december 2023

At a Glance

  • While prices are starting to stabilize, consumers remain worried about their financial situation as the holidays approach.     
  • Consumers broke records during some of the most popular shopping days of the year (Black Friday and Cyber Monday). Still, they had to utilize more flexible payment methods to do so.    
  • Beef sales typically see a bump in retail purchases during the holiday season, showing that consumers value keeping beef center of the plate during these special moments.    
  • Consumers will be looking for deals and ways to save during this holiday season, which may lead to increased sales of lesser-known or lower-priced beef cuts.


A unique blend of excitement and apprehension fills the air this holiday season, and persistent concerns about rising prices and inflationary pressures cast a shadow over holiday planning and preparation. Despite these challenges, a glimmer of hope exists: Consumers plan to gather, bond over a shared meal, and, importantly, savor the delicious flavor of beef during their holiday celebrations. To recognize the importance of the holiday season, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, delves into a comprehensive analysis of holiday-related data from reputable sources to unravel the potential impacts of current market trends on consumer preferences and behaviors, offering insights into the resilience of beef even with the current economic pressures.  


While holiday advertising conjures images of happy families gathering around the dinner table, the Ipsos Consumer Tracker reveals that consumer sentiments toward the holidays are much more nuanced than that. Approximately one-third of consumers mirror those holiday messages, expressing happiness or excitement about the holidays.¹ Another one-third, however, report feeling stress, and one-fifth express worry or fatigue.¹ The primary concern behind those feelings of stress or worry is a common one:  money, primarily worries about spending on gifts, food, entertainment, and travel.¹  According to Deloitte Insights, three-quarters of consumers expect higher prices this holiday season, particularly for essential categories, such as food and beverage.² 

Nonetheless, most people still intend to celebrate this year, and gathering with friends and family remains the primary way to ring in the holidays, though some with altered plans.³ Advantage Solutions reveals that four in 10 expect to spend more on their Christmas menu, with 16% expecting a substantial increase in spending. As a result, 26% of potential hosts are scaling back their guest lists due to concerns about costs for their holiday meals.⁴ Nevertheless, food continues to take center stage in holiday celebrations, and over two-thirds of consumers plan to cook or bake something special for their guests, according to the Q4 Numerator Holiday Study.⁵ DuraPlas reports that 65% of consumers think more about the ingredients in their holiday meals than regular meals.⁶ This emphasizes the importance of quality and tradition throughout this time of year. Beef is notable as an essential ingredient for the holidays, as it is a valued protein source and cherished during special occasions.⁷ Consumers recognize this and are willing to allocate a specific budget to ensure the inclusion of beef in their meal plans.  

Historically, December has consistently marked a peak in beef sales, contributing nearly 10% of both dollar and pound sales in 2021 and 2022 (driven largely by steak and roast sales during this time).⁸ The NCBA Holiday Survey results reinforce this, revealing that beef dishes often grace consumers’ holiday menus during December and New Year’s, predominantly during dinner.9 Beyond being a main course, beef’s versatility shines as consumers explore new culinary horizons, incorporating it into appetizers and snacks.9 As Figure 1 shows, consumers continue to include beef dishes during their holiday meal plans each year.⁹  

However, as budgetary pressures increase, it’s likely that consumers will embrace new meal ideas and actively seek creative, low-cost ways to include beef in their celebrations. This approach to meal planning includes thoughtful considerations in quantities, choosing alternative, lower-cost cuts or types of beef, and exploring new preparation methods. A notable interest in exploring new meal options centered around beef for the December and New Year holidays can be seen. Specifically, 45% show interest in new beef roast meal ideas for the December holidays, while 43% show a similar interest in new beef steak options for New Year’s meals.⁹ Despite the unique challenges that consumers may face this holiday season, they remain optimistic about sharing delicious meals with friends and family, and beef is an ideal ingredient that can be incorporated into many of these festive dishes.

When considering protein options for holiday menus, beef remains a favored protein choice. Although consumers perceive beef to be second to chicken in terms of value for money, it consistently ranks higher than other proteins in categories such as taste, good for social gatherings and special occasions, and versatility.⁷ 




SOURCE: 2022 Holiday Campaign Survey, analyzed and summarized by NCBA, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. 




SOURCE: 2022 Holiday Campaign Survey, analyzed and summarized by NCBA, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. 


