The Big Night In is becoming a real family affair, says Gaelle Walker

Less sleep, time or money. A new baby can deliver a world of changes for mums and dads, but as new parents Sarah and Brendan discovered after the birth of baby Alfie, it doesn't have to mean less socialising.
Sarah and Brendan have swapped boozy nights in the pub - totally impractical when juggling baby, breast-feeding, buggies and burping - for cosy nights in on the sofa with friends.
And statistics show that they are not alone in plumping for this more practical, sanity-saving option.
According to research by Britvic, 39% of adults have a Big Night In with friends or family at least once a fortnight - providing retailers with significant profit opportunities.
And the fact that hiring a baby-sitter can add an extra £20-£30 to a night out, means people like Sarah and Brendan are choosing to have their Big Nights In with their children.
When Sarah went shopping for groceries for her Big Night In with some of her old university pals, she made sure that she picked up a wide selection of soft and alcoholic drinks - a 12-pack of Kronenbourg for the boys, wine for the girls and some adult soft drinks for the designated drivers and her friend Louise, who is two months' pregnant.
A large carton of Tropicana orange juice was Sarah's personal choice - with a young baby to breast feed she's keen to stay off the wagon for a few more months.
The drink is also packed full of vitamin C to help fight off those winter colds.
Experts predict that an increased awareness of health issues will have a major impact on the soft drinks category this year, and will continue to shape the market in the long term, boosting the popularity of drinks with added health benefits, higher juice and reduced sugar content.
When it came to food Sarah was determined not to spend her time slaving away over a hot stove. Hence, she opted for a selection of Goodfella's new La Bottega premium pizzas. The range is the only frozen pizza range to be inspired by one of Italy's finest restaurants - the Michelin-starred La Bottega del 30. Sarah's personal favourite is the prosciutto e funghi flavour - a ciabatta base, stone-baked with olive oil to a crisp finish, topped with Italian passata and piled with mozzarella, mushrooms, smoked ham, extra-virgin olive oil and oregano.
Sarah is not alone in looking for restaurant quality in her take-home food. Recent research by IGD revealed that almost four in five (78%) shoppers want retailers to do more to provide them with the luxury and quality that they associate with eating out in a restaurant when at home.
Sarah also bought a large pot of houmous and a couple of large sharing bags of Doritos as well as some Pringles, to snack on while the pizzas are cooking.
Large sharing snacks currently account for a 20.5% value share of the crisps and snacks market, with annual growth of 4%, according to IRI data for July 2006.
For pudding, Sarah decided to prepare a fresh fruit salad. And as a Big Night In isn't complete without some chocolate treats, Sarah bagged two boxes of After Eights - one for her friends and one for later.


inside story



The prospect of a cheap evening at home in the warm company of friends and family is one which will appeal to many at the moment. The festive season may be well and truly over, but plenty of consumers are still battling to pay off credit card bills, and cold dark nights are forecast for some time yet,
In fact, the ban on smoking in public places, longer working hours and advances in in-home entertainment systems mean that an increasing number of consumers are getting together in the home, rather than pub, club, or restaurant. As a result, snack products designed for sharing in the home are enjoying a surge in popularity.
Pepsico has identified two distinct consumer occasions for sharing products: social sharing for four or more people; and more intimate sharing for two people, normally a partner or close friend. In response, it has changed the pack sizes of its Walkers Sensations and Doritos brands.
Sensations, previously sold in 150g bags, is now available in 105g and 175g bags, while Doritos is now available in 140g and 245g bags instead of 200g bags.
Merchandising crisps and bagged snack products alongside alcoholic beverages and soft drinks is now a proven way of increasing sales, and last year saw a number of manufacturers team up with big-name drinks brands to do so.
Pepsico teamed up with E&J Gallo Wine to offer consumers the chance to win £3m-worth of Gallo wine if they bought a winning pack of Walkers Sensations. The promotion was a hit, and the brand enjoyed significantly inflated sales in 2007.
In addition, Musgrave Retail Partners worked with Diageo to create a new 'Grab and Go' unit for Budgens and Londis stores. The three-tiered stand holds spirit bottles, mixers and adult bagged snacks to maximise sales of Big Night In staples and gifting lines.
This year the focus will move to more premium products and exotic flavours, as well as healthy eating concerns. Says Kettle Foods marketing director Andrew Slamin: "Many consumers now seek options without MSG and artificial additives. With 68% of consumers preferring natural foods, it's clear that awareness in this area will continue to grow."
The brand recently launched three new flavours - sweet chilli, sour cream & chive and honey barbecue -and has big plans for 2008.
United Biscuits UK is starting the year with something new, too. In come sharing bags in four of its leading brands - Mini Cheddars, Twiglets, Hula Hoops Original and Skips. It is also introducing a limited edition to the McCoy's range this month. New McCoy's Takeaways will be available in three flavours: southern fried chicken wings, chicken curry, and Chinese sweet & sour rib.
Pringles' innovation comes in the form of new Prawn Cocktail flavour, while Pepsico is building on the growing trend of in-home sharing of nuts with the revamp of its Nobby's Nuts brand.
Kepak Convenience Foods plans to invest heavily in its Rustlers' range this year, helping retailers promote hot snacks as the ideal choice for any Big Night In. Says Kepak Convenience Foods sales director Peter Fazal: "People planning a night in, whether it's a few beers with their mates or to watch a blockbuster movie, want tasty, filling snacks that can be prepared quickly and conveniently. One of the advantages of the Rustlers range is that each of the seven products can be cooked in just 70 seconds, less than the time it takes for a commercial break or to watch a movie trailer."

