How Thanksgiving Will Be Different for Brands this Year

In 2020, Thanksgiving is shaping up to be very different from what we’re used to. From limited family gatherings to major changes in consumer shopping habits, brands need to be prepared to deliver solutions for new shopper needs that are subverting tradition.


Retailers are closing on Thanksgiving

For many brands – especially ones that sell big-ticket gifts like electronics, toys, and kitchen appliances – Thanksgiving is one of the biggest sales days of the year. As Black Friday shopping has crept up earlier and earlier over the years, Thanksgiving sales can be an indicator of how brands will perform throughout the holiday season. However, the pandemic has led many top retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco, and BJ’s to make the decision to close their stores on Thanksgiving.

This move is a way to prevent the kind of massive indoor crowds that typically come out for Black Friday deals, as well as show appreciation for frontline employees. Instead, retailers are spreading out sales throughout the month in the hopes that consumers will still want to invest big bucks into Christmas shopping, despite uncertainties about what gatherings will look like in late December.


Many tables will ditch the turkey

Although Thanksgiving has always been known as a carnivore’s holiday, meatless meals have been getting more popular all year. Whole Foods has just launched their own plant-based roast with gravy and stuffing in time for Thanksgiving planning, and the retailer has also recently become a distributor for No Evil Foods’® vegetarian-favorite “The Pardon”. Part of the proceeds from sales of The Pardon – which No Evil Foods® describes as a “roast for the rest of us” – are donated to a farm sanctuary that takes care of animals that would otherwise end up on holiday dinner tables.

Trader Joe’s also offers a similar vegan stuffed roast for the holidays. In addition to being meat-free, these types of products also tend to be much smaller portions than the huge Thanksgiving turkeys that can take all day to cook. Since many gatherings will have to be very limited this year, these small portions and easy cooking requirements may add to these products’ appeal.


Menus will be planned to minimize contact between guests

Consumers that do plan on hosting their extended families for Thanksgiving this year may take precautions to minimize potential exposure to coronavirus. This means having dinner outside in areas where the weather permits it, giving guests plenty of space to eat, and planning menus with hygiene in mind. According to Food Business News, this means that finger foods could be off the table for many families this Thanksgiving.

This means that brands that sell common party appetizers like chips, dips, and crackers could see less interest this Thanksgiving than in years past. However, these brands might be able to mitigate this by advertising recipes that are safer to serve in the pandemic.

For example, Food Business News included research from Chicory that suggests that casseroles and savory pies will be big this year because they can be served with utensils, which is cleaner than having guests take food with their bare hands. Shoppers may be wary of tortilla chips and salsa this year, for example, but they could use those ingredients to prepare a taco bake instead.

In previous years, brands that make finger foods would compete with each other based on convenience and ability to appeal to all guests at large gatherings. This year, the competition could come down to the brands that can put out the best recipes for safe serving.

Thanksgiving may be different this year, but that doesn’t mean that all brands will suffer. By being flexible and offering solutions to shoppers’ changing needs, brands can be a part of consumers’ new traditions and set themselves up for success throughout the holiday season.


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