With 2005 predicted to be a scorcher and 10 million households opting for al fresco dining, the nation’s BBQs will be sizzling with opportunity for the canny c-store retailer. Kate Miller reports.

It only takes a hint of sunshine for the traditional summer cry of ‘chuck some petrol on it’ to be heard in gardens up and down the land as the nation’s dads return to their primordial roots in the quest for fire. Shy, retiring suburbanites, not usually given to such urges, are reduced to desperate grunts as they try to bring life to the rusting BBQ which has been sitting uncovered in the corner of the garden throughout the winter. The average Brit will squeeze every last drop out of a sunny day. Phil Lynas, managing director of The Grocery Company, UK distributors of Nandos sauces, says the difference between a good summer and a bad one can mean as much as a 15-20% swing in sales of the company’s marinade sauces, which see a boost as the nation gets barbecuing.

Interbrew managing director take home Stuart MacFarlane says: “You only have to look back to 2003 to see how much and how quickly beer shifts off shelves during a prolonged spell of hot weather.

“Some of our brands, such as Castlemaine XXXX, quadrupled their sales, while sales of 24x33cl NRB packs of Stella Artois almost doubled and our total beer business increased in value by 45%. “In total, an extra £9.5m of sales were generated over just seven weeks, and this was achieved on the back of consumer demand driven by the exceptional weather, not by progressive discounting.”

Beverage Brands marketing director Karen Salters says weather can have a major impact on people’s drinking habits: “A spell of fine summer weather is generally good news for the take home market because there is an increase in home entertainment. This provides an immediate boost for sectors such as lager and alcoholic RTDs.”

Tiger Tiger general manager Tom Metson agrees: “While our overall business is not particularly seasonally sensitive, certain lines experience a definite uplift during the summer months.” So the news that this summer could, according to the long range forecast, see the hottest day in British history – August 12 at 39.6° C, or 103° F – will be welcomed by manufacturers and retailers alike.

NEW BARBECUE TRENDS

According to the National BBQ Association (NBQA), more than half the households in the country own a BBQ grill. In 2004, despite poor weather, the average number of BBQs held per family was nine, which makes a total of 75 million BBQs – double the figure for 2002. And the average spend per BBQ has doubled too, from £14 in 2002 to £28, and far from being just a weekend activity, the fastest growth has been in the weekday after-work BBQ. Whereas in 2002 seven out of 10 BBQs were pre-planned, now it’s only about five. Food for BBQs is still left until the last minute, with 85% of people making the decision of what to eat and drink on the day.

Metson says: “BBQ is aspirational, and the Brits’ desire for a taste of the California lifestyle is indomitable. Just look at the sales of outdoor heaters and the number of pavement cafes that have sprouted across our high streets over the past few years. Marry this trend toward al fresco dining with the rise of at-home entertaining and it’s no wonder the BBQ market is set to burgeon.”

Adam Vincent, manager of Budgens in Stoke-sub-Hamdon in Somerset, says the aspirational nature of BBQs means customers are happy to trade up to premium goods.

“It used to be salad cream and tomato ketchup, now it’s organic garlic mayonnaise. It almost equates to keeping up with the Jones’, because people will upgrade their products if they have guests round.” He says the premium bag salads the shop stocks will outsell own label two-to-one “because the perception with the neighbours will be much better”.

Lynas agrees: “We’ve done work with the Future Foundation and the general feedback is that people are saying they would much rather have a BBQ than a dinner party. They’re much more acceptable now.” NBQA president Brian George says snobbery isn’t the only factor driving premium purchases as the British get more adventurous in their BBQ food. While burgers and sausages still account for around 20% of food eaten at BBQs, poultry, lamb, fish, kebabs and prime cuts of beef are gaining popularity. “People have become more adventurous in terms of barbecuing, and the NBQA has termed this market evolution a shift from sausage to swordfish and burger to brochette,” says George.

