Consumers are increasingly breaking with mealtime traditions, snacking throughout the day is replacing the customary three-meal routine, and public holidays are acquiring similar changes – something analysts say can benefit the industry until the last moment.
In a survey of 496 British consumers, retail analysts IGD found meal planning for the coming Easter holiday has changed dramatically in both recipe and schedule.
Lamb of God
Despite lamb keeping its spot as the number one dish for Easter Sunday, the survey also showed a preference for fish.
20% of respondents said lamb would feature as their culinary highlight, and 12% opted for fish – almost as many as chicken (13%).
Twice the number of women than men reported an intention to buy fish.
The survey also revealed that 43% of consumers are now treating Easter as a long weekend (most areas of Europe enjoy four work free days) of which 26% said they are planning long weekend celebrations rather than a single Easter feast.
21% also said they had not made specific meal plans in the week leading up to the holiday.
Vanessa Henry, shopper insight manager at IGD, said retailers could see this as “an opportunity to drive a broader range of different meal occasions instead of just the one traditional celebratory meal.”
“Our data shows us that a relatively significant number of shoppers haven’t made plans yet or are leaving it to the last minute. We are leading busier lifestyles now and for some shoppers, some of the traditional Easter celebrations no longer fit into their lifestyles any more. We know that from previous research we have conducted that over half (55%) of shoppers choose what meals they are going to have on the same day, so it seems that Easter is no exception for this evolving behaviour.
"This feeds into the opportunity for food and grocery suppliers and retailers to influence shoppers when they are in the purchasing phase of the shopper journey" she added.
A majority of shoppers (51%) also claimed not to celebrate Easter as they did when children.
Henry said:“Our research shows a clear move away from the traditional Easter celebrations that centre around cooking one main meal on the Sunday of the band [public] holiday weekend with lamb being the conventional choice. Instead, shoppers are now viewing the holiday as a four-day event that brings with it multiple opportunities for meals and entertaining, one key part of which is experimenting with alternative main meal options such as fish and chicken.”
One surprising proof that Easter traditions are changing throughout Europe was the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's public endorsement of a vegetarian Easter, for which he adopted five lambs, saving them from slaughter and infuriating the country's meat industry.
Another, more modern tradition however, that shows no signs of melting, is the chocolate egg. In 2015 British supermarkets critically misjudged the demand for Easter eggs, resulting in £5.2m (€7.7m) loss after stocks ran out.
The IGD survey revealed 18% of shoppers confessed to eating all their Easter chocolate before the holidays and having to buy more.