Fred WIlkinson, Managing Editor
Fred WIlkinson, Managing Editor

'Tis the season to sell celery, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la.

Carolers aren’t likely to be singing that line door to door (even on the terminal market), but a new marketing study suggests the holiday season provides a sales boost to fresh foods.

It should probably go without saying that Thanksgiving — a holiday focused on eating a big meal — is good for food sales.

And while the gift of produce may not be the Christmas staple it once was (a great-aunt of mine had a big box of Texas grapefruit sent to our home every Christmas when I was a kid), it remains heavily focused on food and feasting.

Have yourself a merry fresh ChristmasMaking a list

A recent Progressive Grocer article says Thanksgiving week takes the crown for highest fresh food sales of the year.

Christmas week clocks in at second place.

The article, based on findings from Nielsen Perishables Group’s FreshFacts Shopper Insights Powered by Spire, says fresh foods make up 32% of all food sales during Christmas week, compared to an annual average of 30%.

Not a huge leap but still a nice little fresh-sales stocking stuffer to finish out the year.

So how does fresh produce fare? Pretty respectably.

Out of the leading 10 Christmas week sale items the Nielsen Perishables’ research identifies, half come from the fruit and vegetable aisles:


  • bananas;
  • potatoes;
  • onions;
  • tomatoes; and
  • packaged salads.


The research suggests 82% of U.S. households purchase these items during that week.

Of course these items are year-round favorites whose appeal transcends the holiday season.

The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2013 consumer survey finds bananas topping the list of most-purchased fruit, a distinction tomatoes hold on the vegetable side.

Fresh Trends finds onions and potatoes in the next two spots.

Maybe it’s not all holiday sales magic so much as consistent year-round demand, but the Nielsen Perishables report does find shoppers slightly more likely (1.2 times) to purchase fresh potatoes for the winter holidays.

Other produce items enjoying increased Christmas week likelihood of purchase are citrus (1.3 times the purchase likelihood) and celery (1.4 times).

Christmas packaging

Christmas week sales leaders elsewhere in the grocery store present cross-promotional opportunities.

Consumers are 1.7 times as likely to buy cream cheese at that time, great for mixing with blue cheese and stuffing celery sticks for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner vegetable plate.

My mom’s been doing that as far back as I can remember, including the recent Thanksgiving meal that still has me feeling a little stuffed.

Butter and sour cream experience a slight uptick in sales (1.4 and 1.5 times,

respectively). Cross-merchandising them with potatoes is a great fit to feed demand during the holidays — or at just about anytime during the year.

To that list of cross-merchandising partners you can add bacon, which enjoys 1.2 times higher sales the week of Christmas — and happens to complement baked potatoes and the two aforementioned dairy department toppings when crumbled over a baked potato.

On the subject of meat and potatoes, the survey finds beef, pork and ham among the top-selling items with cross-promotional possibilities with potatoes, onions and other cooking vegetables.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.