Metson agrees: “Gone are the days when a soggy sausage and an over-cooked burger would suffice. Today’s consumers are looking for something different – especially when they’re entertaining – but they’re also looking for the easy-prep option and convenience.” The company has a speciality range of Caribbean products, including hot pepper sauce and mild jerk sauce, which can be used as marinades and side of plate, and a range of pre-cooked chicken pieces in traditional Indian and Oriental marinades, which can be cooked on the BBQ from frozen. According to Lynas: “The growing trends are hot and spicy. People are using more flavours on their meat and being more adventurous.” He says Nandos is looking at new flavours for marinades, with launches earmarked for next year. The company has recently launched a peri peri ketchup and peri peri BBQ sauce.

Kraft Foods brand manager James Halliday says: “Consumers look to the accompaniment sector to help them recreate Mediterranean-style dishes. Sales of ambient dressing are growing by almost 5% year on year and are driven by sales of familiar flavours that are accessible to a range of tastes but also provide a little inspiration in the kitchen and help recreate tastes experienced on holiday.” The company has packed its four top lines of dressings in cases of six to appeal to c-stores and is adding a new dressing, light yogurt & cucumber, bringing the ‘light’ range to nine variants.

The relish market is also responding to changing consumer tastes. According to figures from IRI MAT (January 2005), the relish sector is worth around £5m but is experiencing a 7% decline. Branston, owned by Premier Foods, is seeking to build on the success the brand is enjoying with its Squeezy range with the launch of Branston Relishes, targeting the hot food and BBQ markets. The relishes come in four varieties, with a rrp of £1.39.

Premier Foods believes the innovation in the relish sector will lead to a £2m category growth over the next three years. The launch will be backed by in-store support and will benefit from a £3.5m investment in the Branston brand this year.

While fresh is seen as the choice of meat for BBQs, Metson is quick to point out that opportunities lie in frozen as well.

He comments: “The beauty of premarinated frozen meat products is that they can be stored in readiness for those sudden bursts of summer which so often lead to an impromptu BBQ. This of course means less waste for the consumer and much less waste for the retailer.” Tom Hazeldon, category development manager, small store format, Unilever Ice Cream & Frozen Food, says retailers can help consumers get over their reluctance to using frozen burgers such as Birds Eye on the BBQ, thinking they’ll fall apart. “This does not happen with our burgers, as they can be cooked straight from frozen,” says Hazeldon. “And don’t forget, 40% of frozen food shoppers are loyal to their local store and known to spend twice as long in-store than other shoppers.”

TIME FOR A TIPPLE

For the drinks market, the barbecue season sees huge opportunity for retailers. According to Interbrew managing director, take home sales, Stuart MacFarlane, the average beer consumption at a barbecue is equivalent to two 12 packs, which presents a big volume opportunity to drive beer sales. Interbrew will be launching Brahma, one of the most popular beers in Brazil, onto the UK off-trade market in August/September following an on-trade launch into leading edge bars in May. The brand, targeted at the 21-34 age group, is being introduced here as part of a global rollout.

Another beer popular in Brazil, Lokal Bier, brewed in Rio de Janeiro, is being launched in the UK. The beer, imported by Pierhead Purchasing, is brewed using mountain mineral water and has an abv of 4.7%. Cases can be delivered anywhere within the UK. Rrp is £1.19 per bottle.

Scottish Courage Brands head of customer marketing Paul Stanger says: “The main push from the beer industry is the move towards the bottle over can for the barbie occasion. Many beer brands are adopting a ‘cold beer positioning’ in the on- and off-trade and this adds to the rational benefits of lager at the BBQ occasion.”

The company is supporting Foster’s with a £40m spend this year, including the biggest ever summer support for the brand and an advertisement specifically for Scotland. Support includes TV ads, general advertising and a programme of BBQ promotions.

Coors Brewers’ activity for the summer market includes the new Coors temperature-sensitive cans, which turn blue when the beer is cold enough to drink, and a campaign inviting consumers to write in if they don’t think the Coors Fine Light Beer lives up to its ‘Epic Refreshment’ tag.

