Shoppers anticipate spending an average of £90 for their household’s main Christmas meal this year, with 33 per cent estimating they will spend over £100 (Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images).

The UK grocery market is set to experience 2.4 per cent growth this Christmas, with shoppers predicted to spend £21.6 billion over the festive period, according to the latest forecast from IGD.

Grocery has a key role to play on the December 25, with nearly half (48 per cent) of shoppers agreeing that food and drink is the most important part of Christmas Day.

Shoppers anticipate spending an average of £90 for their household’s main Christmas meal this year, with 33 per cent estimating they will spend over £100. While 65 per cent is planning to have turkey this year, nearly one in 10 (nine per cent) will opt for a vegetarian or meat alternative.

“Although Christmas is very much wrapped up in tradition, we’re starting to see some new and interesting trends emerging in the run-up to the festive period. In particular, and similar to a trend we’ve seen emerging over the past year or so, there is a greater focus on vegan or vegetarian options for the main Christmas meal centrepiece,” said Vanessa Henry, shopper insight manager at IGD.

Christmas is increasingly being seen as a time to splash out, with 71 per cent of shoppers taking this view compared with 66 per cent in 2017 and 54 per cent in 2016.

At the same time, savvy shopping tactics are also playing a part here to allow shoppers to manage the cost of Christmas. Shoppers are increasingly starting to shop for their Christmas food and groceries early to spread the cost, with over half (54 per cent) claiming they start their shopping well in advance of the big day, up from 45 per cent in 2017 and 35 per cent in 2016.

Over two thirds (68 per cent) of shoppers claim to have already purchased some food and grocery products, and 1 in 3 (33 per cent) believe they will have to purchase some items again before Christmas, with savoury snacks such as crisps and crackers being the most tempting product to tuck into early.

Impact of technology and advertising is also growing on shoppers. Seven per cent said they are planning to use their Alexa/Google Home to help them prepare for Christmas meals. Over a third (35 per cent) of shoppers are tempted to buy certain food and groceries from adverts they’ve seen at Christmas, increasing from 29 per cent in 2016. This rises to 49 per cent of those under 45.

“For retailers, effective advertising drives footfall, but for suppliers, the challenge is turning shopper consideration into purchasing. Shoppers may be interested in purchasing a product after seeing it advertised, but if it isn’t visible in-store then they are likely to either forget about it or choose to purchase something else,” commented Simon Wainwright, director of insight at IGD.

Similarly, shoppers are increasingly looking to be inspired in-store at Christmas, with 42 per cent saying they look for recipe ideas and inspiration over the season, showing an increase from 35 per cent in 2017.

Inspiration also takes the form of new and different products, with 62 per cent of families saying they always look out for new and different products at Christmas (vs. 52 per cent of all shoppers). Desserts present the biggest opportunity for meeting shopper demand in new and different products, with a significant 42 per cent looking to this category for interesting and new products followed by cheese (28 per cent) and frozen party food (26 per cent).