Released by the industry group Grocery Manufacturers' Association (GMA), the findings could be key to product development efforts for special occasions, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to the research, which was prepared for GMA by The NPD Group and Ernst & Young, manufacturers need to focus on the specific needs of consumers during these holiday periods in order to maximize sales. "The top priority of GMA member companies is always to give consumers what they want. This research highlights new ways that CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) manufacturers can meet consumer expectations while increasing their holiday sales," said Stephen Sibert, GMA senior vice president for industry affairs. Findings by NPD have revealed that 80 percent of holiday meals are eaten in the home. Correspondingly, more than 80 percent of survey respondents said they will either prepare their own holiday meals or have them prepared by a family member in 2007. "Based on these findings, CPG manufacturers' greatest opportunity to grow holiday sales may lie with convenience products designed to ease the burden on meal hosts and/or cooks," said GMA. Other sales drivers are an introduction of seasonal flavors and seasonal packaging by manufacturers across all food categories. In addition, GMA expects food and beverage producers to also promote healthy products and ingredient substitutions during the holidays, in this way capitalizing on health trends. Another opportunity identified by NPD is that nearly 30 percent of Americans taking part in a holiday survey have not finalized their New Year's Eve plans. This, said GMA, highlights additional market share up for grabs to food and beverage producers. According to the Ernst and Young Consumer Products practice, sales in the 2007 holiday season, which includes sales in November 2007 through January 2008, are already expected to be ahead of last season. The group predicts 5.5 percent growth in the retail food sector, compared to 4.5 growth for retail sales across all sectors.