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Market insights from the Italian Christmas: Italians cut back on holiday products in favor of cooking homemade recipes

Market insights

A study conducted by Circana for Cibus on the Hyper, Super, Self-Service, Traditional Shops, and Discount segments highlights how this past Christmas season, compared to 2022, saw a decline in consumption of classic holiday items like panettone and sparkling wines, in favor of products for homemade preparations like eggs and flour

Among the surprises under the 2023’s Christmas tree, at least in terms of grocery shopping, were some “unexpected” products that Italian consumers showed a preference for in preparing typical holiday meals and dinners at home. This was revealed by a recent Circana study commissioned by Cibus and focused on Christmas products.

After a forgettable 2022, sales didn’t take off in 2023

Holiday products are only on the shelves for a short time of the year and, in some cases, they concentrate their sales in a few weeks or even just a few days. Following a sharp volume decline in 2022, due to inflation, the energy crisis, and rising raw material costs, in 2023 the product category didn’t see a serious reduction in prices, as expected despite the still uncertain overall climate. This negatively affected the sales.

Circana’s analysis focuses on a broad market, which generates 4.6 billion euros annually and represents about 6% of all sales of packaged food products in retail stores: hypermarkets, supermarkets, self-service stores, traditional shops, and discount stores. This market, comprising not only panettone, pandoro, torrone, zampone, and cotechino, but also champagne and sparkling wines, smoked salmon, dried fruit, and other products, has a much more significant impact during the holiday season in Italy.

A 2-billion-euro market during the Christmas period

Between October 9, 2023, and January 7, 2024, a turnover of approximately 2 billion euros was recorded, representing just under 10% of all Food & Beverage sales, a figure that rises to 12% when analyzing the period from the last week of November to the first week of January. Despite a +6% increase in turnover over Christmas, compared to the same period last year (basically due to price increases), the value trend stands at +1.7%. Considering the shorter period of 7 weeks, the gap widens: holiday sales stagnate against a +3.3% for the total market.

Volume analysis shows a decrease compared to the corresponding period in 2022: -2.9% in the 13 weeks from October to January, worsening to -3.4% considering the last seven weeks from November to January. The are many categories highly affected by this phenomenon, among them champagne/sparkling wines and caviar, which saw a nearly 30% drop in sales during the peak holiday season. Even low-cost panettone wasn’t flying off the shelves.

From sugar to eggs: the ingredients stroke back

This season wasn’t definitely positive for holiday markets, that’s for sure. Nonetheless, from October 8, 2023, to January 7, 2024, it’s quite surprising to see interesting volume growth, higher than the annual average, for other markets such as fresh (+1.5%) and dry pasta (+1%), eggs (+4.7%), cheese (+3.5%), flour (+4.2%), pastry ingredients (+4.9%), and sugar (1.2%). It’s worth remembering that the latter, experienced a record price increase in 2022 (an unexpected record at the European level), while eggs haven’t returned to pre-crisis levels.

Circana’s data thus paints a precise picture of a Christmas shopping baske: far more products for cooking, but less classic holiday products. The trend of reduced consumption continues, with consumers paying more attention to product quality and oriented towards searching for ingredients for homemade recipes: from homemade pasta, to cakes and cookies – increasingly appreciated also as DIY gifts – to typical preparations of the Italian gastronomic tradition like struffoli, bonet, cartellate, panforte, and much more.

A focus on the shelves at Christmas

What are the products that can be found on the shelves during the Christmas period? From candies to chocolate tablets/bars, chocolate eggs, sweet cereal snacks, chocolate and wafer snacks, pralines/chocolates, dried, dehydrated, and coated fruits, nuts in shell, pandoro, panettone, nougat, other Christmas baked goods, marrons glacés, cotechini, zampone, and other pre-cooked products, smoked salmon, champagne/sparkling wine, caviar and substitutes, lentils, other holiday chocolates, and Befana (January 6th traditional fair) stockings.

Circana: millions of products, 500,000 stores, 20 countries under scrutiny

Circana is the name of the company born from the merger between Information Resources, Inc., better known as IRI, and the NPD Group. A leader in consulting for managing and interpreting consumer behavior, it relies on cutting-edge technology, analytics, information related to various industries, and experience in numerous sectors. The company measures the performance of millions of products belonging to over 2,000 product categories, in over 500,000 stores and in 20 countries. Market information is translated into insights and analyses fueled by the Liquid Data technological platform.
May 7-10, 2024
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