Share options



As the popularity of the Big Night In increases so, too, does the market for sharing confectionery.
Sales of confectionery sharing bags have grown by just under 10% in value in the past three years, and now account for 14% of all confectionery sales, according to Nestlé Rowntree.
The manufacturer plans to attract an even greater number of consumers to the category in 2008 by further developing its portfolio of brands. Last year it introduced a pure milk chocolate version of its Aero bitesize format, and a new sharing bag of Quality Street.
"Confectionery to share is a growing trend," says Nestlé UK trade communications manager Graham Walker. "Retailers looking to capitalise should ensure that they stock a range of sharing bags from big brands which suit a variety of consumers' needs."
Bep Sandhu, Mars trade relations manager, goes so far as to say that the Big Night In occasion is now so popular that retailers should consider dedicating specific areas of their store to the event and create secondary displays of confectionery next to cold drinks, DVDs and ice cream. Mars Snackfood sales data shows that an additional siting can help increase sales by nearly 10%.
The manufacturer has created a range of merchandising equipment to help duel-site confectionery, such as the 'Slim Jim' - a 30cm square and 1.5m high freestanding unit designed to hold bitesize packs, and the vertical chiller suction unit, which attaches to the chiller wall to keep bitesize pouches cold in the summer months.
Mars Snackfood claims that its resealable pouches have grown total sharing bags sales by 13% since their launch in 2005, with Maltesers accounting for almost a quarter (23%) of the bitesize market.
Kraft is also hoping to grab a larger slicer of the pie in 2008 after the launch of its new One by One varieties. The twistwrap product caters for the taste preferences of a range of consumers, making it another popular choice for sharing during a night in. The 200g box is the ideal size for independent retailers as it comes in a case of nine units with shelf-ready packaging for greater impact in stores.
Terry's Dazzling Dark Mint Chocolate Orange is also proving to be a hit with consumers. Kraft Foods convenience customer director Dave McNulty says. "Limited editions of Chocolate Orange have proven to drive sales. They create excitement at point of purchase, bring new customers to the brand and encourage multiple purchases. They are also perfect for groups as they break into individual Chocolate Orange segments which are easy to share."
Also made for sharing
are Walkers Nonsuch Toffee's range of Stand Up 400g bags.

Just chilling



Research suggests that most drinks purchased for Big Nights In with friends or family are done so just a few hours prior to the event, or immediately before, when guests drop into stores to pick up drinkable gifts on their way over.
"Chilling is a major USP for independents because retailers in other trade sectors don't offer it - so it's something that independents can really focus on," says Simon Harrison, commercial director wholesale at InBev UK.
The company is helping retailers cater for the growing demand for chilled with new Stella Artois sub-zero chillers. The chillers cool the beer to -4°C, helping it to remain cool even when the consumer has got it home.
Karen Salters, marketing director of Beverage Brands, the manufacturer of WKD, agrees that the chiller is the winner for Big Nights In. She says: "Our research shows that when a shopper pops into a local store to buy some RTDs, they are more often than not on their way round to see some mates. They want something that is ready to drink so look in the chiller first."
Chilling RTDs can increase sales by 10%, according to the FWD's Blueprint Research, and best of all is the fact that 53% of shoppers are happy to pay more for chilled drinks.
Having an adequate amount of chilled four-packs in the fridge is another top tip for boosting sales, as research by InBev shows that 82% of chilled beer purchases are four-packs.
The increasing appetite for Big Nights In has also been whetted by the unprecedented choice in premium drinks that's now available in the off trade, believes Scottish & Newcastle UK head of customer marketing Carol Saunders,.
"This means that 'pub quality' drinks can now be readily enjoyed at home, and this has opened up a huge new sales opportunity for retailers," she says.
S&N has responded to this trend by expanding and refreshing its repetoire of brands. It recently unveiled a stylish new look for Kronenbourg 1664 and Kronenbourg Premier Cru, which encourages consumers to consider them as an ideal food accompaniment, particularly during informal meal occasions.
However, as well as stocking all the big-name brands retailers should make space in the chiller for innovative ones. Last year Beverage Brands launched Caledonian Cooler, a low-calorie fruit flavoured vodka and sparkling water based RTD.
Meanwhile, Shloer is to embark on its first ever TV sponsorship. The brand, which is targeted at young women, is sponsoring the third series of Living's hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance, which runs until April 2008. A new Shloer ad campaign will air during breaks.


lighting up time



The trend towards increased socialising at home also presents a big opportunity for UK retailers to grow their tobacco sales, particularly since the ban on smoking in public places came into effect last year around the UK.
Tobacco is an important category for retailers and is worth £13bn per year, with cigarettes alone accounting for more than £11.5bn a year - more than confectionery, soft drinks and snacks combined (ACNielsen 2006).
Gallaher advises retailers looking to grow their share of tobacco products to keep their gantries tidy, so that customers can see the products that they want and won't then go elsewhere for their usual favourite brand.
Imperial Tobacco's trade and communications manager Iain Watkins advises retailers to highlight, and group together where possible, Big Night In foods and home entertainment products such as DVDs, pizzas, snacks, confectionery and alcohol.
"This can help protect existing tobacco category sales and capitalise on the move to home socialising," he says.
He also advises retailers to get to grips with their local market. "Understand that local really means local in tobacco - more than 60% of an average independent retailer's tobacco turnover comes from people living within 440 yards of the store."

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