Melanie Bartelme
Melanie Zanoza Bartelme is a Global Food Analyst at Mintel, providing insights on global innovation and consumer trends across a number of food categories.

Consumers in the Americas and Europe have missed out on a year of traditional holiday celebrations. Food and drink brands can help consumers see that they can still make up for lost time and create new occasions to celebrate seasonal holidays and events.

Many consumers have missed out on a year of “normal” celebrations

Consumers in the Americas and Europe have had to sacrifice celebrations in light of the pandemic. Three in five French consumers say that eating and drinking is the main way they connect with friends and family, according to Mintel Global Consumer.

This has included both big celebrations, like major holidays, as well as individual ones, like birthdays, graduations and the like. After so many canceled events in 2020, consumers will be looking for safe ways to get together with family, friends and other loved ones to make up for lost time. This is likely to include gatherings intended to make up for 2020’s postponed holiday season, such as “Thanksgiving in May” or “Christmas in July.”

Much like the outdoor movie screenings that happened in 2020, rescheduled holidays could become new traditions that outlast the pandemic because they provide reasons to gather – and consume celebratory food and drink – throughout the year.

Encourage consumers to reclaim the holidays they’ve missed

Food and drink brands can help consumers make up for the holiday celebrations they’ve had to postpone by helping them imagine new ways to celebrate.

Thanks to the pandemic, many consumers have had to scale back or postpone holidays throughout the year, from Christmas and Hanukkah to graduations and weddings. Yet as hope for a more “normal” summer and autumn build, there is an opportunity to show consumers that they do not need to wait for the “real” event to observe and celebrate it.

There is precedent for this practice: in North America, for example, Christmas in July deliberately turns the traditional winter holiday into a summer celebration. Since the pandemic has made time feel meaningless to some, there is an opportunity to build on that loss of meaning to encourage consumers to celebrate these missed holidays whenever they want.

Show consumers how to use holiday products in new ways

Food and drink brands can encourage consumers to use products that are normally linked to a specific holiday across the year or align those products with different holidays.

Shifting holiday associations
Panettone is traditionally associated with the Christmas holiday, but Chicago bakery Publican Quality Bread created a new usage occasion by tying it to Valentine’s Day (US).

Holiday cookies all year long
Ferrara is aiming to reposition its Royal Dansk Danish Butter Cookies (US) and Delacre Fine Belgian Assorted Cookies (Europe) “for everyday enjoyment throughout the year.”

Snacks become valentines
Whisps created a special Valentine’s Day product called Cheesygrams as a way to tie snacking to a holiday traditionally linked to candy and sweets (US).

The same product can work for multiple holidays

Bonne Maman adapted the advent calendar concept to position its mini preserves and honey collection as ideal for celebrating any holiday, including Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. There are opportunities to extend the shelf life of specialty and gift sets throughout the year.

Celebrate everyday moments

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have been grappling with anxiety, depression, fear and stress. For some people, simply getting through the day – and now, one year of the pandemic – has become a feat worth celebrating. Food and drink brands can create messaging around how consumers can use their products to treat themselves and their loved ones whenever they need a boost, whether it’s their pet’s birthday or simply another Wednesday they’ve crossed off their list. Everyday rituals like these can offer consumers emotional support, as explored in Mintel Trend, ‘Feed The Mind.’

Consumers are receptive to food and drink that feels special, even without an occasion. For example, nearly half of UK dessert consumers say they would like to see desserts with “wow factors” (eg chocolate shards, glitter) available throughout the year.

Build buzz around food holidays

Food holidays – otherwise known as National [fill in the blank] Days – hold potential for encouraging consumers to use food and drink products more often or in new ways.

Email and social media campaigns have begun to embrace these “food holidays.” For example, US-based The Spice Lab linked Mexico’s Day of the Taco (March 31) with its Taco Seasoning, reminding email subscribers that this holiday is also celebrated in the US on October 4.

There is also potential to link food to non-food holidays. For this year’s National Unicorn Day, for instance, Mother’s created Sparkling Mythical Creature Cookies and teamed up with Sprinkles bakery to offer limited-edition Mythical Creature cupcakes. Food and drink brands have an opportunity to link or create products to these holidays to create fun and joy any day of the year.

What we think

As fear around COVID-19 begins to lift, there will be opportunities to show consumers how food and drink traditionally tied to certain holidays can be enjoyed any time of the year, and specifically, as consumers celebrate the holidays they have missed at different times of year.