New choices expected on many Christmas dinner plates this year.

Don't be surprised to see a hemp roast, chia seed crackers and seasoned fresh New Zealand salmon pop up on Christmas dinner plates this year adding, you could say, a new kind of Christmas 'cheer' to the table.

A product of a flowering plant native to Central America, chia seeds have become a popular condiment to summer salads in recent years – and is one of a number of 'new' foods supermarket operators are predicting will adorn tables on Christmas Day.

It's all part of our changing tastes believes Arron Ingerson, fresh foods manager at New World Nelson City, "It's move over turkey, ham and lamb and make room for the newest Kiwi Christmas dinner centerpieces – salmon and meat-free alternatives."

But Ingerson and other New World managers say more exotic sounding foods such as chia seeds will also have a place on the table - tagines (North African-inspired dishes), quinoa (a grain packed full of protein) and hemp seeds (which, like chia seeds can be added to salads) among them.


"Christmas food shopping choices have changed a lot in the 12 years I've been here," says Ingerson. "In the past two years salmon has really taken off. Hot smoked salmon is very popular at Christmas and Easter and we sell truckloads of fresh salmon – boneless cutlets, kebabs, filet mignon, even whole salmon.

"White fish is harder to get at this time of year, but I have a couple of local guys who make sure we get some in for our customers."

While Christmas 2019 is shaping up to be less meat-based as New World stores across the country report an increase in demand for vegan, vegetarian and cut-to-order seafood dishes, Ingerson says the traditional favourites - hams, roast and barbecue options along with all the classic desserts - still remain popular.

He says Kiwis are getting organised early this year with many people buying pre-prepared meals and pre-seasoned main courses, pre-glazed hams and boneless roasts.

"People want table-ready foods and meal solutions they can pick up and chuck in the oven or barbecue," he says. "Having their ham glazed, or their turkey deboned is a no-brainer for time-poor Kiwis."

Another new trend is a catered Christmas, previously perceived as more of an 'elite' option. Josh Prince, duty manager at New World Victoria Park in Auckland, says catering gives shoppers the ability to order for the exact number of mouths they need to feed, saving time in the kitchen, money and reducing food waste.

"Everybody's busy, so having Christmas catered is an easy option and good value for money. We can make anything from antipasto, cheese and meat platters, fresh seafood, glazed hams through to bakery treats, Christmas cakes and desserts."

The top sellers at New World Victoria Park in the lead-up to Christmas are: strawberries, avocado, lamb leg roast, Bluff salmon fillets, meat platters, champagne ham, snapper fillets and champagne.


Steve Devine-Fix, butchery manager at New World Ilam in Christchurch says plenty of customers still head to the stores for tastings and promotions and to find out what's on offer.

"I often get asked for advice on how to cook meats and seafood," he says. "In-store tastings often impact on sales – we recently did a tasting for a sausage we made in-store and we sold a week's worth in one day.

"As Christmas approaches I'll be putting together heaps of oven-ready trays with options like boneless rolled chickens for smaller households who don't want to buy a huge turkey."

Despite all these changes, one no-one is messing around with the favourite classic Kiwi desserts.

"New Zealanders love sweet stuff at Christmas," says Jayde Cunliffe, store manager at New World Browns Bay on Auckland's North Shore. "Strawberries are always a top seller, closely followed by chocolate, blueberries, cream and croissants. A box of chocs is such an easy Christmas present."

Cunliffe says any extra food, including meats and hampers, are donated to the homeless in local communities and subsidised tenants.

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