Consumer spending concerns are somewhat validated by October’s year-over-year inflation rates. Food at home (retail) experienced a 2.1% increase in inflation rates, which is largely in line with the Fed’s 2% target.¹⁰ However, food away from home (foodservice) inflation recorded a 5.4% increase, which surpassed retail inflation rates by 157%.¹⁰ Additionally, retail food prices remain 14.8% higher than in October 2021 and foodservice inflation rates are 14.4% higher than in October 2021.¹⁰ Some protein prices have also had a notable increase, with beef prices leading at 8.9%, poultry prices rising by 1.1%, and pork prices showing a minimal uptick of 0.3%.¹⁰ While grocery prices do appear to be stabilizing, prices remain higher than in years past, and serve as a source of worry for consumers, especially those towards the bottom of the income scale.  

Despite concerns about higher costs, consumer spending is up, with Cyber Monday alone registering a record $12.4 billion (+9.6% year-over-year).¹¹ While this increased spending may appear to indicate that consumer finances are still healthy, a feature known as “Buy Now, Pay Later” saw a 42.5% increase for these Cyber Monday purchases, showing that consumers are increasingly relying on flexible payment arrangements.¹¹ So, while inflation is cooling down from the historic highs of earlier in 2023 and much of 2022, prices remain higher than in previous years like 2021, impacting consumers ability to pay cash for their holiday purchases.   

In addition to scaling back the size of their holiday celebrations, consumers are actively implementing cost-saving strategies into their holiday shopping routines to help ensure they can experience a festive holiday season within their financial means. Several research studies, including those from Numerator, Statista, and NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, highlight ways consumers are attempting to make the most of their budgets this year:³,⁹,¹²

  • Searching for sales and taking advantage of deals and coupons 
  • Opting for budget-friendly gift options (selecting less expensive gifts and reducing number of gifts or recipients)
  • Preparing budget-friendly foods 
  • Shopping at alternative, affordable retailers 
  • Switching to store brands 


  1. Ipsos, Here’s how we’re feeling about the upcoming holiday shopping season. Published online on September 18, 2023. https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/heres-how-were-feeling-about-upcoming-holiday-shopping-season?mkt_tok=Mjk3LUNYSi03OTUAAAGOVz7aIywKZXxxA4MU0WpCEsEtK-JcOx5-sL_5nATXFUMDW-tiCD-CQ4WDY7pndcUhl00U7c-I-cV7fzVUDGAZCwhdWwsQD2qJqsbRQYNdZgSJMQ   
  2. Deloitte Consumer Industry Center, 2023 Deloitte holiday retail survey. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/retail-distribution/holiday-retail-sales-consumer-survey.html   
  3. Numerator, Numerator Holiday Insights. Published online on February 3, 2023. https://www.numerator.com/holiday-trends-consumer-survey/    
  4. Advantage Solutions, Holiday Spending 2023: Consumers Share Food – and Gift- Shopping Plans. Published online on November 6, 2023. https://advantagesolutions.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/AdvantageSolutions_PulseSurvey_Holiday2023.pdf   
  5. Numerator, 2023 Q4 Holiday Preview. Published online on October 17, 2023. https://www.numerator.com/resources/report/2023-q4-holiday-preview/    
  6. DuraPlas, 2023 DuraPlas Holiday Foods Survey. Published online on September 28, 2023. https://duraplasinc.com/blog/2023-duraplas-holiday-foods-survey   
  7. Consumer Beef Tracker, Directions Research, analyzed and summarized by NCBA, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff.   
  8. NielsenIQ, Discover Platform. 2021 and 2022 Retail Protein Sales.   
  9. 2022 Holiday Campaign Survey, analyzed and summarized by NCBA, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff.   
  10. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index, Not Seasonally Adjusted, November 2023 Release.   
  11. Adobe Analytics, Cyber Monday Surges to $12.4 Billion in Online Spending, Breaking E-Commerce Record. Published online on November 28, 2023. https://news.adobe.com/news/news-details/2023/Media-Alert-Adobe-Cyber-Monday-Surges-to-12.4-Billion-in-Online-Spending-Breaking-E-Commerce-Record/default.aspx    
  12. JLL, Leading ways in which inflation will impact the way consumers shop for the holidays in 2023. In Statista. Published online on September 27, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1417744/impact-of-inflation-on-holiday-shopping-usa/