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Winning the seasonal frozen and refrigerated food shopper is an important driver of year-over-year growth.

While stories about Black Friday and Cyber Monday dominate media coverage of the retail industry leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah, you can bet retailers have their eye on year-end holiday food shopping as well. My local Kroger has some hot deals on holiday candy, while also gearing up for Thanksgiving. During the second week of November, Meijer began promoting 50% off frozen turkeys with the purchase of $20 or more on the same trip. They obviously want to get a jump on Thanksgiving meal shopping and recognize that turkeys are just part of the huge year-end food spend.


An impressive array of categories from the dairy, deli and frozen departments generate significant sales lifts during Thanksgiving week. Across 22 Nielsen-defined categories, the percentage of dollar sales during the week is between 1.2 and more than eight times greater than average weekly percentage of sales across the store. While three frozen categories get the most bang (frozen prepared stuffing, frozen whipped topping and frozen sweet goods), the list of top gainers includes an equal number of dairy department categories (whipped topping, butter, cream cheese, etc.).

But sales begin to rise long before Thanksgiving week. In support of Meijer’s frozen turkey promotion, check out the sales build for butter, frozen whipped topping and frozen prepared stuffing in the five weeks leading up to Thanksgiving week. Yes, sales during Thanksgiving week and the week prior are hugely important, but sales during the entire six-week period are between 50% and 190% greater for these three categories. Clearly, retailers and manufacturers that get an early jump on the season have a lot to gain on their competitors.

A wide variety of frozen and refrigerated categories bring joy during Christmas week as well. While the same three frozen categories get the most sales lift Christmas week as Thanksgiving week (followed by frozen dips, baked goods, gravy and sauce, sausage and appetizers), the dairy department really benefits across a number of large and smaller selling categories. Those listed among the top 20 include baked goods, cream cheese, butter, whipped topping, sour cream, dips and eggs.pre-holiday


Based on the number of weeks they achieve a weekly sales index between 95 and 105, a sizeable number of frozen and refrigerated categories deliver strong sales week in and week out. It’s no surprise to see milk in the lead, but it’s interesting to see the weekly draw by deli department categories, including in-store meals, refrigerated meals, Mexican tortillas, dips, and sushi. Note that three large frozen categories almost made the top-10 list: frozen pizza (28), frozen entrées (27) and frozen pancakes, waffles & French toast (27).

Manufacturers in these categories need to work with their retail partners to ensure they receive sufficient ongoing support for categories that provide consistent levels of traffic and spending.


Look for opportunities to make the most out of categories that sell well seasonally as well as those that deliver consistent sales week in and week out. Winners will be those retailers that understand weekly consumer demand and use that knowledge to support innovation, advertising and merchandising initiatives.

Todd Hale

Todd Hale

Retail insights thought leader Todd Hale is the former senior vp of consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen and now serves as principal at Cincinnati-based Todd Hale, LLC. A popular conference presenter, he also speaks at large and small company events — everything from board meetings to sales meetings to planning sessions. Todd’s discussions include the latest consumer and retail trends with insights on how manufacturers and retailers can enhance both near- and long-term market performance. He can be reached at [email protected]

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