Four packs of the 330ml bottles feature a money-back voucher inviting consumers to claim the cost price if the product fails to deliver. The company is investing £50m into Coors Fine Light Beer in its first four years.

LOW SUGAR, BETTER FLAVOUR

Within alcoholic RTDs, low sugar and better flavour seem to be the driving themes for the summer. Diageo has promised to invigorate the category with the launch of Archers Vea, aimed at women in the 21-30 age bracket. The launch has been backed by a £4m spend on TV, poster campaigns and sampling. Currently, only 275ml bottles and four-packs are available but they will be joined by 70cl bottles in July.

Bacardi launched its Half Sugar variants of Bacardi Breezer last month, aimed at 25-35-year-olds. The launch is being backed by a £2.5m marketing campaign including print ads, posters, promotions and sampling through to July. Single bottles, four packs and 70cl bottles will be available. In June, pos kits will be available. Bacardi has 24 bottles of Half Sugar to use as prizes in the consumer promotion whereby consumers who buy a bottle of Bacardi Breezer will receive a scratchcard to see if they have won a free bottle. Wholesale activity follows in July with retailers who buy six cases of Bacardi Breezer receiving a free case of Half Sugar. Beverage Brands managing director Karen Salter says: “The summer is a massive sales opportunity for the alcoholic RTD sector and WKD because of the refreshing qualities of these brands. The fact is not everyone will want to drink lager and may be looking for major RTD brands such as WKD.

“Increasingly, the RTD category is revolving around the success of a handful of big brands. The top three brands – Smirnoff Ice, WKD and Bacardi Breezer – account for 52% of take home RTD sales, demonstrating the growing concentration of sales.”

In the lower-alcohol RTD section, The House of Remy Martin launched its RemyRed into the UK earlier this year. The 16% abv drink, launched in the US in 2003, is a fruit-based drink with cognac aimed at female drinkers. RemyRed comes in three variants – red berry infusion, strawberry kiwi infusion and grape berry infusion.

Pimms, traditional ‘posh’ drink of the summer, is jumping on the barbecue bandwagon. Senior brand manager Candice Burton says: “We’ve always been associated with summer outdoor eating but never put it at the heart of our creativity. Pimms is about summer and socialising, and BBQs are the same, so it’s an obvious link.” The drive is to interest new, younger drinkers to the brand, especially with the RTD can and, newly launched onto the off-trade, 1ltr ready-to-serve Pimms and lemonade (equivalent to a jug’s worth), retailing at £5.99.

The RTD cans have been updated for a more modern look, and limited edition jug packs, cooler jackets, cool bags and T-shirts will be available to off-trade retailers.

All this points to a major opportunity for c-stores to cash in on the trend for impulse al fresco dining – supplying everything from the disposable grills to food and drink. Tiger Tiger’s Metson says: “C-stores are ideally placed to meet the needs of the take-home and barbecue market.” But he warns against competing with the multiples on pricing: “Your average c-store customer is there because the store does what it says on the tin – it’s convenient. “Having said that, even in the case of distress purchases, it’s worth remembering consumers have a long memory. If you can show you are offering good product at a fair price, they’ll return time and again.”

The Grocery Company’s Lynas says c-stores can learn from the multiples by cross-selling product and deciding what it is their customers want: “C-stores are on the way home. They’ll catch the people who decide to have a BBQ that evening. In this market people aren’t promoting so much on price. People want a certain flavour and will pay for it. Retailers should chase display, not deals.”

Budgens store manager Adam Vincent agrees, saying that siting products together makes all the difference. “We tend to push the longer life sauces into the meat ranges, so when people are picking up meat or chicken they’ll pick up sauces. Tin foil works in the same way: if it’s there, people will buy it. It’s a real chance to capitalise on impulse buys.” 

