Thanksgiving To Go Is On The Rise

Thanksgiving to Go is on the rise, thanks to no shortage of marketing efforts from the supermarkets, restaurants and caterers offering all sorts of variations to get the cook out of the kitchen tomorrow.

It seems everywhere you turn, you can buy a complete dinner, partial dinner, side dish and/or pie.

According to market research firm NPD Group, 6 percent of consumers will opt for shortcuts this year and buy their Thanksgiving meals to go. (While nowhere near a majority, that is up 1 percent from last year.)

Publix is seeing double-digit growth annually in holiday dinner orders, says a spokesperson.

Whole Foods Market reports growing sales of prepared foods, too. It added meals for two this year--including a turkey option and a vegetarian package, aimed at small celebrations.

The National Turkey Federation finds that 96 percent of Americans will have a turkey on the table tomorrow. But as NPD's executive vice president Harry Balzer points out, up to 65 percent of Americans will eat dinner away from their own home, since two-thirds eat at the homes of relatives or friends.



Holiday food preparation outside the family home is a growing trend as "time-starved consumers look for alternatives," said Bill Greer, a spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute.

The trade group said 94 percent of supermarkets offer fresh, prepared foods for takeout, with a large portion of them offering the prepared holiday meals. Greer said supermarkets hope consumers will turn to them for take-out year-round, once they discover the taste and ease of it.

Grocery stores have responded by tailoring meals and prices to meet almost any budget.

Kroger, the Midwestern chain, expects sales of prepared Thanksgiving meals to increase 10 percent this year. The store offers a full Thanksgiving meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry relish, dinner rolls and pie for $39.99. A larger version of the meal costs $59.99, and smaller versions cost $28.99.

Whole Foods already has 700 orders for prepared Thanksgiving meals, it said. As a result of the increased demand, the organic and natural-foods retailer added options for those on vegetarian or vegan diets. Meal prices range from $44.99 to $239.99.

Giant Eagle also expects an increase in its prepared Thanksgiving meal sales this year. The chain, based in Pittsburgh, has 14 central Ohio stores and offers full traditional prepared Thanksgiving meals for $64.99.

Thanksgiving is "a big important holiday" for Village Inn and Baker's Square, says Susan Fernandez, vice president of marketing for Denver-based Vicorp Restaurant, which owns both brands. The restaurants--400 total--take reservations for take-out holiday pies and actively market pies through print, broadcast and email.

"The big question this year is, 'Who is going to help with the clean-up?' Everybody talks about preparing the turkey, but you don't hear much about cleaning up," Balzer quipped.

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