October 13, 2021
As the Summer Grilling Season ended with the beginning of autumn, retailers and consumers will begin to turn to another important period for beef demand. The holidays, especially the month of December, generate higher demand for the industry at retail. With Americans gathering with family and friends and celebrating over meals, consumers demand premium beef products, such as roasts and steaks. These premium products can help drive increased sales at the retail level, and the holiday season is an important time to promote, feature, and advertise these types of products to capture consumer attention and seasonal demand.
This year, like 2020, could look slightly different in terms of traditional holiday celebrations due to continued pandemic concerns. While consumers are less worried overall than last year, consumers still plan to gather with fewer people during Christmas than in “normal” years. Only 11% of consumers surveyed reported that their plans will be identical to years prior to 2020, with 71% reporting that planned activities will differ.1 While some consumers are still concerned about the pandemic, gatherings and travel will be more prevalent this year than last.
Overall beef demand tends to dip in November, with other protein products, such as Turkey and Ham, taking the forefront at Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. In 2020, November accounted for 6.8% of beef’s annual dollar sales; this begins to ramp up closer to December, with the last month of the year accounting for over 8% of annual sales.2 One thing that is unique with this part of the year is that higher premium beef products tend to increase in demand. With families gathering around the table to celebrate, higher premium cuts such as the Rib Roast experience higher amounts of demand.
One of the most popular types of beef products during the holiday season are premium roast cuts. The Rib Roast, a very common beef cut found at family dinner tables during the holiday, enjoys a significant portion of its annual sales during the month of December. Last year, Rib Roasts sold $435 million at the retail level.3 In December of last year alone, Rib Roasts sold $255.7 million, or 58.8% of the total annual value.3 The week leading up to, and the week encompassing, Christmas Day comprise almost half of all annual Rib Roast sales.4 While cuts, such as the Rib Roast, enjoy higher demand during December, more affordable options also experience growth, showing that beef’s place on the holiday dinner table is popular amongst all socioeconomic levels. From November to December, Sirloin Roasts increased 10% in terms of volume sales, while Round Roasts increased 9% in 2020.3
In addition to being a great time for retailers to feature roast cuts, steaks are also a popular item during this time. The three top steak cuts (Ribeye, Strip, and Tenderloin) all experience significant increases in dollar sales from November to December.3 Last year, December sold $228 million of Ribeye products, an increase of 17% from the prior month.3 The Strip Steak increased 5%, while the Tenderloin Steak increased 31%.3 Last year was a tremendous year for beef and steak sales at retail, due to increased levels of demand throughout most of the year. The Holiday season added additional demand to that already increased level of purchases.
As the weather begins to cool and beef demand begins to heat up, consumers will turn to their local retail stores to purchase familiar and tasty beef products to celebrate the holiday season. From slow cooking a large Roast for a family feast to throwing a couple Ribeye steaks on the grill for a small celebration, beef will remain a mainstay of holiday gatherings.