We've been giving journalists, bloggers and social influencers a sneak preview of some of the new products we'll be selling this Christmas. Consumer PR Manager Natalie Dickinson writes about the day and what to look for later this year...
Christmas never stops for us at Asda – I had my first mince pie of the year in April! We started planning and developing products for this Christmas in November 2017, so it’s a constant cycle.
Every year we showcase everything from table centerpiece turkeys to showstopping desserts and novelty knits to festive bedding at our Christmas in July event.
Christmas in July is the name we give to a showcase of what’s to come in our Christmas range. It’s important to do the event early, so we can inspire a lot of the different publications our customers will be buying throughout the festive season. We get journalists, bloggers and social influencers to come and see the range, taste the food, try on the clothes and listen to our brilliant product teams talk about this year’s top trends, so that our innovative new products will help them pull together their Christmas features.
It’s always brilliant when a guest walks in and is wowed by what they see. The products are by far the most important part of the event, but because it’s still only July and usually a really hot day, it’s important to transport them in to the magic of Christmas and make sure the venue and room dressing is something they won’t forget.
This year we had a beautifully decorated 20ft Christmas tree to really get them in the festive spirit and a pink, copper and silver snowflake theme – which was inspired by one of our hero George Home trends this year called Ice Palace. It’s a really magical collection featuring shades of gold and blush pink that feels very luxurious, so we thought this theme would be perfect for the event. The snowflakes come from our packaging designs that our customers will see in store so it made sense to bring the two worlds together.
The reaction to the products is also brilliant. We make sure there are always lots of food samples for people to try and our two development chefs, Mark Richmond and Andrew Johnston, always cook up a canape storm at their live demo kitchen.
We start organising the event in January, just after last Christmas has finished. Luckily for me it’s my favourite time of year so I never get bored of talking about it! We start by finding the perfect venue, then work with everyone from production companies who'll help put up the tree, suppliers who get the products to the event, food stylists who make sure everything is cooked up and looking brilliant and, most importantly, lots of Asda colleagues who help bring the event to life.
We involve as many people from the business as possible, so everyone gets excited about what’s to come at the end of the year. I’ve mentioned our innovation chefs who are key to bringing the Christmas trends to life through live demonstrations, then we have our product managers who have been working tirelessly to develop the product range we showcase, our design team who help with the look and feel of the event and also the rest of the PR team who bring everything together.
It gives me such a buzz to be involved in an event like this and it’s by far my favourite moment in the year at work! Seeing something you’ve worked on for so many months come together is brilliant, but feeling the atmosphere in the room and seeing our guests get so excited about our product offering is even better!
The event gets us all feeling really Christmassy – even in the middle of a heatwave! We do have to have lots of air conditioning units in the room to stop the beautiful chocolate cakes from melting, but you forget it’s the middle of July. It’s always strange coming back in to work the next day and talking about summer BBQs again.
There are lots of exciting things to look out for this Christmas across the whole store. We have everything from delicious mince pies – our Extra Special ones always taste incredible and have that perfect crisp, buttery pastry to mincemeat ratio – to a range of exciting new cheeses perfect for an after-lunch treat. My favourite is the Extra Special Spanish Aged Cheese with Black Truffle.
One thing to look out for this year is our Christmas Eve Box. We know more and more of our customers like to get in to the festive spirit early and the Box is a perfect thing to fill with little presents for the family to open ahead of the big day – I’m hoping for some of our Christmas PJs in mine this year!
My favourite product this year has to be our Vegan Chocolate Caramel Pots. I don’t follow a vegan diet but they just taste amazing. They’re everything you’d expect in an indulgent dessert – even finished with gold glitter for that extra festive sparkle – but they’re dairy free.
Inclusivity as a whole is something we’ve really looked at this year, as it’s important to make sure anyone who has a food allergy or intolerance or follows a specific diet doesn’t feel like they’re missing out. Our teams have worked really hard to make sure there’s something in every category which not only ticks a box for being suitable for, say, coeliacs or vegans but also tastes just as good as the main range.
I also love our new Gingerbread Gin Liquer. Anything gingerbread flavoured gets my vote and mixed with our triple-distilled gin, it’s a definite winner.
As we’ve still got a few months to go until the big day our product teams are still working hard on a couple of showstopping extras. Our main aim is to make Christmas as stress-free and enjoyable for our customers as possible, so that’s always front of mind when thinking about what products they want to see on our shelves.
There’s always a real buzz around all of our Christmas activity though and it’s great to see how passionate our colleagues are about delivering the best possible festive season for our customers.
There’s still plenty more to come for the festive season – the Christmas in July show is just the start of our celebrations.