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS

He also utilises a freezer for further impulse buys by siting beer with party ice: “You’d be surprised how many people get a dustbin for their beer and fill it up with party ice.” He says having vegetarian options available is equally important: “There needs to be a variety – vegetarian burgers and sausages and things like frozen prawns.”

Maxxium UK national account manager Eve Gorrara says: “The opportunities for c-store retailers are to offer the consumers ‘solutions’ for summer drinking occasions, for example to offer promotions around linking a mixer and a key spirit like Plymouth Gin and a tonic. Try to site mixers and spirits near each other to encourage cross purchasing.” She says crime can often lead retailers to be reluctant to site spirits in an aisle location, stifling impulse purchases: “C-store retailers have a genuine concern about theft, and because of this spirits tend to be sited behind the counter.

“To achieve maximum profit from summer take home, retailers should make a feature of their spirits category, highlighting offers and the range available. This should involve creating a space to merchandise offers or special packs. Shoppers are looking for interesting offers and exciting new products to try.” Scottish Courage Brands head of customer marketing Paul Stanger says: “BBQ now forms the main theme of many ‘seasonal aisles’ away from the regular fixture. Although this can require a considerable amount of merchandising, it’s the best way to increase average shopping basket size for BBQ purchase.

“The only issue with this is that while most BBQ items can be displayed at ambient temperature, BBQ meats require to be chilled.” He advocates storing BBQ displays at the front of the store.

Salters adds: “To maximise the sales opportunity, retailers need to focus on driving sales of the pillar brands by putting the display focus on them, both on the fixture and in the chiller. That’s the recipe for success each and every summer.”

But the popularity of barbecuing in summer can lead to out-of stocks, meaning convenience stores miss out on the chance of sales. Lynas says: “By not stocking you run out on Saturday and miss out Sunday sales.”

Salter says: “The unpredictable nature of the British weather means it is difficult for retailers to predict when the sales rush will arrive during the summer months. This presents a bigger challenge for retailers this year because there is no major sporting event such as Euro 2004 to generate guaranteed sales momentum at a designated time.”

Pimms’ Burton says: “The key is to make it really easy for the consumer so they can go into the store and the products are there. Consumers want to know they’ll find what they are looking for when they need it on a sunny day.” To aid retailers, the brand is offering hot weather alerts so retailers can plan for sunny periods via the Pimms website.

The brand’s ready to serve Pimms and lemonade 1tre bottle has now been launched to the entire off trade, which Diageo says is bringing new drinkers in the 20-30 age bracket to the brand.

WEATHER REPORT

The key to coping with the British weather, says Budgen’s manager Adam Vincent, is being clever in the long term for the short term rush. He says: “I buy things on offer earlier and stockpile them so I know I have them. It does tie up cash but it gives me the opportunity to plan ahead, and you can often buy stock at better margins at other times of the year and sit on it if it’s a long sell-by date.” Adam keeps ahead of possible rushes by checking the BBC website for weather reports every day. “It can mean several hundred pounds on your sales, so you’ve got to try to second guess what’s going to happen. You have to be massively organised.” He also keeps a supply of long life rolls just in case any supply problems occur: “I call it my get-out-of-jail card.”

He says that while his peak trade times are usually around 5-6pm in the summer, the barbecuers tend to stretch the busy times slightly later.

MacFarlane says: “Understanding the dynamics of the BBQ market is key if retailers are to make the most of the sales opportunity. The big rush to stock up on beer for BBQs will be on a Friday and Saturday when beer purchasing is at a natural peak and when out-of stocks are a major issue. “It is therefore essential for retailers to have a strategy in place to ensure on-shelf availability to capture this uplift in sales.” When it comes to selling drinks, Adam says the onus is on chilled. “If it’s not chilled, the customers are less interested.” He has a five metre chiller which he splits into two metre white and rosé wine and the rest to lager.

