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October 5, 2021 // //  //       //  Opinion

Trends This Holiday Season: Consumer Shopping – and Bar – Carts

The holiday season is just around the corner, and with it will come a new set of celebratory food and spirits trends to keep things festive. The food + beverage experts at Allison+Partners looked at what we can expect to see reign supreme for consumers when it comes to how they’re filling their shopping – and bar – carts this year.  

They found this upcoming season will be a bit of a mixed bag. While we may all be sick of the pivot, marketers and retailers will need to stay nimble and be prepared to adjust planning on a dime. They must also ensure a spotlight on big and small offerings to accommodate groups who might plan large gatherings, as well as those who decide to go virtual again this year.  

Connection is king 

No matter the size of the group, or whether the gathering is in person or virtual, themes related to togetherness – connecting, sentimentality and nostalgia – will win the popularity contest this holiday season. While 41% of U.S. consumers say the pandemic has made them want to spend more time with friends, according to Mintel, it’s not a guarantee that physical gatherings will happen. While older family members may sit out the celebrations this year out of an abundance of caution, smaller gatherings and Friendsgiving parties will rise to the top as get-together options.   

Making spirits bright 

While the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to create uncertainty, buyers continue to online shop – and that’s especially true with spirits, wine and beer. Thanks to the pandemic, Drizly, now North America’s largest e-commerce alcohol marketplace, has enjoyed exponential growth. In addition to delivering drinks to doorsteps nationwide, the company has moved into experiential. Knowing the holidays go hand in hand with wedding season, Drizly recently announced a personalized concierge service for weddings, bridging the gap between online and IRL experiences. We expect to see more of the same from the beverage behemoth and competitors in the months to come.   

As it relates to the competition, many alternative drink delivery options have sprung up, putting their own spin on the offering. For instance, Cocktail Courier offers bespoke cocktail kits with recipes from the nation's top bartenders that contain everything needed to pour the perfectly measured cocktail delivered right to consumers’ doors. The company is also a popular gifting option – which will continue to be the case throughout the holiday season.  

Last, leading delivery service DoorDash’s latest announcement it will add alcohol to its marketplace across 20 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Australia, proves there will be no shortage of ways to stock at-home bars at a moment’s notice with everything needed to cheers the year away as we all look forward to what’s ahead in 2022. 

Food for thought 

As for the trends around what’s expected to fill consumers’ plates, shoppers have different cooking habits and preferences coming out of the pandemic – and two main themes have emerged:  

  • Many consumers have become amateur at-home chefs, using the time at home to polish their cooking skills. According to Mintel, 60% of consumers say they’ve cooked from scratch more often during the pandemic. For these people, meal kits, unique and easy-to-find staple ingredients, and recipe ideas to create old dishes in new ways will be important.  
  • On the other hand, many want help in the kitchen, and their idea of cooking is throwing something in the microwave vs. making a sourdough starter from scratch. In this instance, retailers and marketers should focus on a range of prepared or semi-prepared items to make meal prep easier.  

A return to entertaining 

We do expect to see a return to entertaining this holiday season – even if the gathering is small or just immediate family. According to Etsy, hosts will likely want to change up their serveware, centerpieces, and table linens – because what’s a beautiful dish and drink without the perfect tablescape to complement it? And again, nostalgia will see a big lift here as shoppers take comfort in kitschy, cozy decor reminiscent of a beloved grandparent’s house.  

Marketers should also think about entertaining as a giftable opportunity. With the droves of consumers who moved from the city to the suburbs over the past 18 months, there are plenty of opportunities to gift the entertaining basics – cheese and charcuterie boards, beautiful serveware and glassware, or even edible treats. 

What does it all mean?  

After a rough 18-plus months, consumers are anxious for a reason to get together and celebrate. As a result, this holiday season is expected to be a busy one. While it’s impossible to predict whether we’ll see more big gatherings, or whether revelers will end up erring on the side of caution and opt for smaller or virtual get togethers – food and drink will no doubt be at the center of the conversation, offering marketers plenty of opportunities.  


Cheryl Weissman brings 15 years of experience to Allison+Partners’ Consumer Brands practice and leads the agency’s food and beverage specialty. She is responsible for the strategic management of account teams within the category across the agency, supervising client activities, providing counsel and helping some of the world's leading food and beverage brands navigate the ever-changing world of public relations. If you’re interested in learning more about Allison+Partners' work with food and beverage brands, get in touch at  

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