The 2021-22 Consumer Holiday Report

The holiday season is upon us — and for many, that typically entails stocking the kitchen pantry and deciding where you (and your family) will celebrate. Whether hosting, traveling, or skipping in-person gatherings altogether, there’s no question that holiday-related food and beverage purchases will occur (at potentially record numbers) throughout the season. As such, many retail analysts are eager to see how consumers will behave two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Catalina, our depth and breadth of consumer data insights assist brands with connecting consumers to personalized, impactful shopping experiences. To better understand how they anticipate spending both their time and money throughout the 2021-22 holiday season, we commissioned a survey of 1,118 U.S. consumers. We also compared 2020-21 holiday consumption data to help brands better understand what consumer trends they should anticipate during this year’s holiday season. (This survey was conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant and Catalina will use its Buyer Intelligence Database to monitor its impact on purchase behavior.)

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Holiday Celebrations

The majority of consumers surveyed (63%) anticipate COVID-19 will alter their holiday plans in 2021. While 24% of respondents anticipate a significant impact on their holiday plans, 39% anticipate only a slight impact. A whopping 61% of the consumers surveyed said they plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays free of COVID-19 restrictions (no masks, without social distancing, etc.).

The Percentage of Respondents That Plan to Celebrate the Holidays Free of COVID-19 Restrictions, By Region

  1. West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota) - 67%
  2. Middle Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania) - 65%
  3. East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) - 64%
  4. South Atlantic (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) - 63%
  5. East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) - 61%
  6. Pacific (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) - 58%
  7. West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) - 57%
  8. Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming) - 54%
  9. New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont) - 52%

Traveling and Hosting for the Holidays in 2021

About the same number of respondents (30%) said they will not travel or host over the holidays this year as those who said they plan on hosting friends and/or family (29%). Of the respondents surveyed, 41% plan on traveling this year.

Of note, 58% of the respondents who aren’t planning to travel or host for the holidays will cite COVID-19 concerns as the reason for doing so.

Below is a breakdown of respondents who plan on citing COVID-19 concerns as their reason for not traveling or hosting this holiday season:

18-29: 71%
30-44: 64%
45-60: 53%
60+: 51%

While some Americans plan to change their travel plans, 42% of those who stated they anticipate an impact on their plans due to COVID-19 still plan to travel for the holidays.

Thirty-three percent of the respondents (who reported having the ability to work remotely) who plan to travel for the holidays are anticipating an extended stay.

Holiday Spending Comparisons

Last year, respondents were relatively conservative when it came to their holiday season spending habits — 46% stated they spent “roughly the same amount of money” as the previous year (2019), 20% said they spent “slightly less money,” and 14% said they spent “significantly less money.” Only 7% of respondents stated they spent “significantly more money” in 2020 than the previous year while 13% said that they spent “slightly more money” than 2019.

This year, nearly half (49%) of respondents say they plan on spending “roughly the same amount” as in 2020, and 36% plan on spending more money in 2021 compared with last holiday season — a noteworthy data point for global retailers.

Alcohol Consumption During the Holidays

Of those surveyed, 37% plan to consume the same amount of alcohol as they did during last year’s holiday season, while 15% plan to consume at least as much, or more. Interestingly, one-third of respondents plan to avoid alcohol consumption altogether this holiday season.

Despite some holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day, being known for large amounts of alcohol consumption, 37% of respondents plan to consume as much, or more, alcohol this holiday season than any other previous holiday in 2021.

Below is a breakdown of respondents who plan to consume as much, or more, alcohol this holiday season than any other previous holiday:

18-29: 46%
30-44: 46%
45-60: 36%
60+: 21%

Looking back at actual alcohol sales for the six weeks ending Saturday 1/2/21 versus the six weeks ending Saturday 1/4/20, one category saw a significant increase in 2020: Premixed cocktails and coolers posted a 50% increase. “Spirits” and “Sherry/Vermouth/Champagne” were the only other two alcohol categories that saw a double-digit percentage increase in sales over that same period, with a 10% increase in total sales for both categories year-over-year.

