by Alexa Guidone, Marketing Project Analyst
As winter comes to an end and thoughts turn to spring, it means the end of short days, cold weather, and all the excuses to call out from work that those two conditions allow. But as winter departs so do the last big retail holidays until the fall — St. Patrick’s Day and Easter. So as we sleep off the last bit of that St. Paddy’s hangover and move from dying beer to dying eggs, let’s look at some of the numbers associated with these holidays.
Whether they are Irish or not, enough people celebrate St. Paddy’s in America that it has become a billion dollar industry — $4.14 billion to be exact. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average person will spend about $35.27 on St. Patrick’s items, ranging from green attire, home & office decorations, and the ever-present food and drinks. The largest two food and drinks on that list? Corned beef and cabbage and a proper pint of Guinness.
The U.S. beef industry puts out more than 26 billion pounds of beef a year, mostly from Texas. While no stats are available on just how much corned beef is produced in the U.S. or consumed on St. Patrick’s Day, it is safe to say it is more than was ever consumed by St. Patrick. That is because beef has been a historically rare food in the British Isles and was typically reserved for royalty. The Irish common folk’s staple was salt pork and cabbage, at least until they immigrated to the U.S. and found that beef was not expensive and that their local Jewish delis’ corned beef was pretty close to salted pork. Thus, the “Irish” dish of corned beef & cabbage is just as American as apple pie or hot dogs.
Guinness, however, is a custom actually rooted in Ireland. Every Guinness sold in the U.S. is brewed in Ireland, though the company has begun brewing elsewhere, notably in Africa and Indonesia as their worldwide appeal grows. The official line is that 5.5 million pints of Guinness consumed daily worldwide but that on St. Paddy’s Day that number nearly triples up to 13 million pints. That has to be some sort of beer-consumption record and probably should be tracked in some sort of record-keeping digest should someone or some company ever choose to create one. Ahem.
The last blip on your holiday radar, at least for a while, is Easter. Looking back to the NRF, their estimation of American spending for the day dedicated to bunnies & eggs was $16.8 billion last year meaning the average American spent close to $150 on candy, clothes, decorations and food; just about an 11% increase from 2011.
One Easter staple that we spend millions on, whether in bunny or chick form, is Peeps. The sugar-coated marshmallow’mals are all made in one big factory in Bethlehem, PA from a short list of ingredients including corn syrup (in its syrup form as well as in manufactured marshmallow), gelatin, sugar, and carnauba wax. If that last ingredient sounds familiar, that is probably because it is also the primary ingredient in car wax. This eyebrow-raising (but assuredly edible and non-toxic) ingredient is sourced from one country – Brazil – to the tune of 22,500 tons of it annually, a full quarter of which is destined for the U.S. to be used on cars, surfboards, and candy.
Alongside sugar-smothered animals, what would any holiday be without some kind representational flora? Like roses are to Valentine’s Day, Bermuda Lilies are to Easter. Originally brought to the US in 1919 from their native Ryukyu Island in Japan (fooled you there) 95% of the worlds “Easter Lillies“ are now cultivated by only ten growers located primarily along the California-Oregon border. Every year, in a sales window that spans about two week, this region produces and ships roughly 12 million bulbs to greenhouses in the US and Canada, that translates to about $1.2 Billion in flower sales for this holiday. Due to their popularity during the Easter season, Bermuda Lilies have become the fourth largest crop in whole sale value in the U.S. According to the USDA demand has increased so much so that the Pacific Bulb Growers Association now maintain their own research station used to help solve production problems.
As we welcome spring with the last major holiday, it’s time for a fact that corresponds to both holiday traditions: while Guinness no longer sanctions dangerous or gluttonous world records, famed eater Kobayashi set an official record by eating 25 peeps in 30 seconds last year. That’s a pretty serious game of “Chubby Bunny”.