You'll always get people who say 'We have a goose or duck on Christmas Day', but most consumers stick to turkey. According to the British Turkey Federation each year we consume about 10 million turkeys at Christmas.

Bernard Matthews Farms is the largest frozen turkey brand, accounting for 43% of all frozen turkeys sold last Christmas.

Daniel McGuigan, category management controller at the company, says: "While it may be tempting for local retailers to leave Christmas sales to the big boys, turkey provides an increased sales opportunity during the festive season if you know what to stock.

"The turkey market in the convenience sector is growing rapidly, with sales up 7.4% year on year. And the rise of frozen turkey sales within convenience bucks the general market trend."

McGuigan says the growth in the convenience market has been led by smaller products such as joints, crowns and roulades.

That's the amount spent on turkeys in convenience in the four-week run up to Christmas, according to Kantar Worldpanel.
"We recommend that c-stores focus on smaller products to provide convenience and value for money to consumers who do not want to cook a whole bird.

"Retailers should remember that Christmas is an expensive time of year, with many people cooking more than one Christmas dinner. The Bernard Matthews Farms range of smaller products starts from just £4.99. Items feed four to five people each, making them a perfect festive freezer staple or last-minute meal solution for consumers."

Roast turkey is traditionally served with sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts and other veg, cranberry sauce, bread sauce and gravy.

Premier Foods reports that a record 24 million drums of Bisto were sold last Christmas. The company adds that more than 30% of Paxo sales are made for special occasions.

The company aims to help consumers with its festive Great Little Ideas, which include twists to traditional festive menus such as 'Five Ways to Liven Up Brussels Sprouts'. They can be found on its website (

The Ocean Spray brand is synonymous with cranberries so it should come as no surprise to learn that it's the UK's leading cranberry sauce with a 54% value share (IRI/TNS April 2010).

Caroline Rose, business development manager UK Foods, recommends that in the run up to Christmas retailers consider dual-siting the sauce at the front of the store along with other Christmas essentials and alongside other sauces and condiments.

She says the 350g pack is key as Christmas consumers tend to trade up to a larger size.

While lots of people will be trying to impress their guests, some might feel fine about cheating, especially now Delia Smith does it! This means items such as Aunt Bessie's roast potatoes and mashed potato will be popular, as well as ready-made Yorkshire puds. Although these are meant to go with roast beef, it's surprising how many people serve them up with any roast dinner.

Fresh vegetables will be in demand but often supplemented by frozen ones such as peas.

Retailer’s view: Paul Fisher
"We have a butcher's counter from which we sell about 300 turkeys come Christmas. We also offer Christmas hampers: a turkey hamper with all the trimmings; an alcohol hamper with wines and spirits; and a deli hamper with a selection of cheeses. 

"When we first started offering hampers, we did them online through a third party. We ended up selling only three, so it was a bit of a disaster. Since we've taken it in-house, though, they've become very popular because we make them to order. That way, people can choose their preferred cheeses or spirits, which makes for a more personal gift. 

"Another area we're investing in this Christmas is Russian products. Following a customer request, we've made room for three shelves-worth of Russian goods. They're really unusual products, such as brandy in a glass shoe that's flying out the door! 

"We always go pretty mad at Christmas, but this year our manager Richard has even bigger ideas! He's stocked up on decorations and kitted out the whole store. 

"We usually sell Christmas trees in our car park, but this year we're going to line the outdoor fruit and veg area with them. We're also planning a Santa's grotto. I have a couple of staff who are up for the job of playing Father Christmas, so it should be good." 

Paul Fisher, Fisher's, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire
And, of course, Christmas dinner wouldn't be the same without a belly-busting array of sweet and sticky puddings. In November Thorntons launched a range of nine chilled desserts, including Sticky Toffee Cake and Chocolate & Toffee Tart, rrp £3.99.

To complete the sweet side, don't forget to keep cream reserves brimming. "Sales of cream at this time of year increase significantly," says Robert Wiseman Dairies. "Wiseman can ensure convenience retailers have a supply of fresh single and double cream along with their milk order."

Sales of the iced variety will also be sweet, adds premium ice cream manufacturer New Forest Ice Cream, which recently launched a spicy new flavour in time for the Christmas party season. "Apple Strudel dairy ice cream will prove a popular menu choice with those looking for a lighter alternative to traditional mince pies and Christmas pud," says director Christina Veal.

"It is perfect for serving simply by itself, or alongside the heavier winter flavours of toffee crunch, maple syrup or clotted cream, dressed with a rich toffee sauce and piled high to create a true ice cream extravaganza."

Also keen to cash in on the sweet side is Premier Foods, which has just revamped the packaging of its Mr Kipling Mince Pies and Cadbury Mini Yule Logs two sure-fire sales hits that it just wouldn't be Christmas without.

