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Holiday socializing 2.0: Eat, drink and be wary

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With the constant uncertainty and change that is prominent in a COVID-19 environment, it is vital that we look towards the face of this new reality and consider how we might adapt upcoming fall and winter celebrations.

Undoubtedly, foods and beverages will remain at the centre of these celebrations, particularly during the upcoming treat-focused Halloween 2020 season and into the myriad of winter social occasions. But, how might COVID-19 crisis-inspired habits impact treat choices?

It’s challenging at the moment to forecast too far ahead.

However, barring any dramatic progress, it is likely that far fewer kids will be heading out on the evening of October 31st to gather goodies throughout their neighbourhoods, particularly as public health officials continue to promote necessary social distancing and warn of probable infection resurgences.  

These notifications and warnings have led to a third (34%) of Canadian parents reporting (as seen in the Ipsos Path Forward Study) cautiousness towards permitting their children to participate in group activities of any kind, even after the pandemic restrictions ease.  

Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 1.42.08 PMNotably, even before our lockdown confinement in mid-March, Ipsos FIVE data had revealed that trick-or-treating activities and consumption rates of seasonal favourites at Halloween were already on the decline in 2019—almost a 10% drop in eating rates from Halloween 2016. 

Given this trend, which has likely accelerated during COVID-19, perhaps there is opportunity to re-invent or modernize Halloween and other holiday rituals.

Online celebrations

More than half of Canadian parents (54%) report that they intend to continue to meet with friends and family virtually even when COVID-19 related closures and restrictions end—Zoom socializing has been met with tremendous positivity.

These virtual sharing events open up opportunities to prepare, decorate and engage with other family and friends within safe distancing protocols, while still enjoying activities, games, crafts and, of course, food.  For instance, in order to elevate the fun factor, individual treat baskets could be assembled and shared for kid (and adult) participants.

Stock up on baking supplies

Although increased baking rates that were front and centre during the early-lockdown days receded somewhat by summer, still more than a third of Canadians (37%) now report that they will continue to bake more often than they did during the pre-pandemic period, motivated by the following benefits:

  1. More time to bake
  2. Baking gives me a sense of accomplishment
  3. I like the taste of home-baked goods
  4. Baking makes me feel comforted
  5. I like the smell of home-baked goods
  6. Fun activity for my children

Given the discovery (or the re-discovery) of the joys of baking, there is a significant opportunity to capitalize on this renewed behaviour by creating Halloween-inspired baking fun through the establishment of programs and promotions that include great-tasting recipes, activities and fun kid-driven preparation and decorating ideas. These same strategies, with the right seasonal twist, can be applied also to the winter holiday season, including Diwali, Christmas and into Valentine’s Day.

Small gatherings to centre on favourite foods

Screen Shot 2020-10-19 at 1.41.49 PMEvening celebrations offer an opportunity to decorate the inside of the house and, in the case of Halloween, for instance, host a ‘dinner in the dark’ celebration with one bubble or circle of family and friends.

Parents can have kids participate in the dinner preparation and ensure that it includes their favourite dishes. C-stores can help by stocking the right products for busy families.

 

Undoubtedly, given the gravity of the current COVID-19 environment, it is inevitable that Canadians will be forced to re-think the many components, habits and traditions of our holiday rituals. Of course, we might also want to reflect on what parts of the old ways of celebrating did not necessarily work well, and use this as an opportunity to innovate and change.

Our current forced societal limitations have not squashed our unending spirit and collective creativity, just the reverse.  It is the challenges that we face that spark necessary change and often force us to think outside the box.  It is precisely that mindset that both inspires us and keeps us moving forward. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-16 at 3.49.27 PMKathy Perrotta is a vice-president with Ipsos Market Strategy and Understanding, working with the Food & Beverage Group Syndicated Services.  Data sources within this group include, Ipsos FIVE and Foodservice Monitor (FSM). Ipsos FIVE is an ongoing daily tracking of consumption behaviour, attitudes, situational dynamics, health statuses, preparation and shopping habits that influence item choice for more than 20,000 individuals annually across all dayparts, categories/brands and venues. Ipsos FSM is a daily tracking of purchases, habits and motivations at all foodservice segments and at branded operators among more than 36,000 individuals annually.