Consumers give thanks to low-cost brands this Thanksgiving

Emily Kavanagh
December 03, 2021

Thanksgiving - a highly anticipated event across the US by consumers and FMCG brands alike. Many Thanksgiving plans were turned on their heads in 2020 by the pandemic. So we investigated if anyone’s wishes on the Thanksgiving wishbone - for a ‘normal celebration in 2021’ - came true!

As it turns out, lockdowns were not the biggest barrier to a traditional Thanksgiving. But rather, how current supply shortages could impact what ended up on the dinner table. According to the American Farm Bureau, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner was up 14% this year. This comes after last month (October) saw the consumer price index climb by 6.2% year on year, making it the largest monthly increase in over 30 years. 

To get the inside scoop, we engaged our US bees (consumers), to find out; how they were feeling about Thanksgiving this year, how it differed to previous years, and ultimately which brands were featuring in their Thanksgiving feasts.

Read this next: a quick summary of how we talk to our bees 

For some, big celebrations with extended family and friends were in store. For others, Thanksgiving still hadn’t really returned to ‘normal’. But big or small gatherings aside, the holiday linchpins didn’t waver. Our bees were buzzing to maintain the core elements of their Thanksgiving traditions - spending quality time with their nearest and dearest over a mouth-watering meal.

“Thanksgiving is going to be so good this year, me and my family have traditional things that we do and eat that are spectacular and it’s a very eventful night and very memorable” (18-25)

The mood was predominantly positive for 46% of bees. Nonetheless, tensions were in the air, with over half of our bees finding it more expensive this year, 28% of which found it considerably more costly.

So what did all of this mean for brands?

  • How did rising food costs impact consumer choice this Thanksgiving?
  • Which time-honoured brands managed to avoid the chopping block? 
  • And which low-cost brands were the new kids on the block? 

1. Store brands soar

The traditional household brands had to work for their seat at the table this Thanksgiving. They were the first things our ‘Bees-on-a-budget’ chopped from their grocery lists. A significant minority (one in three) were moving away from buying named brands, towards cheaper alternatives to counteract rising food costs.

“I tried to buy more store brand things instead of name brand to save money”  (26-35)  

“I tried to stick to store brands or products where I had a coupon or rebate to help offset the higher price” (46+)

2.  The bare necessities

Another solution was, of course, cutting back on quantity. With lots of bees trimming the fat off the turkey (literally!) by keeping it simple and stripping their meal back to the basics. 

“I bought a little less, a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey” (46+)

“I just bought a little less, instead of 3 different veggies I’m just having corn. No ham, just the turkey.” (26-35)

3.  “Don’t spend it all in one place”

This famous line used by Grandmas slipping you some extra pocket money, is exactly the advice this group of bargain-hunting bees followed. They diversified when and where they shopped to save on festive spending. Some scoured stores far and wide, physical and virtual, to secure the best deal possible.

“I went to different stores to check the prices and used coupons” (46+)

Rebate apps, food stamps and coupons, as well as crowdfunding with family and friends further helped to alleviate some financial strain.

“I always bargain shop so I found some good deals and couponing and cash back apps helped a lot” (26-35)

 “I divided the shopping amongst siblings, friends and relatives” (26-35)

 The battle of the Brands

Our bees certainly weren’t willing to budge on everything, and there were several brands that they simply wouldn’t compromise on. We wanted to know which brands these were… and surprise, surprise, it was the turkeys that took the trophy! In particular Butterball which was referenced by one in four consumers. Other big winners were Campbells soup, Kraft Heinz Stovetop stuffing, Ocean Spray cranberries, Honey Baked ham, King’s Hawaiian rolls, Idahoan potato mash, French’s Fried Onions, Libby’s Pumpkin Pie and Jiffy.

  “I always love butterball turkeys, Campbell’s soup, Kroger onions, Idahoan potatoes” (46+)

As for the rise in store-brand consumption - who were the new players who entered the game of back-yard football this year? 

Walmart was the MVP, with our bees swarming towards their ‘Great Value’ brand to cut costs. 

“I tried to buy Walmart’s Great Value brand to save some money” (46+)

“I added Great Value brand because it is generally cheaper” (46+)

Kroger’s own-brand was also a hit, with traditional brands being cast aside for these cheap and cheerful alternatives.

“Got Kroger brand veggies this year instead of Jolly Green Giant - switching for something similar hopefully will taste  just as good!” (36-45)  

(Thanks)giving something new a go

Other bees thought outside of the box, and opted to introduce a pinch of innovation into their meals. With some doing finger food and others, in their words, “shopping strategically for non-traditional items”. 

A rise in home-cooking during the pandemic, saw 3 in 4 US consumers experimenting with world flavours since lockdowns began. Making it no surprise that a number of bees decided to spice things up this year, adding an international twist to their Thanksgiving menus.

“I think we’re going to try the Popeyes Cajun turkey.” (36-45)

“We are putting a twist on Thanksgiving adding a Hispanic flavor to it which will be new and exciting” (26-35)

“We are trying something new by not having turkey. We are having hot pot” (26-35)

It’s mixed news for brands. Those that are truly at the heart of a family tradition are best placed to rely on that blend of loyalty and nostalgia to retain their place at the table as we head towards Christmas. But those on the fringes may need to pivot to secure their place - whether that’s competing directly with store brands through promotion, or repositioning to take advantage of new cooking trends and a desire to try something new. 

What is clear, though, is that people are ready to celebrate (albeit carefully), so there is plenty of opportunity!


Get a 20 minute demo tailored to your organization

Learn how Streetbees’ AI powered platform helps world leading brands unlock growth opportunities and generate more revenue.