These alcohol brands saw the largest increase in sales year-over-year, per category during the same period:

Premixed Cocktails/Coolers: High Noon +169%
Imported Table/Still Wine: Il Conte +86%
Alcoholic Ciders: Ace +49%
Sherry/Vermouth/Champagne: La Marca +25%
Domestic Table/Still Wine: Josh Cellars +16%
Spirits: Tito’s Vodka +15%
Domestic Beer/Ale: Bud Light +6%
Imported Beer/Ale: Modelo +6%

Snack Food Consumption During the Holidays

Nearly half of respondents (49%) plan to consume the same amount of snack food as they did during last year's holiday season. More than a quarter of respondents (26%) plan to consume as much, or more, snack food than they did during 2020’s holiday season. Only 6% of respondents plan to avoid snack food altogether this holiday season.

Over half of respondents (59%) plan to consume as much, or more, snack foods this holiday season than any other previous holiday in 2021.

Below is a breakdown of respondents who plan to consume as much, or more, snack food this holiday season than any other holiday in 2021:

18-29: 67%
30-44: 68%
45-60: 57%
60+: 44%

Breakdown of the Foods/Beverages Respondents Plan on Purchasing More of This Holiday Season Than in the 2020 Holiday Season

  1. Cookies: 57%
  2. Cheese: 57%
  3. Meat: 53%
  4. Fruits: 53%
  5. Chips: 52%
  6. Vegetables: 47%
  7. Crackers: 46%
  8. Candy: 44%
  9. Bread: 43%
  10. Soda: 41%
  11. Pasta: 35%
  12. Baking Mixes/Ingredients: 33%
  13. Wine: 30%
  14. Beer: 27%
  15. Spirits: 25%
  16. Soup: 25%
  17. Cereal: 20%
  18. Frozen Meals: 13%
  19. Plant-based Meats: 11%

Looking back at actual snack food sales for the six weeks ending Saturday 1/2/21 — versus the six weeks ending Saturday 1/4/20 — the two snack food categories that saw the largest sales increases were soft pretzels (+44%) and Asian frozen snacks/appetizers (+34%).

Other notable categories that saw a lift during that same time frame were “rice & popcorn cakes” (+19%) and “frozen snacks - pizza & cheese” (+16%). With many staying home last year (in lieu of hosting or traveling) both un-popped (+13%) and ready-to-eat popcorn (+12%) saw significant increases in sales.

These snack food brands posted the largest increase in sales year-over-year, per category during the same period:

Frozen Snacks/Appetizers (Asian): Bibigo +179%
Snacks - Pretzels Hard: Dot’s +73%
Snacks - Puffed Cheese/Corn: Cheez-It +64%
Snacks - Pretzels Soft: SuperPretzel +53%
Frozen Snacks/Appetizers (Mexican): José Olé +48%
Snacks - Dried Meat Snacks: Old Trapper +48%
Frozen Snacks/Appetizers (Other): Anytizers +41%
Snacks - Multigrain: Good Natured +23%
Snacks - Rice & Popcorn Cakes: Quaker +40%
Snacks - Tortilla Chip (Regular): Barcel +35%
Snacks - Popcorn (Ready-To-Eat): Smartfood +34%
Refrigerated Snacks (Cakes): Atlanta Cheesecake Co +32%
Snacks - Popcorn (Un-popped): Jolly Time +26%
Frozen Snacks/Appetizers (Pizza & Cheese): Totino’s +20%
Snacks - Low/Reduced Fat: Lay’s +12%
Snacks - Potato Chips: Ruffles +9%

Looking Ahead to 2022

While “the new normal” is ever-evolving — consumer behavior during the 2021 holiday season will likely be an important indicator of the 2022 retail environment. CPG brands and retailers alike should pay close attention to purchase data to understand how to stay ahead of the curve as the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, including how we shop. For more information on how Catalina helps brands, retailers, and advertisers, click here.

Survey Methodology

Total respondents: 1,118
Margin of error: +/- 2.991%
Country: United States (USA)
Region: All Regions
Gender: All Genders
Gender balancing: Census
Age of respondents: 18 – 99+
Age balancing: Basic Census