It’s that time of the year again when our thoughts start to turn to turkey. My thoughts specifically turn to why Whole Foods is intent on getting people to ruin their dinner. The retailer recently announced that people who “commit a turkey cooking fail” can be thankful – because they might be eligible for turkey insurance, i.e., a $35 gift card. Consumers will need to provide all the trimmings, of course, to claim this windfall: proof of purchase of a Whole Foods turkey, photographic evidence, and an explanation of what went wrong.
2020 has not been what one would call a great year in general, but it’s especially not a great year to encourage what could be tantamount to food waste. Projections suggest that as a result of COVID-19, 52 million people will experience food insecurity in the US, up by 17 million compared to before the pandemic. More people in the country today depend on food banks than ever before.
Of course, I might be reading a bit too much into what is undoubtedly just an innocent seasonal promotion…
…But maybe not. Thanksgiving and Christmas are among the biggest days of the year for food waste: in the US, an estimated 200 million pounds of turkey alone end up in the trash post-Thanksgiving; in the UK, 2 million turkeys are thrown away while still in good condition!
This year, with the pandemic, people have been advised not to travel or hold large gatherings for the holidays to contain the spread of the virus. However, this has meant that consumers are demanding smaller-sized turkeys or sidestepping turkey altogether, leaving turkey farmers in the lurch.
Through adversity comes innovation, and leading poultry player Perdue Farms has an interesting solution to tackle the shift in demand. It has launched a main-course pack of frozen turkey meat nuggets for small gatherings with traditional Thanksgiving flavors.
Turkey nuggets are an interesting option since there are so few products – and one product was a blend of turkey and chicken. An analysis of Spoonshot data found that food launches with the word “nugget” spread across a number of categories, but turkey was not one of them. Chicken nuggets, not surprisingly, was the most common product type.
There were even a few unusual meat nuggets, like alligator and catfish, but no turkey, which is perhaps a much more commonly consumed meat. Log in to Spoonshot’s platform to see other nugget products.
Perdue Farms’ new turkey nuggets launch is a limited edition, but it has the potential to be a mainstay. Christmas is just around the corner and we’re going to see the same issues of smaller get-togethers this year. In fact, the UK anticipates a turkey shortage for Christmas, since trained seasonal workers from the EU who usually help out have not been able to travel to the country.
No need to quit cold turkey
At first glance, frozen Turkey nuggets seem an obvious solution, but it is innovative for a number of reasons. Turkey meat does not appear to be as popular as one would imagine. For the last few years, there have been regular murmurs of giving up on turkey for the festive season and switching things up with other meats. Our analysis shows that positive sentiments about turkey as a food have been dropping, while negative sentiments have either risen or stayed steady.
Other meats are just more popular. Interest in chicken for example is about 4.1x more than that in turkey and has been consistently on the rise (except for 2020). Turkey, on the other hand, shows rather erratic and somewhat seasonal peaks. Chicken also pairs well with a slightly wider variety of foods compared to turkey. Based on data from Spoonshot’s platform, chicken meat shows high flavor compatibility with 299 ingredients, while turkey is at 188. Most importantly, from a consumer’s perspective, chicken is cheaper than turkey.
All of this together does indicate it might be time for the traditional turkey dinner to get an upgrade. Nuggets are perfect due to their convenient format and size, while also allowing for greater seasoning options. Offering these in a wide variety of shapes and meal combos, Turkey nuggets could become a viable option for children’s snacks or meals as well. This simple, elegant solution may become a great strategy to help bail out turkey farmers this year.
Another option is to buy your festive fare from local restaurants to support them as several places go back into lockdown.
Stay safe. Try not to burn any turkeys.
I’m the CEO & Co-Founder at Spoonshot. Our platform leverages food science and AI to predict consumer needs, F&B trends, and innovation opportunities. We help CPG/FMCG and foodservice companies adopt a data-led, agile, and forward-looking approach to product and menu development.