Tesco Christmas Preview – from lava lamps to olive Christmas trees

At the Tesco Christmas preview yesterday the watchwords were fun/joy/wow – and from the armchair pet treat thrower to the show stopping beef joint entitled Thor’s Hammer (don’t try throwing that one though – it doesn’t come back) the ranges got us firmly in the festive mood.

The standout gifting theme this year is definitely retro with products like the lava lamp now being in their second or third in-vogue cycles and with many people still working from home there is also an emphasis on wellness and pampering to recreate that spa feeling. And watch out for Curtis the dog – Tesco is hoping he is going to be huge for their plush toy range.

After admiring the microwaveable boots Retail Insider headed to the food hall where we chatted to the head of sandwich development who explained that she takes hints for her sandwiches from TikTok, local bakeries, and just about anywhere else people are putting something between two slices of bread.

The classic turkey sandwich is of course the main event here and as she said “at Christmas you have to win with the turkey sandwich”. They are so careful with this product that they are paranoid about changing it any way.

Bread still wins out over wraps it seems in terms of sales, but you can generally experiment more with the ingredients in a wrap, such as flavoured mayos, and then perhaps introduce these new elements in the sandwich variant later.  Savoury panettones are another new for Tesco development which looked as though it could catch on this year.

The Christmas desserts range also has a little of the retro about it with that old 70s favourite the Black Forest Gateau appearing as flavour elements in both a trifle and a bakery item. The dessert developer revealed that she would have loved to have done a selection box of three variation Christmas puddings but it became obvious that when consumers buy a Christmas pudding they only want a very traditional heavily-fruited version. She believes that the way forward is really to encourage people to have several desserts, which caters for the generational divide on puddings.

Where the selection box did come to fruition is in the sausage roll and grazing products. The product developer has cleverly made the three different sausage rolls in the box look very different so that when removing from the oven the host can tell which ones are which at a glance – something consumers had struggled with in the past. Good to see Tesco addressing life’s challenges.

In terms of grazing the feel was very international so a duck and orange combination is served in an orange-coloured bao bun, prawn balls are dusted with white to resemble snowballs while laksa also gets a look in. This is all as far from the beige buffet of old as it is possible to get and, as was explained to Retail Insider, is largely driven by people’s tastes brought back from overseas travel.

Lobster Thermidor DIY

The trend for assemble-at-home kits is still going strong – there were multiple examples on show across several ranges but two in particular caught our eye. Firstly a lobster Thermidor sandwich kit in the Chef’s Selection (restaurant quality) range, which serves two as a main course, eight as a starter, or 16 when cut into thin rounds for canapes. It looked and tasted great. And a Christmas tree made of olives – perfect for just about anyone from the age of 5 to 105 whereby a cone of cream cheese has multi-coloured peppers and olives pushed into it to resemble a festive tree.

It’s worth mentioning that almost the main attraction of this event was the appearance of actual members of Tesco’s food development teams who had designed and worked on the Christmas ranges from sandwiches to the pudding. They were able to answer in-depth questions on trends, development and selling predictions, which made a welcome change from the usual marketing and PR employees fronting things up. Their demonstrable passion for their work definitely put the fun/joy/wow into the occasion.

Glynn Davis

Editor, Retail Insider