Friendsgiving has become a popular companion event to Thanksgiving—or even an alternative one for people who can’t or don’t celebrate the official holiday—and the trend of friends gathering to celebrate the unofficial holiday isn’t slowing down.
According to data collected by online invitation website Evite, Friendsgiving events have grown an average of 34.8% year-over-year for the last five years. And in 2018, more than 432,000 people were invited to Friendsgiving parties through Evite, with 39% of events occurring the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
More brands are taking note of the rising popularity of Friendsgiving, which has been the focus of recent experiential events, social campaigns and product launches from brands including Google, Grey Goose and Sabra.
Taco Bell, however, has been celebrating Friendsgiving before it became a go-to event for marketers. The fast food company launched its annual Friendsgiving program in 2013, which involves a dinner hosted for influencers and select fans of the brand at its headquarters in Irvine, Calif.
The chain, which regularly engages consumers in unique ways, also releases a new recipe on its website each year for fans of the brand who can’t attend the dinner. This year’s recipe is for rolled chicken tacos bisque.
Tracee Larocca, svp of brand engagement and advertising for Taco Bell, said the Friendsgiving dinner began as a way to give back to creators and fans who posted regularly about the brand on social media.
“Taco Bell’s Friendsgiving has always been about creating a moment to gather with our closest friends and biggest supporters to say ‘thank you’ the best way we know how—through food,” Larocca said.
For the seventh annual event, which takes place Nov. 21, the brand partnered with local businesses and farmers to develop a menu with items such as Mexican rice arancini, nacho fries au gratin and sauce packet-flavored compound butter with Parker House rolls.
“We don’t look at this as a campaign at all, but rather a time for us to deepen our connections and relationships with some of our biggest fans,” Larocca said. “It’s not about curating the perfect Instagram story either—it’s really about the true meaning of Friendsgiving, which is to enjoy great food and hang out with our friends.”
Helping with Friendsgiving recipe ideas
Naturally, other food brands have hopped on the Friendsgiving trend, including Sabra. The hummus brand launched a gamified campaign on Pinterest, inviting users to answer a choose your own adventure-style questionnaire that creates personalized recipe boards based on their individual needs and tastes.
The three-question game, available on the Pinterest app and website, asks users to identify themselves as a Friendsgiving guest or host, the vibe they want (such as “fancy” or “low key”) and what kind of dish they want to bring to the table—options include classic, quick and easy, or vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Completing the quiz takes users to a personalized board with recipes that incorporate Sabra products, like vegan hummus roasted garlic mashed potatoes, Italian hummus bruschetta, and hummus and broccoli rabe-topped sweet potatoes.
Sabra CMO Jason Levine said the brand decided to launch its first Friendsgiving campaign on Pinterest because the social platform is a popular hub for people to find recipes and ways to personalize events. And one of the brand’s ongoing objectives is to inspire consumers to think of hummus as more than just a dip.
“Consumers are really embracing the opportunity to share food they love with people they care about, beyond the more traditional holidays with a more traditional set of customs or traditions,” Levine said. “While Thanksgiving is an occasion steeped in tradition, Friendsgiving is more about creating an occasion customized to you and your circle of friends. With this insight, we teamed with Pinterest to put this choose-your-own-adventure concept to work.”