THERE’S no better time to see innovation in action than the annual round of ‘Christmas in July’ events where retailers showcase their wares to journalists and bloggers for the upcoming festive season.
Sweating through fake snow before nibbling your way through turkey and all the trimmings has a distinctly antipodean air to it, but it’s also a lovely opportunity to actually appreciate all the hard work that has gone into that showstopper dessert or stunning starter – and see the pride on buyers’ faces as they present them to you.
Supermarkets in particular love showing off their festive efforts at least four months before they go into store. These are the dishes they have been perfecting for much of the last year, taking in the trends and forecasting how they will evolve for their customers by the time we reach Christmas.
All the stores are looking to be the one that people talk about, for all the right reasons. It’s a case of ‘just right’ innovation. Too much and they’ll be accused of sacrificing substance for style. Too little and their shoppers will look elsewhere for excitement.
So which innovations are the winners for 2017? Here’s Product of the Year’s round-up of the top 10 trends:
Hidden centres: From Pinata-style cakes to pretty slices of pie, wherever you stick your knife this Christmas, you won’t be disappointed.
Gin’s the tonic: Gin has been HUGE this year and that trend is set to build to a Christmas crescendo, from gin-based cocktail kits to spirit-cured salmon.
V for Vegan: Non meat-eaters are the winners this Christmas. With an ever growing spread of vegan or vegetarian ready-made dishes, the nut roast’s days are numbered.
Night and day nibbles: You don’t need to don a party dress to stuff your face with canapés, you can stay in your pyjamas (elasticated waistband permitting!) Many of the Christmas showcases feature finger food that will see you from breakfast all the way to bed.
Mother’s (or anyone’s) little helpers: Not gin, this time! All the stores have come up with clever mini-kits to make Christmas that little bit easier. Marinade mixes, sachets of sauce, and even an entire prawn cocktail kit mean you can claim maker’s rights, but without the mess.
Bling’s the thing: Christmas has never been under-stated but this year bling is back in a big way, from bold bronze cocktail shakers to turkey gleaming with gold shimmer. This is low-cost luxe.
Know your craft: It’s no secret that big brands can struggle to offer the same ‘story’ as the army of craft brewers, distillers, cheese-makers and bakers who have worked hard for their success. This Christmas you’ll see the stores’ answering back as they sign up more small producers and set their stall by some of their own artisan-style groceries.
Free from free for all: It’s a win for people with food intolerances this festive season. The gluten-free offerings are bigger, better and frankly a million times more exciting than just a few years ago.
Consigning Prosecco to the past: We’ve written before about the other bubbles waiting to succeed Prosecco as king of the fizz. Well this Christmas will surely see the handing over of the crown, with new bottles of note from France, Spain and England all being pushed to the fore.
Something fishy: Fish, and especially salmon, were one of the big festive sellers of 2016, so the stores have gone even bigger for 2017. Lobster and crab play a big part in the Christmas catch this year.
Happy Christmas one and all. Now pass us an ice cream…