Consumers to Celebrate Thanksgiving Like It’s 2019

The big meal will cost 13.5% more this year, but consumers say they’ll still purchase the same amount.

November 07, 2022

CHICAGO—Big Thanksgiving celebrations are back this year, with 76% of consumers reporting they plan to celebrate the holiday like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to IRI’s 2022 Thanksgiving Tracker report.

The average number of people at the Thanksgiving table will be close to eight, and that number jumps to 9.8 for Gen Z and younger millennials (those under 32). The oldest consumers, seniors and retirees anticipate six people at their tables.

Also, younger consumers are picking up the Thanksgiving baton. IRI says the pandemic empowered a new generation of cooks, with 52% of Gen Z and younger millennials surveyed planning to host or attend a meal with extended family who do not live with them—the top demographic to do so. Older millennials followed at 39%.

Thanksgiving is one of the biggest food holidays in the U.S., and while people are hosting larger meals, inflation is a top concern for consumers, and 38% expect to pay more for groceries this year but intend to buy the same amount of food. IRI reports that traditional Thanksgiving meal items are estimated to cost 13.5% more than they did a year ago.

In response to inflation, consumers are shopping earlier. Eighteen percent will likely get an earlier start; 33% will be looking for deals on Thanksgiving meal items before the holiday week and make spot purchases of specific items as they see them go on sale or if they have a coupon. Also, 23% of millennials and Gen X consumers worry inflation might mean they can’t afford their usual holiday celebrations, compared to 10% of older consumers.

In response to high inflation, retailers are discounting holiday meal items. Walmart is offering its customers last year’s pricing on select holiday meal items through December 26. Aldi is reducing the cost of holiday meals items, matching 2019 prices for discounts up to 30% off, and BJ’s Wholesale is offering its club members a free Butterball whole turkey, fresh or frozen, if they spend $150 in one transaction between November 1-10, in store or online.

Pilot Flying J is introducing its first-ever Thanksgiving meal with a discount. The entree includes a brown sugar-glazed ham, mashed sweet potatoes and cornbread stuffing, and the retailer will offer a 25% off deal on this meal through the myRewards Plus app from November 21–27 during Thanksgiving week. The meal is available now at more than 150 participating Pilot and Flying J travel centers through December while supplies last.

Overall, food and beverage costs were up 13.3% year over year in October. Additionally, this year could become the worst year ever of avian flu outbreaks for poultry, skyrocketing turkey prices. Wholesale turkey prices are at $1.79 a pound in October, which is 40 cents higher than last year’s peak. (Walmart is keeping whole turkeys at $1 a pound.) IRI research shows pies and side dishes are up 19.6% and 18.8%, respectively.