Local Perspectives: Christmas Food and Indulgence

December 15, 2017

In the second series of Local Perspectives: Christmas, we look at the impact of consumer behaviour on what is arguably, the most thrilling aspect of the holiday: food and indulgence.  The food industry dominates even the festive gift market, where last year nearly 60% of gifts received or given globally was confectionery. As for the food typically served at Christmas, this is associated with words like homemade and wholesome (despite the calories), and often has emotional attachments. Here we asked our Christmas Trendspotters from LA, Tokyo and London about consumer attitudes to Christmas indulgence.

December is peak season for the Indulgence Equation, a trend about offsetting treats and indulgent choices with moderation. Year-round, a great majority of 80% of consumers moderate their alcohol intake, with nearly over half claiming to monitor their consumption of dairy, refined sugars, salt and red meat. And a global average of 40% of consumers claim to control their diet during the weekday to indulge on the weekend. The same offsetting mindset appears to apply during the festive season. Although leading a balanced lifestyle is an everyday pursuit, ‘healthy eating’ takes a break at Christmas – but this period of hedonistic consumption is often followed by a desire to balance this out with stricter New Year’s resolutions or “dry January”.

“People go for it over the Christmas period! Health and weight is something to think about on January 1st, along with all of your resolutions and the fact that no one is drinking for the entirety of January!”
Charlie, 31, London

“I do think we eat less healthy during the holidays and try to get back on our health kick after the New Year. Losing weight and getting fit as a resolution is still common in the US.”
Kristin, 31, LA

The offsetting trend does not seem to apply as much to Japan, where only 15% of people offset their weekend indulgences with a healthier diet during the week. And as Christmas is not a Japanese tradition, the difference in mindset is only further perpetuated during the holiday period.

Foresight Factory consumer analytics and trends agency, Trendspotter Alisa Tokyo

“There aren’t really healthy alternatives to traditional Christmas meals because there are no traditional Japanese Christmas meals.”
Alisa, 25, Tokyo

But generally food habits are changing fast, and we predict that by 2025, 45% of consumers will be on a flexitarian diet. Will consumers step up to create new or ‘healthier’ traditions around Christmas food?

“I haven’t noticed anything in particular but feel like catering for specific needs at Xmas is fairly easy these days.”
Charlie, 31, London

The only change [in Christmas food habits] I have seen is that more people are gluten-free. They may cook different items than what the rest of their family eat.
Kristin, 31, LA


Yet when it comes to Christmas, genuine emotional connections also take precedence. Our past research has shown that spending time with family, food, and indulging in traditions are the top three reasons for why consumers look forward to Christmas. In addition, an overwhelming 70% of us say that our family traditions are very or quite important to our sense of identity. While many stay true to the traditional Christmas dishes, those that have a strong sense of cultural heritage might also like to incorporate their own cuisine into these typical meals, tapping into the desire for authenticity that we describe in our trend Pursuit of Real.

“Even though it is everyone’s least favourite meat, it’s traditional to eat Turkey, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this, even if they have another meat alongside it.”
Charlie, 31, London

“A lot of families value their heritage when it comes to food. My family is Italian and we cook a lasagna on Christmas Day and a turkey on Christmas Eve.”
Kristin, 31, LA

In markets like Japan, where there is no such thing as a ‘traditional Christmas dish’, more unexpected food choices are emerging and developing into traditions in their own right.

“There is no traditional Christmas feast in Japan, so everything started in the last two decades or so. The classic Japanese Christmas meal includes fried chicken (usually from KFC, because Colonel Sanders looks like Santa!) and the Japanese strawberry shortcake (sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries).”
Alisa, 25, Tokyo

Going away this Christmas? Find out how popular it is to plan a holiday during Christmas and which destinations consumers have their eye on in our upcoming post on travel…


This is part 2 of our Trendspotters Christmas series, look here for part 1 on Christmas gifting


Written by Laura Van Eeckhout

Laura is one of Foresight Factory's Account Directors, overseeing the relationships with global clients across a range of industries, including travel, retail and FMCG. She also heads up the company's Global Trendspotter Network.

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