‘Tis the season to unveil your Christmas wares. With supermarkets in the middle of their July presentations, we round up key selections for this Yuletide.
Morrisons’ sales suffered last Christmas and while its selection was not entirely to blame, it’s leaving nothing to chance, this year with almost 1,000 new products, including the first Christmas collection for its Nutmeg clothing among over 300 new non-food lines.
But food is the real focus, with around 600 new lines including some inventive products on its Market Street counters. The standout has to be the Christmas Crown. A turkey breast is topped with pork, sage & onion stuffing before being circled with pork ribs and topped with rashers of bacon. The chefs were surprised at how moist the turkey was kept during cooking. Morrisons has also gone big in wine, fish, party food and desserts.
Star products: Christmas Crown, Aldo Zilli’s Bucks Fizz Fantasy pudding.
Verdict: Looks set to make up for lacklustre 2012 with impressively broad line-up.
The chain sparked frenzied demand in 2010 with its first Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding. This year’s version comes with a layer of chocolate sauce in the middle. Heston-designed canapés include a mini fish pie cradled in a spinach pastry case, and a mini prawn cocktail.
In non-Blumenthal lines, it will be stocking a deboned easy-carve turkey (£19.99/kg); a pork, sage & onion stuffed turkey ready to roast in a bag (£8.99/kg); a Christmas owl cake (£13); and a series of own-brand frozen entremets, with flavours including Chocolate Praline and Orange & Grand Marnier (£5.99 each).
Shoppers will be able to make their own gift hampers, in £10 and £15 sizes.
Elsewhere, Waitrose continues its push into plants and gardening with a range of festive flowers (the super ultimate Christmas bouquet retails at £42), while stores will sell Christmas trees for the first time. A range of Christmas mini-plants (£3) offers an alternative for the space-challenged.
Star product: Heston’s Hidden Orange Christmas pudding has a neat new twist.
Verdict: A serious bid to delight the foodie crowd again.
Marks & Spencer
M&S has picked sugar plum as its “signature flavour”, with a Sugar Plum Christmas Pudding and a Sugar Plum Liqueur. The retailer is also talking up its gluten-free offering: responding to demand, one-third of its party food range will be gluten-free this year, including mince pies and Christmas puddings.
In cosmetics, M&S has hitched its horse to the Downton Abbey bandwagon with a 10-piece range including soap, nail varnish and body lotion.
Star product: The chocolate sprouts are genius.
Verdict: A mix of quirky, sparkly and practical. Tthe Downton gambit is canny.
A clear focus from Asda on centrepiece items with an impressive visual impact and a big push for its category brands Chosen By You, Butcher’s Selection, Fish Made Simple and Leiths - Extra Special.
Butcher’s Selection turkey comes garlanded with a lattice of cherry wood-smoked streaky bacon and stuffing. Beef joints will have been hung for 28 days, rather than the 15-21 previously. A duck pre-stuffed with Armagnac and prune and a Turkey Wellington with chestnut stuffing and a cranberry & butter melt show a focus on convenience. The retailer will also offer a rare-breed Blue Slate Turkey for the first time, matured four weeks longer than its standard bronze turkey.
A frozen chocolate and Cointreau Bombe offers impressive visual impact as does a Champagne Christmas pud finished with golden sugar glitter. Asda will also offer a revamped range of oriental frozen party canapés sourced from Vietnam.
Star product: The rare-breed Blue Slate Turkey.
Verdict: An innovative, and more upmarket slate from Asda.
Tesco is keeping its cards close to its chest, teasing journalists at its Christmas in July event with appearances by Katie Price, TV hairdresser Leo Bancroft, and a gigantic house made of biscuits.
Expect a “real focus on food with great NPD in all areas” and “more luxurious gifting”.
Star product: Katie Price’s latest perfume, Kissable, may be a hit, though we’re not quite sure how it sits with Tesco’s aim of more luxurious ranges.
Verdict: Hard to say as, unlike Katie Price, it’s gone all shy.
