Jo Johnson, our senior manager for own brand innovation, takes us through some of the exciting ranges to look out for this Christmas – and why we're talking about them in July!
You’ll never believe it but right now the innovations team at Asda are already focusing on Christmas 2020! We have to be really ahead of the game at all times – looking at current and upcoming trends, what they are, what our customers think of them and how that will evolve current trends in the future.
But for this week I’m focusing on Christmas 2019, as we’re showcasing all of the great products that will be coming up at the end of the year to journalists at our annual Christmas press show in London.
The event is always in July, and over the years it’s been nicknamed Christmas in July as a number of retailers will showcase their ranges to journalists around the same time. We host it in July because of the lead times that they’re working to for their Christmas editions. They’re already starting to think about taste tests and things like that as early as July – so it makes sense that we ensure they know about all the exciting things we've got coming up.
It’s always one of the hottest days of the year as well, so it’s quite surreal because you come inside from the heat of London and there’s snow everywhere!
It’s a really exciting time for us because we get to go out and showcase everything that we’ve worked on for the last year. We’re really proud of what we’ve done with the range and it’s fantastic for us to be able to really show off everything that we’ve been working hard on. For me it’s so important for us to showcase these ranges and also to get out there and meet people – we get to spark really nice conversations and share more information.
This year we’ve worked on four trends that feature across our food, drink, home, beauty and fashion product ranges for Christmas 2019:
We’re about to turn a decade this year and our opulence collection is all about that glitz and glamour of Christmas and New Year celebrations. Lots of us want to enjoy a bit of luxury at this time of year, so you’ll see lots of decadent ingredients and flavours that make Christmas extra special.
We've added more Extra Special lines so that it's easier than ever to create a fantastic spread during the festive season – with treats like our Extra Special Mini Posh Hot Dogs, Mini Cheese Burgers, some seriously delicious Extra Special desserts and our Extra Special Coconut Prawns with a passion fruit and chilli dip. I tried those recently and they really are awesome!
After the success of our Footlong Pig in Blanket last Christmas we've created our Extra Special Pigs in Blankets Centrepiece. It's 12 pigs in blankets sitting on top of a footlong bed of pork, sage and onion stuffing – it’s really good fun and a great party pleaser.
Something for everyone
Last year we worked hard to create a range that could be enjoyed by everyone around the table – and that inclusive trend is ramping up again this year. We want to make sure that this Christmas you have something for everyone, whether that’s catering for guests' dietary requirements or choices in life.
This year we’ve added even more products to help make this possible – adding 42% more vegan-friendly lines and 188% more Free From lines year on year. Vegan treats include our Vegan Festive Wellington, our Rainbow Vegetable Tarts, Vegan Cranberry and Apple Stuffing Balls and Vegan No Pork Cocktail Sausages, which are just brilliant.
Last year we introduced vegan Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Chocolate Pots that were really popular, so we’ve built on that this year with our Extra Special Golden Vegan Swirls – with sumptuous vegan caramel sauce, dairy free chocolate mousse and a Belgian chocolate shell. It’s guaranteed to be a hit with all of your guests this Christmas!
There are also some great Free From treats – like our Extra Special Free From Marc de Champagne Truffles, which are rich, delicious ... and dairy free.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a little novelty! We’ve launched some great ice creams this year that have gone down a treat – like our Unicorn and Galactic versions – so this Christmas we’re building on that with our fun Really Creamy Elf Ice Cream that’s brilliant for kids. It’s green raspberry ice cream swirled with white candy floss-flavoured ice cream, raspberry compote and multi-coloured candy cane sugar shapes. We’re also adding in a cute Pip the Penguin cake in time for Christmas.
We’ve got a bit of a penguin theme this year which works well with the sea trend that we’ve been building on this year with products like our Shark and Narwhal cakes, Mystical Mermaid sweets and Under the Sea Cupcakes.
The festive season is also a time to think about others – from making more conscious choices for ourselves and the environment to helping others when they need it most.
This year all our chocolate lines have been created using sustainably-sourced cocoa, which we know is really important for our customers.
We've also been working to reduce the plastic packaging used on our new ranges. In March this year we announced that we had successfully achieved our target of reducing our own label primary packaging by 10%. Representing 6,500 tonnes (or the weight equivalent to 600 million empty water bottles) we made changes to over 180 product ranges. But we're not stopping there – we continue to actively pursue plastic reduction not just on our own brand primary packaging but also usage throughout our supply chain, café and in store consumables, and in the single use products that we sell.
We’re also still working on making all of our packaging 100% recyclable by 2025 so this means making sure any black plastic we use is detectable through the sorting process, and finding alternatives to mixed materials which are hard to separate and PVC and polystyrene, which are difficult to recycle.
Another big thing for us this Christmas is gin. The trend for gin is still going strong – and our new and interesting gins are so popular with our customers. We’re launching even more new gins for Christmas, including a Mince Pie Gin Liqueur, a Toasted Marshmallow Liqueur and also a Winter Spice Gin with all of those lovely traditional, warm flavours you get at Christmas time.
We’re also launching our Extra Special Pink Gin Cream, which is perfect with any sweet desserts. I personally love it with our new Sloe Gin Mince Pies – it’s an amazing combination! Those mince pies are one of my absolute favourites this year – I’ve been tucking into them already!
You can see a gin vibe across lots of our ranges this year, like our Extra Special 'Gin'gerbread Roulade – a slow-baked meringue filled with smooth gingerbread, spiced caramel sauce, light gingerbread and gin-flavoured cream – and our Extra Special Gin Smoked Salmon with Lemon and Juniper Berries.
There are so many exciting things to come, and it's really tricky to pick my favourites. But I'd say my top five this year have to be the Vegan Festive Wellington, the Extra Special Sloe Gin Mince Pies, Toasted Marshmallow Gin Liqueur, the 12 Pigs in Blankets Centerpiece and the Extra Special Salted Caramel Marshmallows.
I must admit that by the time it gets to Christmas I tend to be the one snacking on fruit, because it's a bit like Christmas all year round for me – just last week I was eating sherry trifle and mince pies at my desk! But we're really excited to get into the festive season and can't wait to see what our customers think of all the new additions.