- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is a number that would even give frantic political pollsters pause. Americans will enjoy 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day. And it’s no wonder. Almost nine-out-of 10 Americans - 88 percent - tuck into a plate of turkey on the big day, and they put away an estimated 736 million pounds of it according to the National Turkey Federation, a trade association. Two thirds of Americans say eating leftovers is the best part of the meal, however.

But wait, there’s more. On Thursday, Americans will also help themselves to 30 million green bean casseroles - the iconic Thanksgiving staple consisting primarily of green beans, mushroom soup and crumbled onion topping. The startling figure comes from Del Monte, the canner of green beans and just about everything else. The manufacturer polled 3,000 people on their casserole habits to find that the dish is most popular in the state of Louisiana, where it appears on 60 percent of the holiday tables. It is least popular in North Dakota and Hawaii, where the casserole only makes it to 18 percent.

Del Monte also reveals that bacon leads among the nation’s home chefs as the most popular “secret ingredient,” followed by mushrooms,cheese, grilled onions, almonds and sausage.

A cultural note: the casserole is now 60 years old. Dorcas Reilly, a home economist at the Campbell Soup Company, actually invented the casserole in 1955, using her employer’s Cream of Mushroom soup, frozen green beans and fried onions. She is now included in the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame.

And about those T-Day pies. The nation is now in “pie season,” according to the American Pie Council - yes, an industry group. Among many things, the group found that Americans name apple pie as their favorite, followed by pumpkin, pecan, banana cream and cherry. The group estimates that 6 million men between the ages of 35 and 54 have eaten the last slice of holiday pie, then denied it. One out of five Americans have eaten a pie all by themselves.

In the meantime, even Nielsen Media - known primarily for tracking TV audiences - has taken to examining the nation’s Thanksgiving habits. Thirty five percent of yearly cranberry sales occur this holiday week, Nielsen says. Thanksgiving also accounts for roughly 29 percent of yearly bakery pumpkin pie sales. It’s also a big week for those who “out source” their big meal.

“Since 2010, the week of the Thanksgiving holiday has been the highest selling week of the year for both prepared deli sides (which includes items like potato sides and stuffing) and prepared deli entrees, which were driven by turkey entrée sales,” Nielsen notes in an analysis this week.

“The week of Thanksgiving has also consistently been among top-selling weeks for prepared deli platters. Thanksgiving is also a big week for deli dips and spreads, which saw a compound annual growth rate of 8.1 percent from 2010 to 2014, outpacing that of other prepared deli categories.”

Sales also go up for prepared fresh vegetables, packaged salads, carbonated vegetables, beer and salty snacks. Sales of chocolate, however, take a tumble.

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