’tis the season – already!

Christmas comes but once a year and the planning starts early in grocery.

Waitrose, Tesco, Asda and others are clear in their aims that food and drink production can satisfy a multitude of paletes, pockets – and profits. Producing food and drink that has to be innovative and entertaining to the eye and other senses is a challenge in itself. When you take into account that it’s a traditional time of year – and tradition is paramount during the festive season – product development in this space is not for the faint hearted.

Waiting for no one

In its Christmas media edit, Waitrose’s Martyn Leep, notes how the retailer knows customers spread their festive celebrations across a number of weeks – “it’s no longer just about the big Christmas Day lunch”, says the executive chef. 

Yep, the early bird catches the worm in this very competitive sector.

The team, we’re told, has worked hard to develop showstopper mains that tick all the boxes for every occasion. 

Variety is therefore catered for and every “foodie moment” opportunity is explored. 

Shoppers can expect a plant- powered Christmas. Waitrose is showcasing its biggest ever plant-based Christmas – with options for every dish to create a whole menu.

Simona Cohen-Vida-Welsh, the vegan product developer, points out how she loves developing plant-based food due to the many wonderful flavours and textures to incorporate. As proof of this, Waitrose is presenting the Ultimate Triple Nut Roast – with sweetness from sweet potato, wholesome lentils and chickpeas, and chutney inside for a fruity flavour.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without desserts. Emily Bundy, dessert product developer, says when creating desserts for Christmas, inspiration comes from a mix of trending flavours, as well as treats from French patisseries. The Golden Bûche de Noël showcases flavours of blonde chocolate, caramelised biscuit and salted caramel. A clever twist, with a nod towards social media’s influence, is the element of personalisation, via a sugar sachet to each pack so that customers can bake their own sugar bark to decorate it with. 

Agile Asda

The retailer has a wide range of new festive delicacies this year. These include Porchetta, a Speciality Cheeseboard, and a Charcuterie Ultimate Grazing Platter, all from the ‘Extra Special’ range, and 57 new vegan and 35 new Free From products too.

When it comes to desserts and sweet treats, some of the highlights are a Chocolate & Honeycomb Avalanche Dessert, the Brown Butter & Spiced Dark Rum Mince Pies, and a trio of black forest-themed treats. A special mention must go to a Black Forest Yule Log, the Black Forest Stollen Bites, and the Black Forest Woodland Cake.

Timely Tesco

I do a disservice to the UK’s number one, Tesco, placing it beneath others. It had its offerings ready from July!

Tesco director of product development, Breige Donaghy, says at Tesco, Christmas 2023 started last year and the team of food experts spent the time developing, sourcing and trialling products.

Again, we see options to suit all tastes and all budgets. The desire for indulgence has always been around and doesn’t look like it is going anywhere any time soon, however consumers are looking to create the out of home experience at home. 

Knowing a lot of people are turning to food for this, creativity seeps out of every end-product at Tesco. Take for example, Pigs in Blankets Topped Steak Pie and a Plant Chef 9 Stuffing Roll Selection among additional plant-based products such the Tesco Plant Chef No-Turkey Crown with Herb & Onion Stuffing for £5. Plus a Mushroom & Chestnut Festive Wreath.

Desserts have fun and indulgence embedded. A picture perfect Smash Nose Snowman Cheesecake has a smashable snowman nose with hidden stars inside on a white chocolate cheesecake on a crumbly biscuit base. Another social media moment. 

The amazing looking Mulled Berry Meringue Wreath has a crisp and chewy meringue wreath dusted with amber lustre. 

It’s only August but good producers know the merit in preparation as exemplified in the examples above.

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