By: Sue Wilkinson, Senior Director, Information Service & Research, Food Marketing Institute
Holidays and the grocery industry

Ask any food retailer and they will tell you that Thanksgiving through Super Bowl Sunday is their busiest time of the year. It’s true, there are a number of holidays crammed into a short time period between November and early February, but is this season really when food retailers bring in the most business?

One way to determine this is to look at U.S. Census Bureau grocery sales data by month, which has most recent figures for 2016 available. Here we see that November and December do have high numbers of total sales, $52 Billion and $56 Billion respectively, but there are some other interesting months that rival these figures. In May and July of 2016, total sales for U.S. grocery reached $53 Billion each month. This suggests that other holidays—perhaps Memorial Day and Fourth of July—are rising to the level of food retail importance as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

However, when you look at the seasonally adjusted data, a statistical method for removing the seasonal component of a time series that exhibits a seasonal pattern, November and December still reign is terms of total grocery sales with $52.5 Billion and $52.7 Billion in sales respectively compared to May and July grocery sales both at $52 Billion.

What’s clear is the culture of food and holidays that persists in America. It seems the importance of sharing a family meal during the holidays—no matter the time of year—continues and may even be strengthening as our lives become more time-strapped. Gathering around to share a good meal together, particularly during a holiday, continues to be important and continues to mean business for food retailers. That’s why the FMI Foundation annually celebrates the importance of family meals during National Family Meals Month™ and encourages food retailers and manufactures to share the benefits of family meals widely with shoppers. Learn more, see resources and join in the celebration at