Aldi has significantly increased the number of products it will offer, as it promises customers they can do their full Christmas shop in their store. A 6.5kg whole cured jamon joint complete with stand and knife (£50) is an impressive, good-value product.
That aside, there’s an emphasis on British provenance. Aldi is looking to almost double sales of its Norfolk-reared fresh Roly-Poly turkeys; last year it sold over 7,000. It is also bringing back its frozen four-bird roast and adding a fresh three-bird roast.
Star product: Whole cured jamon.
Verdict: Exotic lines and clear value-for-money message.
The discounter has developed a range split into five categories: Nordic, Winter Wonderland, Precious Metals, Vintage and Brights. It has also increased its range of licensed products including Angry Birds and Family Guy stocking fillers.
Own-label confectionery has been partially repackaged to a more traditional theme. The Sweet Heaven range now comes in brown paper bags and its jelly beans, humbugs and candy canes are wrapped in clear plastic to resemble something from an old-fashioned sweet shop.
Star product: The mini-cupcake display stand looks jolly.
Verdict: A strong Nordic theme manages to give Poundland’s Christmas decorations a quality look.
Sainsbury’s has given traditional festive favourites a contemporary twist this year. It claims shopper tastes have become more cosmopolitan in recent years, so its Christmas 2013 food range has bold flavour combinations such as smokey bacon and maple popcorn, Moroccan spices and Manuka honey nut selection and Wensleydale with sticky fig & salted caramel.
It will also be offering tips and recipe ideas on everything from to making the humble Christmas trimmings more exciting to preserving fruit and veg for the winter.
Star product: Taste the Difference Norfolk Black Turkey Terrine with Pork, Chestnut and Maple Stuffing.
Verdict: Simple but with just the right touch of special.
Ocado has unveiled its Christmas line-up for 2013, with a broad range of gifts and classy-looking items. It’s teamed up with London restaurant and shop Brindisa to offer a paella gift hamper, while its Traiteur de Paris macarons provide a French twist to proceedings.
The online retailer will also be offering Hampshire game sourced from local estates, and has an exclusive on Dom Perignon Rose and Cristal Champagne.
Its non-food offerings include a Green and Spring ‘Bird Cage’ beauty package, and a Leapfrog Lettersaurus educational toy for toddlers.
Star product: The Brindisa hamper sounds like a perfect foodie gift.
Verdict: With the breadth of its range, Ocado aims to show it can compete with the best of them.
The Co-operative Group is emphasising convenient but tasty food in its Christmas line-up.
Main meal items include an array of roasted vegetables in tin foils that can be heated in the oven in minutes – from goose fat roast potatoes to sprouts with applewood bacon (all priced £3).
The Co-op’s commitment to value is evident in its Scottish salmon trio pack (£6), featuring Highland Peak, gravadlax and Romanov varieties.
It’s also pushing out the boat in bakery, with unusual flavour combinations such as its apple and beetroot bloomer (£1.39), and twin packs of new muffin flavours, such as ginger and dark chocolate (£1.29).
Star product: The Truly Irresistible Scottish salmon trio pack
Verdict: The Co-op is making some bold foodie claims this Christmas – backed up by some impressive prices.
As with many of its competitors, Lidl is looking to boost its provenance credentials with more British-sourced products this Christmas. But it’s not dismissing its German roots entirely – it will continue to offer competitively priced traditional German Christmas favourites such as stollen and lebkuchen, and a well-presented mulled wine.
Lidl’s Deluxe range will see an increased number of lines including Scottish hot smoked salmon, a mixed tin of wasabi, chilli and roasted almonds, a pork pie topped with cranberries, Scottish mussels in tomato and chorizo sauce, granola gingerbread, salted caramel sauce and salmon roe.
Star product: A selection of six ambient French pates including wild boar, duck and truffle and venison for £3.99.
Verdict: A diverse and ambitious catalogue. Will the more exotic items tempt regular Lidl customers?