Food, drinks and entertaining

According to Mintel Menu Insights, there's been a 6.9 percent increase in cranberry sauce menu items on restaurant menus in Q3 2011, compared to Q3 2010. Nearly one in 10 American consumers claim cinnamon is the ingredient they most closely associate with comfort food. Treating your pet with turkey treats for the holidays? Forty-eight new pet food products launched in the U.S. this year with turkey as an ingredient -- up from 35 in 2006.


Other food, and entertaining findings include:  Nearly one in five (18 percent) of U.S. consumers claim they "absolutely have to entertain guests for the holidays." In fact, Holidays, such as Christmas, are the second most popular reason families vacation with nearly a quarter (24 percent) claiming this reason for taking a family vacation over the past 12 months; Over half (58 percent) say Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter holidays motivates them to cook gourmet or elaborate meals (i.e. meals that take three or more hours to prepare); Some 61 percent purchased chocolate in seasonal packaging in the past year, which is perhaps why 'Christmas chocolate' is expected to hit a new sales high (since 2006) in 2011, surpassing $400 million in sales, an increase of 42 percent; and 24 percent say cheese, by buying specialty cheese selections (samplers) as gifts; and 14 percent of American nut-lovers enjoyed chestnuts as a snack or part of a meal in the past month, though probably not roasted over an open fire!


On the beverage front, falling just behind New Year's Eve (37 percent), Christmas is the next most common holiday that Americans buy booze for (28 percent); In 2010, 23 new food and drink products were launched in the U.S. with Egg Nog in the product description; meanwhile, one in 10 women who enjoy spirits usually mix them with milk or Egg Nog.


"Bartenders are getting in the holiday spirit(s) with cocktails like the cognac-laced Maple Snow at Hank's Oyster Bar in D.C.; gingerbread martinis at Outback Steakhouse; a triple-spiked Jolly Java coffee at bd's Mongolian Grill and the Disgruntled Elf from Wildfish Seafood Grille in Newport Beach," says Kathy Hayden, foodservice analyst at Mintel.


What happens to those holiday leftovers, and how are they stored? Seventy-nine percent of respondents use resealable containers for leftovers, while 54 percent prefer wrap or foil...either way, they won't last long!


Giving is better than receiving in this season of goodwill - nearly one in five (18 percent) of Americans try to do some kind of volunteer/charity work during the holidays, and that rises to 22 percent of those earning $100k+.