with insights on how different grocers are capitalizing on top trends.
Grocers are dishing out discounts left and right ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in an attempt to ease shoppers’ concerns about inflation bringing high prices to the table.
Even with the heavy promotional activity, 50% of Thanksgiving food shoppers said inflation will alter their spending for the holiday and six in 10 of those shoppers expect to spend more compared to last year, Advantage Solutions’ Holiday Spending 2023 report found.
But inflation isn’t stopping consumers from celebrating and serving up the usually priciest item on the Thanksgiving dinner table: turkey.
Thanksgiving feasts are back up to pre-pandemic sizes, with celebrations averaging nine attendees, and consumers are “not skimping” on the turkey, Butterball Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Al Jansen said in an interview.
Hosts are instead saving by cutting back on sides or asking guests to contribute by bringing smaller dishes, Jansen noted.
Lucky for consumers, the price of an eight- to 16-pound-turkey is down 22% from the previous year, according to a recent report from the American Farm Bureau Federation. Most (82%) still plan to have turkey at their table’s center for Thanksgiving, per Butterball’s 2023 Thanksgiving Outlook Report.
Items such as ham, lobster, chicken, cornish hens and vegan alternatives may replace the turkey on a few tables this Thursday, but the turkey reigns supreme, with “nearly all” Thanksgiving dinners set to include the traditional bird, according to data from Acosta Group.
A majority 75% of consumers will stay loyal to their primary grocery store rather than hunting down the best deal from a competing food retailer, Jansen told Grocery Dive, citing data from a 2022 Numerator study.
Wholesale prices of frozen turkeys are tapering off ahead of this year’s holiday season, with the cost of a frozen whole hen in September down 43 cents from a year earlier, according to the USDA. This relief comes after turkey prices surged last year due to a widespread avian influenza outbreak that took out roughly 2.5% of the annual turkey population, along with significant weather woes and supply chain pressures.
No turkey, no problem
Turkey is still the centerpiece on most Americans’ Thanksgiving dinner tables, but ShopRite’s feast savings allow hosts to save on the main course for their non-turkey-eating guests.
The regional grocer is offering its Price Plus Card customers one free turkey, ham or a product from a selection of plant-based, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free or Kosher items if they spent more than $400 between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23.
The Fresh Market carves up Thanksgiving dinner for two
The specialty grocer has nearly a dozen holiday meal options, most of which serve anywhere between three to 12 guests for no more than $15 per person.
Alongside these holiday meal packages, The Fresh Market has introduced a new holiday turkey meal kit for two. For $19.99, the kit includes Thanksgiving essentials like turkey breast, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, wild rice and more.
BJ’s offers free turkeys
Earlier this month, BJ’s members were eligible to receive a digital coupon for a free fresh or frozen Butterball whole turkey after spending a minimum of $150 in one transaction either in-store or online, according to a press release from the club retailer. This is an annual promotional tradition from BJ’s, the announcement noted.
Having a turkey as the Thanksgiving table centerpiece is a consistent trend Jansen sees with every Butterball holiday report, he noted. But there are certain consumer traditions that have furthered this practice.
The “Friendsgiving phenomenon” has become a “core part” of Thanksgiving celebrations over the past few years, and is something specifically driven by younger generations, Jansen said. Butterball this year decided to tap into this tradition through a partnership with Bumble for Friends, an app that lets individuals find new nearby friends.
The #FindYourTable partnership announced in October features a series of Friendsgiving events as well as resources to help people make new connections this holiday season.
Serving up sides
Turkey is the dish Thanksgiving is known for, but it’s not the most popular homemade food featured in the feast. In fact, it’s not even the second most popular.
Claiming the top spot as the most common homemade dish is mashed potatoes, with 93% of individuals making it at home from scratch, according to DuraPlas’ 2023 Holiday Foods Survey. Following close behind is mac and cheese, with 81% of people opting to use their own recipe over something store-bought.
Most DuraPlas survey respondents noted they make turkey or ham at home, with 80% also stating it was a "feast fixture," along with stuffing.