2020: Consumer’s Holiday Mindset Amid a Pandemic

November 16, 2020

Holiday_Prime Rib

The holiday season is in the not so distant future. This time of year, shopping begins to ramp up and gatherings are top of mind, but with a year like no other, how will COVID-19 impact the holiday spirit? In an effort to understand this better the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, launched a consumer survey with over 1,000 consumers to better understand how the 2020 holiday season may be different than any other year1

Even now, a majority of consumers are avoiding activities that results in many people in one place like going to the movies, travel, gyms, and even going out to eat—whether they are sitting inside or outside at a restaurant. As winter approaches, many consumers are showing at least some level of worry with these same activities. In addition, consumers are worried about larger gatherings and shopping in stores during the holidays. 

Obviously, the reason things are changing and what drives the level of worry is COVID-19 related fears and concerns. With everything on consumer’s minds as the holidays approach, it probably is not too surprising to hear that consumers have a variety of emotions. The majority of consumers surveyed had a mix of positive and negative emotions about this year’s holiday season. Consumers expressed they were both hopeful, excited, and grateful, while also expressing they are stressed, anxious, and even worried as the holidays approach. 

How does all this behavior impact actual holiday plans? Well, 74% of consumers indicate that their plans will be at least a little bit different than they are typically. Plans are changing in two main ways for the holidays: there is going to be less travel and fewer or smaller gatherings. Some are even indicating that they only plan to get together with immediate family. On average consumers plan to get together with 8 people for the holidays this year. 

"One word...COVID. I'm avoiding everyone not in my immediate family."

"I was going out of state to see family for the holidays but with COVID about to make a rebound my kids and I will be home."

"We will be having intimate dinners as opposed to big parties. "

Consumers are still planning to do a variety of activities during the holidays. Notably, while consumers may not be going to holiday parties or shopping in-person as much as they typically do, they do plan to take advantage of e-commerce, watch more holiday movies than they traditionally would have, and cook more meals at home. Holiday meals are still going to happen—it may just look a little different. Most find the people they are with the most important part of the holiday meal. The company may shift, but many consumers also note the importance of the food itself, tradition, and being able to indulge as important factors to them. 

Knowing more meals, in general, are being cooked at home bodes well for beef, as it continues to be a large part of what consumers are stocking-up on2. Additionally, beef is a prominent item during the December holiday season with over 40% of consumers saying they will serve it during their holiday meal. Another nearly 30% plan to have it as part of their New Year’s plans. This is obviously driven by dinner, but over 20% of consumers also mention including beef in appetizers and lunches they may be having during the holidays. Even Thanksgiving is becoming a holiday that involves more than just turkey. On average, consumers mentioned serving 1.5 meat proteins at their Thanksgiving meal. 

There is no doubt that cooking is a large part of holiday tradition. This tradition sets up a great opportunity to keep beef top of mind when communicating with consumers. 50% of consumers listen to holiday music while they are cooking and a third of consumers watch movies while they are cooking. Another 27-29% of consumers are looking up recipes either online or on social media for the holiday meal.  At least 20% of consumers also indicated they will be making some form of online grocery purchase for their holiday meal. All of these data points represent direct marketing opportunities and explain why you will be seeing a multi-touchpoint campaign this holiday season from Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner., managed by NCBA, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. 

  1. Source: NCBA Holiday Survey Results; October 2020
  2. Source: Beef Behavior and COVID Report; April – September 2020