As the end of the year approaches, consumers need to know what to expect for their holiday shopping. IRI recently released two reports about grocery trends and consumer shopping trends. One report discusses Thanksgiving-related grocery trends, while the other report discusses food inflation and consumer trends in October.

IRI’s inflation report observes a recent stabilization of inflation as compared to a year ago, but a 1.4% increase in food and beverage prices in October 2022 compared to the previous month. IRI notes that brands and retailers have an opportunity to optimize their merchandising and promotions during the holiday season.

The key findings from IRI’s retail sales tracking of Thanksgiving-related grocery categories include higher costs for Thanksgiving meals, earlier Thanksgiving shopping, and increased sales in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Chris DuBois, executive vice president of IRI’s Protein Practice, shared some insights on these topics.

Though private-label products are helping consumers combat inflation costs, DuBois said branded meat and protein products still hold great significance.

“Branded products matter in the meat case, and they are important price signalers for retailers,” DuBois said. “Branded manufacturers will be able to sell all the product they have this year.”

IRI is seeing that consumers plan to return to pre-pandemic holiday celebrations, but rising prices will affect what meat and protein products they buy. IRI also notes that consumers expect these price increases, though.

“While overall prices are going to be 13-15% higher on average, turkey will still be in strong demand,” DuBois said. “For larger celebrations and with larger birds harder to find, I expect turkeys to be supplemented with other proteins like roast beef or ham.  In store walks and field surveys, I’m also seeing more aggressive retailer displays of pork roast in stores with colorful signage.”

IRI says that all protein prices will be higher — not just turkey — and substituting other proteins is not simple, leading consumers to take it upon themselves to combat higher prices.

“We hear from consumers that they will substitute different sides to save cost, have guests bring more dishes, and maybe buy a slightly smaller size meat item,” DuBois said.

IRI’s findings show that early purchasing is a big meat and protein consumer purchasing trend before the holidays, which opens the door for different sales opportunities.

“More and more consumers are accumulating their items many weeks in advance to take advantage of sales and availability,” DuBois said. “Instead of waiting until the last week, this extended purchasing window opens more opportunities for retailers to have an extended bump vs. a spike in sales.”

In addition to various other industry complications, the 2022 HPAI outbreak is also affecting holiday meat and protein shopping trends, although IRI says that frozen turkey should be available.

“Whole bird turkey continues to dominate but it’s been challenged by other proteins and growth has been hard,” DuBois said. “This year, with HPAI impacting supply and pricing, I expect more experimentation, especially for the largest and smaller gatherings.”

Another holiday consumer trend that IRI anticipates is a larger pool of younger people hosting Friendsgiving and family celebrations. IRI anticipates these younger consumers to have varying meat and protein purchasing preferences from older consumers.

“There’s more variety in the core protein served, and it can vary from sushi to steak to exotic meats,” DuBois said.

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