Turkey Day Data Science
For many, the holiday season is a time of great excitement, nervous anticipation, and anxiety over expanding waistlines. It’s a time for fellowship with friends, family, and food. I thought it would be fun to dwell on the lighter side of data science and dive into Turkey Day Data.
Thanksgiving is THE food holiday and if there’s one thing you can say about Americans, we love our Thanksgiving food. Some interesting datasets point out that even though Americans love Thanksgiving food, we really only eat it one time a year.
Americans will be traveling again this year. Airbnb’s, hotels, and other short-term rental companies are reporting large demand. Rental demand is up a whopping 377% compared to last year, and up 91% compared to 2019 data. This means Americans are eager to visit friends and family, and are planning for large gatherings. A poll conducted by TheHill.com reports that 66% of American households are planning a Thanksgiving dinner pre-Pandemic style and are feeding their tribe.
Let’s Consume Mass Quantities
You can say what you want, but love it or hate it, green bean casserole is on the menu. 20 million American households will be serving green bean casserole this Thanksgiving. The 1955 recipe invented by Dorcas Reilly will still be featuring Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. The dish was intended to be an easy, no-muss, no-fuss dish using ingredients most 50’s households had on-hand: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Now, it’s almost exclusively eaten at Thanksgiving. Campbell’s will make 40% of its annual sales just for the holiday.
Pumpkin pie is definitely the American tummy’s jam. Dessert is the deciding factor in pushing you over the line from stupor into food coma. The American after Thanksgiving dinner favorite is pumpkin pie. 35% of Americans across our nation prefer it over everything else. However, the enthusiasm for the dessert is very regional. Apple pie takes the #2 spot in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. And, we all know sweet patatah (potato) pie hotly contests pumpkin for the top spot in the South with pecan chasing on its heels. Seriously, warm sweet potato pie and vanilla ice cream are the perfect ways to slide into a food-induced slumber.
There is no Thanksgiving without stuffing. Some may call it, ahem, “seasoned stale bread crumbs,” but a Thanksgiving plate without stuffing on it, just seems…odd. Kraft will sell 40 million boxes of Stove Top stuffing during the holiday season. All of those boxes of Stove Top contribute to the $96 million Americans will spend on stuffing that’s exclusively eaten for Thanksgiving. I love Stove Top. I really do. I reeaally do. We find ourselves eating it a few times through-out the year. I admit to being snobby during Thanksgiving and spring for the once-a-year focaccia and herbs de’provence edition for the season.
Stuffing isn’t the only thing we exclusively eat during Thanksgiving. This year, we’ll scarf down 32.2 million dinner rolls, 57 million pounds of sweet potatoes, 80 million pounds of cranberries, and 193 million pounds of all matter of mashed, roasted, fried, and au-gratined potatoes. About those cranberries. That 80 million pounds represents 20% of the annual haul Americans consume a year. That’s 40 tons of cranberries in Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce (the only way to eat cranberry sauce IMHO), and 5 million gallons of the sauce. That other 80%? It’s sold as cranberry juice the rest of the year. Ocean Spray sells 80% of its cranberry sauce the week of Thanksgiving. It produces 70 million cans of the stuff each year. And, no, your fancy homemade apple pectin cranberry sauce can go back home with you.
On to the Main Event
There are other meats on the table for Thanksgiving. Not discrediting Tofurkey, which sold its 6 millionth “roast” last year. Ham, roast beef, and even the avant-garde; turducken, get their chances to grace our holiday meal. We all know; all of us, even if we aren’t eating it, that turkey is the star of the show. When President Joe Biden pardoned the magnificent bird, Peanut Butter and Jelly, at this year’s annual turkey pardon, the act set off a buying spree in which 40 million whole turkeys will be purchased for Thanksgiving this year. Americans have become very versatile in their preparation of the holiday’s roast beast. Roast turkey is still the overwhelming most popular preparation of the main dish, but deep fried and smoked turkeys are being eaten by more and more households.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this data exploration into one of America’s longest lasting and closest held traditions. For many, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the year, and oneself and to be thankful for making it this far and for their well-being. Many of us also take the time to give thanks for those who are closest to us. I give thanks for your readership, and for being a part of this journey as we explore how data impacts and influences our lives and how we can use data to make a better world.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, and yours.
William Lee Mapp, III