Nearly eight in 10 Americans will celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with a special meal, according to the October 2023 Consumer Food Insights Report.
The report, based on research by Purdue University’s Center for Food Demand and Sustainability Analysis, assesses food costs, consumer satisfaction and values, support for agricultural and food policies, and trust in information sources. Purdue experts conducted and evaluated the study, which included 1,200 US consumers
“We found that 79% of consumers plan to celebrate the holiday with a Thanksgiving meal, while 13% do not and 9% are unsure,” said lead report author Joseph Balagtas, Purdue professor of agricultural economics and director of CFDAS. Of those celebrating with food, 37% plan to host, 43% plan to attend and 5% plan to eat out. The remaining 14% are unsure about their Thanksgiving meal plans.
In October, the center broke down the data by the four major U.S. Census regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West. Regionally, there are few differences in consumer expectations for the upcoming holiday.
“Hosts are expecting higher turkey prices compared to last year and plan to budget more for this year’s food,” Balagtas said. “In fact, retail prices for whole turkeys are down 10% to 15% from last year’s record high prices as turkey production has recovered from the bird flu outbreak. But our research shows that food price inflation is still top of mind for consumers.
“Interestingly, we see a difference between the responses of hosts and attendees when we ask about sharing the burden of the meal,” Balagtas said. “Fewer hosts are likely to ask guests to bring some of the food or share the cost of the meal than the number of attendees who are willing to bring some of the food or help with the cost of the meal.”
That’s not surprising, considering previous psychological research in the difference between wanting to ask for help and wanting others to help, he noted.
The study also reveals regional differences in the frequency that certain foods will be on the table this Thanksgiving, said Elijah Bryant, a research analyst at the center and co-author of the report.
“Although Thanksgiving staples like turkey, green beans, gravy, and stuffing will be common meal components in all regions, items like cornbread, ham, and macaroni and cheese are more likely to be part of meals in the South in compared to the other three regions,” Bryant said.
Food costs vary by region, possibly due to differences in the cost of living. Average weekly spending is highest in the Northeast ($201) and lowest in the Midwest ($177). In particular, average weekly spending between January and October 2023 increased by more than $10 in the Midwest, South, and Northeast regions compared to 2022.
“Higher food costs are likely the result of rising food prices forcing consumers to budget more to purchase their typical grocery basket. Households that aren’t spending more this year are likely buying less or substituting more affordable food items to keep costs down,” Bryant said.
The survey found that 13.3% of households were food insecure in October, the lowest level recorded in the first 10 months of 2023.
“It’s good that the food insecurity rate is down from the higher levels we saw in the spring and summer. But as many of us prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s a reminder that roughly one in eight Americans don’t have consistent access to adequate food,” Balagtas said.
The extent of food insecurity varies by region. The largest gap so far in 2023 is between the West (10%) and South (18%) regions. The prevalence of food insecurity is highest in the South, followed by the Midwest, Northeast, and West. These findings are consistent with those of the USDA’s Office of Economic Research food insecurity statistics.
Dietary well-being appears to correlate with food insecurity. Consumers living in more food-secure regions tend to rank their diets higher on the Dietary Wellbeing Index.
Slightly more consumers in the West and Northeast, which are the regions with the lowest prevalence of food insecurity, are categorized as “thriving” on the Dietary Well-Being Index compared to the South and Midwest.
“However, most consumers, regardless of region, are ‘somewhat satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their diets, indicating the ability of the US food system to satisfy the diets of consumers from all regions of the US,” Bryant said.
The Center for Food Demand and Sustainability Analysis is part of Purdue’s Next Moves in Agriculture and Food Systems and uses innovative data analysis shared through user-friendly platforms to improve the food system. In addition to the Consumer Food Insights Report, the center offers a portfolio of online dashboard.