Snack attack

The lunchtime blowout may be over, but that doesn't mean the nibbling is done. Your customers will need some treats for when the Christmas dinner has finally digested, and this can mean extra sales for you.

In 2009 the nut market saw a 4% growth over the Christmas period compared with the previous year, while the bagged snacks sector grew 10% compared with the same period of 2008 (Nielsen).

UB has added a new KP nuts sharing drum variant jumbo salt & pepper (rrp £3.79) to its range, and Kettle is also getting into the festive spirit with the launch of a port & stilton variant. This limited-edition is available in a share-size 150g bag (rrp £1.69).

Not to be outdone, Pringles has released two Christmas-themed flavours - pigs in blankets and Christmas turkey. To further give a sense of the holiday season, the entire range will feature limited edition can artwork and the 'Merry Pringles' campaign will be supported by a multi-million pound marketing campaign.

Returning this winter is the UB Christmas sharing drums selection. The drums saw a massive 76% increase in value sales in 2009. The range includes Mini Cheddars, Cheeselets, Twiglets, Cheese Footballs and Hula Hoops Stars & Hoops (rrp £2.99). The KP Nuts sharing drums range will also be available this Christmas in honey roast, dry roasted, jumbo salted and jumbo sweet chilli flavours.

Making a return this year is the Walkers turkey & stuffing variant, which is available in single-serve and multipacks.

For customers who know that some friends have a habit of just 'dropping by', it's important that you stock plenty of hot party snacks. "Many convenience shoppers will stock up on frozen foods as they are quick and easy to prepare," says Rectory Foods managing director Nick Bowyer. "As Christmas is a time when friends and families visit each other, consumers may require 'emergency' supplies for unplanned visitors."

To help cope with any emergency, Rectory Foods has pricemarked packs including HCC southern-fried steaks (£1), southern-fried chicken breasts (£2) and plain & Mexican chicken strips (£2) to take the drama out of catering this Christmas.

Get your Christmas stocking right 

As Christmas draws nearer, it might be a good exercise to ask some of your customers about the things they usually forget then make sure you stock them. 

You can bet your life that batteries and Sellotape will be in there somewhere, but there are always those last-minute questions that nag consumers on Christmas Eve. "Have we got enough milk?", "Does everyone like Christmas pudding", and "Should I get some more bread for the freezer?". 

Despite the fact that some shops open on Christmas Day, there's always a bit of a siege mentality about Christmas that makes people want to stock up so they don't have to go out. 

Key lines to stock include: 

milk - maybe consider longer life milk such as Cravendale 

cream - to go with Christmas pud and in Irish coffees 

bread - consider part-bake bread so people can impress their guests with that just-baked smell and taste 

condiments - those easily forgotten lines such as Cranberry or bread sauce 

Sellotape and wrapping paper - no matter how much they buy, people seem to run out 

chocolates and wine - display these prominently so people can buy them as last-minute gifts. According to Mintel, 54% of people buy food and drink as a gift

Sweet treats: Cakes & biscuits 

Whether it's for shoppers to give away or dunk at home, seasonal biscuits are a festive must-stock. Sales grew 7% compared with the previous year (Nielsen) in 2009 and in the week before Christmas sales of biscuits grew by £10m (Nielsen). 

United Biscuits is helping retailers capitalise on this with launches such as McVitie's Festive Faces (rrp £8.80) and a Family Favourites Selection (£1.65). UB commercial manager Nick Stuart recommends segmenting between sweet and savoury biscuits, and tailoring your display to suit each occasion. For savoury biscuit fans, Jacob's has redesigned its Heritage (£7.69) and Savoury Biscuit Selection (£1.65). 

According to UB, 40% of Christmas snacking products are bought for gifting purposes so it's important that you offer a range that will fill any size stocking. 

Looking to cater for every occasion, Burton's Foods has unveiled three Cadbury ranges. For special occasions there is the Cadbury 400g Collection Tin (£9.99); for more informal sharing situations, the Cadbury Occasions 300g Selection carton (£4.99); and the 400g Cookie Collection (£4.99) in the informal sharing range. Festive Friends shortcake biscuits (£1.59) and Cadbury Turkish Mallows (£1.59) make up the snacking section of the Christmas range. 

Last year the seasonal cake category grew by 3% in value, with small cakes showing a big increase of 42% and seasonal mini rolls growing by 27%. UB has extended its Christmas cake range for 2010. New are McVitie's Jaffa Cakes Cranberry & Orange cake bars (5-pack £1.49); McVitie's Christmas Festive Fruity Spice Cake (£1.49;) and Galaxy Mistletoe Kisses Cake Bars (5-pack £1.49). Penguin Yule Logs (£1.49) also make a return.