Consumers Stock Up Early on Food for Thanksgiving Feasts

The sales uplift of holiday-related items in the three-week period ended Oct. 31 was 63% vs. 45% in years prior.

November 15, 2021

Thanksgiving Feasts

CHICAGO—The grocery category saw a 4% lift in the week ended Oct. 31, 2021, as consumers are planning ahead for Thanksgiving by shopping early for key items, according to a new report by IRI.

"The latest data also shows that shopping habits vary widely among consumers of different demographics, primarily across age groups and household income levels. The distinct behavior patterns of each shopper demographic create important insights for manufacturers and retailers as they optimize their advertising and promotion strategies in the final weeks leading up to Thanksgiving," said Dr. Krishnakumar S. Davey, president of client engagement for IRI.

IRI tracks the top 25 Thanksgiving-related grocery categories, which account for 81% of the $2.2 billion in grocery sales uplift typically seen in the four weeks leading up to the holiday. They found these three key insights:

1. More shoppers than ever are shopping early: The sales uplift of Thanksgiving-related items in the three-week period ended Oct. 31 was 63%, compared to a historical uplift of 45% in prior years. This trend accelerated during the week ended Oct. 31, 2021, with sales lift up 86% compared to a historical average of 54%, driven largely by sales of wet broth/stock, turkeys, pie pastry filling and stuffing. Thirty-four percent of consumers reported they are stocking up on certain items because they are concerned that the products might not be available the next time they shop.

2. Shopping behaviors differ significantly across income level and age demographics: Lower-income shoppers wait to buy meat and sides items until closer to Thanksgiving, while middle- and high-income households are more likely to shop those categories ahead of the holiday week. However, households at all income levels buy pies, baking products and beverages in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

“Manufacturers and retailers without supply constraints who are targeting price-sensitive consumers should focus promotional efforts on pies, baking products and beverages as early as three weeks before Thanksgiving but wait to discount meat and sides until the week before or the week of the holiday,” writes IRI.

Older households shop earlier for Thanksgiving supplies than younger households, who are more likely to shop the week of Thanksgiving.

3. Meat and pies have the most out-of-stock risk: In-stock levels for the week ended Oct. 31 were largely consistent with levels reported the week prior, except for meat, which was down 3 percentage points. Meat and pies continued to be the only categories that show lower in-stock percentages compared to the year-ago period, down 13 and 3 percentage points, respectively.

IRI recently provided retailers with insight into a holiday retail season marred by out of stocks and higher prices. According to Deloitte, consumer spending is at or above pre-pandemic levels, but supply chain issues and higher prices may dull holiday sparkle.