Christmas offers retailers a time to shine as they look to put their competitors in the shade with an array of impressive, over-the-top and sometimes unusual bakery NPD.

Tesco, Asda, OcadoCo-op and Waitrose are among retailers to have revealed their Christmas ranges ahead of the festive season.

While they are striving for individuality, there are several new themes and trends that appear across a number of retailers’ ranges. Other trends have proved they were more than a fad with several returning to shelves this year, albeit in new products and formats.

Here’s what you need to know:

The evolution of caramel

Salted caramel has dominated the festive dessert scene for a while now, but some believe other variants can give this sweet and savoury flavour a run for its money.

“Caramel will never go away but burnt caramel is the next big trend,” says Debbie Wallen, product development manager at Tesco. “It takes the caramel flavour a bit further.”

For Tesco, the trend is manifesting itself in a baked orange cheesecake that features a speculoos base and burnt caramel glaze.

Co-op, meanwhile, has embraced spiced caramel which, according to Breige Donaghy, director of food development at the retailer, has its signature Christmas spice mix of ginger, cinnamon and star anise in it. This features across the range from Spiced Salted Caramel Shortbread with Chocolate Coating to an Irresistible Spiced Salted Caramel Roulade (pictured above).

Those who love the original still have plenty to choose from with salted caramel popping up across the majority of retailers’ ranges, from a Deluxe Large Salted Caramel Cheesecake in Lidl and an Irresistible Shimmering Salted Caramel Pudding from Co-op.

Savoury doesn’t have to mean beige

Party food isn’t always the most visually appealing. When it comes to savoury bites, it’s often predominantly beige thanks to the prevalence of bread, pastry and breadcrumbs.

No more, as many retailers are looking to infuse their savoury goods with a healthy dose of colour.

“People are looking for very subtle health cues so vegetable inclusions in something as traditional as party food is massive,” explains Louise Stowell, product development manager at Tesco. “Colour is a big part of this. This is the most colourful party food spread we’ve had in the past four years or so.”

One example is the Thai Green Chicken Baskets from Tesco (pictured above, left) that feature a vibrant green filo pastry filled with chicken and veg in a green Thai sauce. The Tesco Vegetable Spiced Roll Selection also brings some colour to the party table with brightly coloured fillings – including katsu curry veg, Moroccan spiced cauliflower and roasted butternut squash – encased in pastry. A sprinkling of poppy or sunflower seeds on top also help to reinforce the ‘healthier’ message.

Asda, meanwhile, has an Extra Special Filo Prawn Selection that includes chilli glazed prawns wrapped in orange filo ribbons (pictured above, right). It’s Vegan Rainbow Vegetable Filo Tarts also add a splash of colour.

Waitrose is keeping things interesting with Chorizo Paella Pastry Shells (pictured above, centre) that utilise black pastry to make them look like mussels.

Bright colours are also invading the cheeseboard with Co-op serving up Irresistible Beetroot, Walnut & Nigella Seed Biscuit while northern retailer Booths includes charcoal sourdough crackers as part of a Peters Yard Selection Box.

A match made in heaven

Brandy butter is a traditional accompaniment to mince pies and Christmas pud but as consumers experiment with the flavours in their festive desserts, the accompaniments need to evolve as well.

Asda hopes to tempt customers with a side of Pink Gin Cream – made from sweetened double cream flavoured with Asda’s Extra Special Pink Gin and mulled fruit – to enjoy alongside its Sloe Gin Mince Pies (picture above, left) as it continues to embrace the nation’s love of the spirit.

“Gin is a huge trend,” says Maddie Munden, product manager, Asda. “People want to see it in different forms and different products at Christmas.”

However, Co-op is keeping things more traditional by offering Irresistible Brandy Butter Cream Mince Pies (pictured above, right) which forgo the pastry lids in favour of a swirl of cream.

Festive trends with staying power

A handful of trends that made their mark on festive ranges last year have returned and, in some cases, got even bigger.

  • Woodland theme: Tesco went big on this last year as part of its ‘Cotswolds at Christmas’ theme and has maintained the woodland feel in 2019 with items including the Finest Christmas Tree Chocolate Pots (pictured right, top). It’s evident at Asda as well with Extra Special White Chocolate and Lemon Pine Cones on a lemon brownie sponge base.
  • Gin (and cocktails): There’s no escaping gin this Christmas, particularly in Asda with its Extra Special Gin-gerbread Roulade (pictured right, centre) and Extra Special Sloe Gin Mince Pies. Elsewhere, cocktail flavours continue to make a splash. Lidl has a Deluxe Kir Royale Roulade, for example, and an Espresso Martini Mini Roulade.
  • The wow factor: Consumers still want to be wowed at the dinner table. Luckily, the supermarkets have that covered. Lidl has reinvented its melting crown with a Deluxe White Chocolate Crown version with raspberry sauce and a lemon blondie base, and it’s created a Deluxe Chocolate Cottage filled with chocolate mousse, salted caramel and a chocolate pouring sauce. Waitrose has maintained its upmarket quirkiness with a Fig & Port Cheese Cake – a sour cream cheesecake that looks like a giant cheese on a cheeseboard.
  • Vegan: Regardless of the time of year, vegan-friendly food is big business. This year many retailers have expanded their Christmas ranges further. Waitrose, for example, has added Vegan Moroccan Mushroom & Chickpea Pittas alongside Vegan Mini Beet Wellingtons to its range. Asda has also bumped up its range with a Festive Vegan Wellington filled with chickpeas, cranberries and apricots with a cranberry sauce. Tesco, meanwhile, will offer a Vegan Turkey Sandwich with pea protein “turkey” as well as a Finest Butternut Squash, Mushroom & Chestnut Wreath (pictured right, bottom).

To find out more about individual retailer’s ranges, visit the pages below: