Winter is coming and the supermarkets have stocked up the sleighs in preparation for releasing their Christmas ranges.
Key trends driving this year’s products include the rise in veganism, world flavours infiltrating snacking, easy-carve meats and dramatic, eye-catching desserts, while flavours like orange and black cherry are featured heavily.
The supermarkets have also developed fancy Christmas crisps, with highlights including Iceland’s Christmas tree snacks made with oil from real pine needles and Tesco’s Roquefort with roasted chestnut crisps.
We round up the highlights hitting supermarket shelves for this year’s Christmas cheer.
Botanical and floral flavours are key trends influencing the range this year, with the likes of juniper and orange in a number of products. Jonathan Moore, Waitrose executive chef, said the supermarket had created a unique flavour profile for a range of products.
“Juniper, the key aromatic ingredient of gin, complements the acidity of bitter orange perfectly and works with a range of sweet and savoury dishes, from confectionery and mince pies to joints of meat and stuffing. This exquisite and unique pairing will bring a modern and festive twist to an array of dishes at Waitrose this Christmas,” he said.
Butternut Squash’age Rolls
These vegetarian snacks are made from roasted butternut squash with thyme, lemon, garlic and chestnuts, wrapped in puff pastry and finished with a parsley crumb sprinkle.
The main event
Veal Rump with Chestnut and Golden Raisin Sauce
Orange is incorporated into most of the meats, including the British veal rump garnished with lemon thyme and served with a creamy sauce of chestnut, golden raisin, orange, sage and cinnamon. On a similar theme, the venison haunch is cooked with bitter orange and juniper, and comes with a venison and redcurrant jus.
Waitrose Two Bird Wassailing Roast
Heston Blumenthal is back with his festive favourites, with new additions inspired by the old British pastime of wassailing. Dating back to the 16th century, wassailing is the ancient custom of visiting orchards to recite incantations and sing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. The wassailing roast includes an apple and brandy glazed turkey breast on the outside, which you cut through to discover Gressingham duck breast wrapped in a smoky pork, bacon, brioche and mead stuffing.
Pulled Jackfruit Tacos
It wouldn’t be a vegan fiesta without jackfruit, it seems. This party starter consists of sweet and smoky pulled jackfruit with black-eyed beans in a spiced taco shell, garnished with pickled onions and a tortilla crumb. There are other plant-based canapés too, like the caramelised onion and tomato tarte tatin.
Ensuring the plant-based partygoers aren’t left out when it comes to Christmas lunch or dinner, this is a marinated beetroot with a rich mushroom duxelles, wrapped in vegan puff pastry and garnished with beetroot breadcrumbs.
Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese
Ensuring the vegans also get their sides, this cauliflower and broccoli comes with a creamy vegan cheese sauce made with coconut milk, soya milk and cauliflower puree.
Heston continues to make his mark on Christmas for Waitrose with these great balls of fire. Black profiterole ‘coals’ come with a flame-coloured mandarin orange crème patisserie filling and are drizzled with a warmed smoked orange caramel sauce. Crackling popping candy is scattered over the top to give the magical illusion of glowing embers.
Dark Chocolate and Orange Stollen Wreath
This one relies heavily on orange flavours, while also drawing on the wreath shape – a popular one this year. A luxury dark chocolate and orange stollen wreath is filled with chocolate, marzipan and a tangy orange marmalade. It’s then dipped in an orange liqueur and hand finished with roasted hazelnuts and gold dusting.
Launching more than 100 new festive foods and drinks, a big focus of Iceland’s range is emphasising the environmental dangers of palm oil and ensuring a palm-oil-free Christmas for shoppers. Other trends include exciting and exotic flavours, particularly a growing demand for Japanese foods; providing a multi-sensory event as people eat with their eyes; catering for a meat-free Christmas and providing easy-carve meats.
Neil Nugent, head of food development at Iceland, said: “From juicy turkeys layered with truffle oil to marmite sprouts and the classic (palm oil free) mince pie, Iceland has everything you need to create the perfect Christmas feast. Christmas dinner can be stressful for the most experienced chefs. This is why we’ve made this year’s range as easy as possible with our easy-carve joints, exciting side dishes which are already prepared and full of flavour, as well as a few unique foods that really excite the dinner table.”
Luxury Mini Sushi Doughnuts
There are more than 45 different party food dishes in the 2018 range, but creating the wow factor is easy with these party bits: mini rice doughnuts with salmon, prawn and vegetables, plus soy sauce and wasabi.
Tandoori Prawn Lollipops with Raita Dip
Taking the exotic flavours from Japan to India, these mildly spicy lollipops come with a cooling, minty yoghurt side.
Luxury Bauble Souflette Selection
Flying the sustainable flag, these come in plastic-free packaging and also appeal to the plant-based eaters. They come in flavours like Barber’s vintage cheddar, beetroot and goat’s cheese, and pesto and mascarpone.
The main event
Game meat gets a look in here. This festive bird is tightly wrapped in streaky bacon and comes deboned and ready stuffed as part of Iceland’s no-fuss ethos for Christmas. A cranberry and chestnut stuffing fills the inside.
Luxury Truffle Butter Turkey Crown
Take your turkey to the next level with this British breast on the bone, roasted in truffle butter and truffle oil.
Easy-carve Cauliflower Cheese
A Christmas upgrade for this classic, a creamy cheese sauce covers a whole head of cauliflower, which is ready to bake and carve.
Parsnip and Portobello Open Tart
Golden butter puff pastry surrounds a rich filling of Portobello mushrooms, spinach, garlic and roasted parsnip.
Caramelised Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin
Like Waitrose, Iceland has gone down the tarte tatin route as well. This sweet, caramelised root vegetables lie on a puff pastry base.
Luxury Melting Chocolate Snowflake
Create a bit of theatre with this all butter brownie, which is topped with Belgian chocolate gold snowflake shell. Pour over the hot chocolate sauce to reveal a delicious hidden chocolate mousse.
Luxury White Chocolate and Red Velvet present
Crack open the white chocolate and what’s inside? A light vanilla mousse with fresh raspberries, raspberry coulis and devilish red velvet brownie.
Mince Pie Ice Cream Cones
Yes, all the supermarkets have mince pies, but what about this twist: a mince-pie-flavoured ice cream in a classic cone.
Driving this year’s products are flavours like black cherry and orange, exotic eats like Asian and Indian, matte finishes and a focus on vegan.
Hog Roast Crackling Sliders
Succulent British pulled pork with sweet Bramley apple and cider chutney in a soft, sage-sprinkled brioche roll.
Thai-inspired Butternut, Coconut and Lemongrass Rolls
Hand-wrapped spring rolls filled with creamy coconut and butternut squash, topped with coconut, parsley and smoky paprika.
The main event
British Free-range Golden Goose
Full of flavour with dark, close-textured meat. The geese are raised on a family-run farm in East Anglia, with great care taken over exercise and diet, to give a naturally rich-flavoured bird. The perfect centrepiece for Christmas day, according to Tesco, it’s paired with a fruity pineapple golden glaze.
Crackling Gammon Joint with a Maple and Bourbon Glaze
A show-stopping unsmoked gammon that has been partially deboned for that on trend easy carving feel. Pop it in the oven and once it begins to crisp, brush the maple and bourbon glaze over the top for sweet, sticky crackling.
Stuffed Butternut Squash
This eye-catching main is a sweet butternut squash, stuffed with a tangy beetroot and apple filling that has been cooked with a touch of sherry vinegar and garlic to complement the creamy squash. It’s finished with a topping of crunchy pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
While Waitrose went down the beetroot wellington path, Tesco has gone with a British-grown whole cauliflower. It’s coated in turmeric oil, followed by a mushroom and butternut squash duxelles that’s rich in red wine and warming Christmas spices of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. The cauliflower is then hand wrapped in golden, flaky puff pastry and decorated with hand-placed pastry leaves. A sprinkling of onion seeds finishes this meat-free meal off.
Vegan roll selection
Moroccan-spiced cauliflower rolls with roasted cauliflower, sultanas and harissa, wrapped in puff pastry with turmeric and fennel seed crumbs is the most striking part of this selection, which also features roasted butternut rolls with spiced pearl barley and herbs wrapped in puff pastry with a mixed seed crumb, as well as three katsu curry vegetable rolls.
Chocolate and Ginger Cake
Triple-layered chocolate cake filled with Belgian chocolate, buttercream, stem ginger and orange curd. It’s decorated with a gold Christmas tree pattern and topped with edible treats.
Strawberries and Cream Candy Cane Semifreddo
The supermarkets are drawing on all the Christmas shapes for this year’s desserts. Cut open the candy-cane-shaped white chocolate semifreddo to enjoy hidden pools of delicious strawberry sauce.
Black Forest Profiteroles
In this twist on a family party favourite, light golden choux is filled with a fruity cherry mousse and hand-topped with indulgent Belgian chocolate sauce, white chocolate curl and a glittery red shimmer.
Spiced salted caramel, gingerbread and clementine are the three key flavours of this year’s Christmas offering, whether as part of the clementine crunch chocolate honeycomb or the spiced salted caramel and rum mince pies (both part of the premium Irresistible range). Just as notable, however, is the special attention paid to cutting back on animal produce.
“We have our largest ever choice of meat-free and free-from products,” noted Breige Donaghy, the Co-op’s director of delicious food. “In fact, we have 168 lines that are either vegan or vegetarian.”
Parmesan and Black Truffle Parsnip Crisps
A lot of redevelopment has been done with the Co-op’s snacks this year, from the colourful brie and cranberry Christmas trees to the spiced salted caramel pretzel stars. Perhaps the most interesting, however, are the parsnip crisps: a cheeky play on classic Christmas veg that offers a different texture and is gluten-free.
The main event
Treacle and Ale Gammon Joint
Provenance is on point with the Co-op’s meaty munch. Using British pigs from RSPCA Assured farms, this sizable, 750g slab of gammon is easy to carve and goes for just £8. Glistening with treacle glaze and cooked in ale, it’s a classic done in style at a tasty price point.
Gingerbread and Apricot Stuffing Balls
These little treats mix outdoor-bred pork with gingerbread, golden syrup and apricots for a sweet-meets-savoury accompaniment to the meal. Or just devour them independently as one-bite mouthfuls.
Festive Stuffing Wreath with Pomegranate Glaze
Definitely an eye-catching little number, this torus-shaped product is designed as an alternative main for vegans – and a refreshing change from the nut roast. The wreath is made from sage, onion and mushroom, with a smattering of cranberries, apricots and pine nuts on top. To finish it all off, just a dash of Middle Eastern influence: the pomegranate molasses glaze.
Winterberry Jelly Terrine
Giving off a healthy halo thanks to the presence of several fruits (not just winterberry), the Co-op has gone in a different direction from the other retailers with this sweet finisher, using a vegan-friendly gelatine to make it universally appealing. It’s not the only vegan jelly item this Christmas either: the individually portioned pink gin and tonic jelly shots with raspberries also play with the same idea.
White Forest Meringue Stack
Desserts are arguably where the Co-op has outdone itself. To start with, we’ve selected the white forest meringue stack, which (as the name suggests) borrows from black forest gateau. Three slabs of meringue encompass cherry kirsch syrup and white chocolate cream, finished off with white chocolate curls.
White Christmas Snow Globe
Inspired by Asian dessert shops, a white chocolate dome is broken by a playful window that teases the intricate chocolate shapes within. Hidden beneath the ‘snow’ is a salted caramel centre. If one item from the Co-op’s 2018 Christmas range is going to get guests talking, this will be it – and it’s an absolute steal at £10.
Kir Royal Semifreddo
Semifreddo has been having a resurgence not just in retailers (we refer you back to Tesco), but in British restaurants too – including chain Pizza Express, which just released a vegan version. Literally meaning ‘half frozen,’ its texture sits somewhere between ice cream and mousse. The Co-op’s version uses the kir royal cocktail as a flavour cue, imbuing the dessert with blackcurrant aromas.
A focus on luxury and indulgence but still at an affordable price? That’s the goal for Christmas 2018.
Tear and Share Bread Wreath with Camembert
Wreath-shaped foods feature heavily throughout the supermarket ranges this year. Aldi’s bread wreath is flavoured with sage, crispy fried onion and sweet dried cranberries.
The main event
Three Game Roast
Like Waitrose with its multiple meats and Iceland with its game, Aldi has introduced a three-game roast for this festive season, consisting of duck, guinea fowl and goose with a slow gin and cranberry glaze. It’s available with apple and apricot stuffing or sage and onion stuffing.
This hand crafted and decorated chocolate carousel is produced by a London artisanal chocolatier, with the Belgian milk chocolate creation all edible except for the sticks supporting the horses.
Key trends include providing an experience for shoppers when it comes to Christmas and offering more than just turkey.
Italian snacking is still key for the supermarket. The new balls come in two very distinct flavours: spicy jalapeno or macaroni cheese and sundried tomato, with melted mozzarella in the centre.
The main event
Porchetta Joint Wrapped in Pork Belly
For those sick of turkey, Lidl is offering this outdoor-bred RSPCA Assured bit of pork.
Hazelnut Butter Sponge
Theatre seems to be a big trend in the supermarket ranges this year and Lidl has also jumped on it. The new hazelnut all-butter sponge comes with a chocolate praline sauce. Heat it up, pour it over the top and that chocolate disc melts into the hollow centre, making this gold-lustred sponge a show-stopper.
Chocolate Golden Crown
Another dessert with a party trick. Pour on the heated chocolate sauce and the milk chocolate shell cracks. Inside is chocolate mousse and salted caramel sauce on a chocolate brownie base.
There are more gluten and dairy-free options this year, as well as a focus on plant-based options for vegans.
Chicken Laksa Roses
Inspired by growing demand for Asian-fusion flavours, these pre-dinner canapés are wrapped in vibrantly coloured pastry shaped into a rose and filled with chicken in a rich lemongrass and coconut curry sauce.
The main event
Butcher’s Selection Gammon Joint with a Sour Cherry Glaze
Yet another dessert riffing off Black Forest flavours (did we miss a memo somewhere?), this gammon joint is cured in a “unique brine” for succulence and finished with a high-shine, sticky sour cherry glaze.
Vegan Chocolate Caramel Pots
One of several vegan launches for Christmas, these individual desserts are filled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce, which Asda believes will satisfy even non-vegans for dessert. The pot-sized portions are topped with iridescent glitter and golden date pieces.
Marks and Spencer
Crab and Avocado Spheres
While the Buck’s Fizz Marmalade caught our eye as a citrusy way to start Christmas morning, the pots of Orkney crab marie rose with avocado, chilli and lime are elegant little starters with quality ingredients – did we mention they have avocado in them?
British Sirloin of Beef
One of the few retailers to go big on beef, M&S is clearly hoping that the luxury of its sirloin roast, stuffed with shallots and topped with porcini and truffle butter, will tap into the Christmas craving for decadence.
Like Tesco, M&S have cottoned onto the slider as the ideal finger food format for burgers. The supermarket’s vegan versions substitute meat for soybeans and mushrooms, and are sold in packs of 10 with buns and a sachet of vegan burger sauce for just £5.
Christmas Choux Wreath
Choux pastry was clearly a favourite for this supermarket’s product development team, as two of their most striking desserts both incorporated the baking technique.
While the Santa’s Hat Profiteroles – containing raspberry mousse and topped with raspberry fondant and meringue – are certainly cute, we have to tip our cap to the Christmas Choux Wreath. Accompanied by salted caramel cream and Belgium chocolate sauce, the tear-and-share style encourages consumers to get their hands stuck in.