Six culinary and cultural trends changing the shape of Thanksgiving in 2016

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Six culinary and cultural trends changing the shape of Thanksgiving

Related tags Meal

Aside from the inevitable topic of 2016 US politics, what else can we expect at dining tables this Thanksgiving? From meal kit dishes to non-traditional Thanksgiving fare, we’ve collected some Thanksgiving culinary trend data.

More meal occasions, like 'friendsgiving'

The more the merrier—and we’re not talking about having additional guests over. Instead, there are more Thanksgiving events and meals being celebrated by Americans, especially the younger ones.

Data collected by Nielsen reveals that the average person eats 1.7 meals​ during Thanksgiving. Those aged 18-32 have an average of 1.5 different 'Friendsgivings' (Thanksgiving celebrated with friends instead of family, usually held anytime in November before Thanksgiving day) compared to only 0.2 for 45-54 year olds.

Multiculturalism: Not just the classic turkey and sweet potatoes

According to data by The NPD Group and CultureWaves​, today we’re more likely to see “pieces of various cultures fitting into the traditional Thanksgiving meal in unexpected ways—like a Szechuan green bean casserole, or mashed potatoes made with Manchego cheese.”

Around 39% of Americans are planning to serve a side dish from another culture, 38% plan to serve a traditional American dish with flavors from another culture, 32% plan to serve a main dish from another culture, and 31% plan to serve dessert from another culture, Nielsen data reveals​.

Harris Poll​ breaks down similar data, looking specifically at the demographics that make up a family. For example, 47% of families identifying themselves as multi-cultural will serve a side dish from another culture compared to 18% of families identifying as non-multi-cultural.

Meal kits make an appearance

Sales of meal kit services surged this year and show no signs of slowing​, according to data from market research firm Technomic. It’s no surprise then that we’ll see dishes cooked from a meal kit to be on more dining tables this Thanksgiving.

Technomic’s data indicate that 43% of meal kit users believe that a Thanksgiving dinner from a meal kit company would boost the quality of their Thanksgiving day feast, compared to only 17% of non-users. Supporting this data is Nielsen’s survey, which found that 32% of Americans say they prefer to make their holiday meals from a kit.

Eating out on turkey day

One in 10 consumers plans to dine out for a Thanksgiving meal, while one in 20 will get a full takeout meal to celebrate the holiday, according to research by the National Restaurant Association.

“Consumers in households with children are more likely than those without kids to order full restaurant takeout meals,”​ says the association. Moreover, Millennials are more likely than Generation X’ers and Baby Boomers to dine out on Thanksgiving.

The NPD Group’s data shows that 29% of Thanksgiving day holiday celebrations include an item sourced ready-to-eat from foodservice channels. Additionally, because there are now more meal occasions, more Americans are going to restaurants on Thanksgiving for at least one of the many meals. “The meal most likely to be eaten at a restaurant is breakfast – 19% of consumers eat breakfast at a restaurant,” ​says the NPD Group.

Americans wish they had a healthier meal option

Though 81% of Americans said they wished they had made better holiday food choices, almost as many - 70% - said they have no plans to make their holiday meals healthier this year, based on a survey of 1,022 adults (508 men and 514 women ages 18 and older) conducted by Ready Pac Foods​.

By ‘healthy,’ most of the respondents had the scales in mind. “Weight was the number one reason for eating healthier this holiday season (38%) with residents of the west coast leading all other regions,” ​the report said.

Nothing beats being at home, and a turkey

There may be a lot of emerging trends shifting the classical face of Thanksgiving, but for most Americans, it’s not a proper Thanksgiving meal without turkey on the table, the Harris Poll found, as 70% of respondents said turkey was an important part of the holiday.

Along with turkey is the idea of home being woven into the essence of Thanksgiving. According to the NPD Group: “An aspect of Thanksgiving tradition that has remained the same is that most Americans choose to celebrate the meal in a home, theirs or someone else’s.”

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