The Christmas season is fast approaching, a time when consumers are happy to indulge and treat themselves, trade up to more premium ranges and try new food and drinks as they celebrate the season with family and friends.

Indeed, the more premium-oriented supermarkets noted growth in food sales during the 2016 Christmas period. Marks & Spencer reported its best Christmas figures in six years in the UK, including Northern Ireland (NI), with the retailer’s food sales increasing 0.6% compared to the same period in 2015. In Ireland, Tesco reported a 2.9% increase in Christmas sales in 2016, noting its Finest range as a standout performer, while SuperValu reported that average household spending on Christmas groceries was €193, €35 more compared to the 2015 Christmas period. Aldi also saw Christmas sales increase as consumers traded up to its Specially Selected premium range.

Consumers’ willingness to spend more during the Christmas festivities, which will likely continue in 2017, provides significant growth opportunities for supermarkets and artisan producers.

Speciality retailers that are looking to tap into consumers’ desires to create a special and memorable occasion for their friends and family should promote opportunities to trade up to premium food and drink to help achieve this. By telling the story behind their brand, artisan retailers can emphasise how their products can add to the sense of occasion. Not only will this allow artisan retailers to stand out from supermarket offerings, but it will encourage consumers to splash out during the upcoming Christmas season. In fact, Mintel research on Ireland’s artisan food sector indicates that 68% of NI and 58% of Republic of Ireland consumers are more likely to shop in food specialists for special occasions such as Christmas.

James is a research analyst at Mintel, covering the retail, technology and leisure sectors for Mintel’s Ireland Reports. His specialist areas include all things digital, with a focus on social media and consumer shopping habits.

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