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by Kate McMahon

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This year, the traditional Thanksgiving turkey can expect some newcomers to the table – as in gluten-free side dishes, Hanukkah latkes and smartphones snagging pre-Black Friday deals.

So one can surmise by perusing the internet, where even is touting gluten-free pumpkin pie and Manischewitz’ Facebook page is holding a “Happy Thanksgivukah” recipe contest. And we all know shopping in stores and online starts well before the dessert plates are cleared.

The demand for and prevalence of gluten-free recipes is also no surprise, given the explosive growth in that industry. But is it a rare alignment of calendars – a late Thanksgiving and an early first day of Hanukkah - which has led to the celebration of “Thanksgivukah” on Thursday, Nov. 28th. The last time the two holidays coincided was back in 1888.

Both trends present unique opportunities for retailers and marketers.

I knew gluten-free was more than a fad when I encountered gluten-free concession stands in three major league ballparks last year. And I’ve happily revamped many menus to accommodate gluten-free dinner guests (yes on quinoa and corn chips, no on couscous.)

Recent research by Mintel shows the gluten-free food and beverage industry is forecasted to reach $10.5 billion this year, after surging 44% from 2011-2013. The incidence of celiac disease affects only 1% of the U.S. population, but 65% of consumers who eat or used to eat gluten-free foods do so because they believe them to be healthier, and 27% eat them because they think such foods help with weight loss efforts.

Interestingly, the smaller retailer in my community has a much more extensive, well-displayed gluten-free section than its competitor, part of a larger national chain. I don’t know if that is a trend or an exception, but the holiday season is an ideal opportunity for stores to promote gluten-free products, even featuring specific recipes. For Thanksgiving that would certainly include gluten-free pie crusts and gravy, dessert alternatives and of course, stuffing. The spicy cornbread stuffing on the Saveur site would be a winner at any table.

Which brings us to Thanksgivukah, or in some circles spelled Thanksgivukkah, which most experts consider to be a once-in-lifetime occurrence. The folks at Manischewitz, the nation’s leading producer of kosher foods, have launched a multi-platform social media and marketing campaign to celebrate the day. There’s plenty of humor on the microsite and on Facebook, including a graphic of the Hanukkah candelabra topped by a turkey, complete with Pilgrim hat.

There is also a mash-up recipe contest with a $1,000 prize, a presence on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, and witty e-cards for family members to share and the chance to win special Thanksgiving dreidels.

Beyond the one hybrid holiday, the campaign also furthers Manischewitz’ goal to introduce its brand, particularly its broths for cooking, to a wider, non-Kosher audience.

Not to be outdone, New York’s Zucker Bakery has created a Thanksgivukkah special – a traditional Hanukkah donut made of pumpkin dough and stuffed with turkey and cranberry, turkey gravy or just cranberry sauce. Pair that with a gluten-free latke, and the traditional turkey is in good company.

There’s still time to participate in our informal MNB survey – who prepares the Thanksgiving turkey in your household? Male, female or joint endeavor? Email me at .
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