“Last year we took one of the shelves out of the chiller and put multipacks in there, If you can sell 12 packs rather than four, you’re going to make more money.” During the summer, if a good weekend is forecast Adam wheels out another, one metre chiller which he fills with multipack lager. Anything he can’t fit in the shop chiller he puts in the back walk-in chiller so it’s chilled when it comes to restocking. LOCAL ADVERTISING
Getting people into the store is another matter and hinges on good promotions and front of store display: “Half the battle is making people notice it,” says Adam. He is driving custom through the door by utilising local radio and putting a large banner advertising his BBQ offering, complete with helium balloons, on the main road.

“We’re pulling people off the road. If they’re going to the supermarket in Yeovil and they see the banner, they will pull off.” Adam has also put up English bunting to coincide with the televising of the Wimbledon tennis.

As for the future, the Brits’ love affair with the sun sees no danger of abating: “We see nothing but growth for the take home and BBQ markets,” says Metson. “They perfectly complement each other. Entertaining at home will continue to boom.” 

BBQ FACTS

BBQs are most popular in the South East, West Country and East Anglia, followed by the Midlands, North East, North West, Wales and Scotland

The UK is beaten only by Germany in its love of BBQs

Couples are three times more likely than singles to host a BBQ

A popular social event, 33% of men and 34% of women attend between three to five BBQs a year

Charcoal is the most popular fuel for BBQs.

RETAILER'S VIEW

Adam Vincent, manager, Budgens, Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset says the BBQ period offers a massive opportunity to retailers. The shop has a two metre grocery fixture dedicated to BBQs plus eight metres of chilled fruit and veg, 1.25mtrs of fresh cut meat and 1.25mtrs of bacon, sausages and so on. “We sell everything from peppers to chicken for kebabs, BBQ trays, skewers, coals, marinades, even scented candles to keep away insects. These days it’s not just about charcoal, burgers and buns; the consumers want everything.” He says that while a lot of people still buy charcoal, instant lighting BBQs are the most popular choice. He points out that even non-BBQ items can help sales – he stocks water pistols and large footballs for extra sales. Of peripheral buys, he says he focuses on multipack crisps and kettle chips 200g, also on 2ltr bottles of carbonates, often offering bulk buy-two-get-one-free deals.

SUMMER PROMOS

Pimm’s is building its association with barbecues this year with a £4m spend on marketing which will run until the end of August. Three TV ads continue to use the ‘Hooray’ Harry character and radio advertising will direct consumers to a hotline number which will feature recorded barbecue tips from Harry. The brand has also launched a website www.anyoneforpimms.com built round barbecues which will feature an exclusive online ad.

Mateus is backing its Tempranillo launch with a £1.2m advertising and marketing spend to recruit the 20–35-year-old age group in the first phase of a campaign to fully establish Mateus as a specialist brand in rosé wines.

Stowells is sponsoring ITV’s Holiday Showdown as part of the brand’s Taste the World £1.5m marketing campaign. The first programme in the series aired yesterday (June 2) and will run until July 19. The sponsorship will be supported by consumer and trade PR.

Gordon’s Gin summer activity is a print and poster campaign which began in May aimed at driving sales of Gordon’s gin, Gordon’s sloe gin and Gordon’s Distiller’s cut. The three posters in the campaign, one for each variant, continue the theme of the TV advertisement which highlights Gordon’s as ‘The Colourful Gin’. The posters will be featured in Underground stations in London and Glasgow plus at other locations around the country. A print campaign runs across weekend newspaper supplements and a radio ad will complete the marketing.

SPONSORS OF THE NATIONAL BBQ 2005

Watch out for the sponsors of National BBQ 2005. The brands will benefit from a marketing campaign running until August and worth over £3m in terms of media impact. Events include this week’s National Barbecue Week, running until June 5, and a nationwide sampling and demonstration programme.

GrillMaster is focusing on its GrillMaster’s Revenge range of four sauces and four marinades in hexaganol bottles. The changing tastes of British consumers are illustrated in the newest sponsor of National BBQ 2005 – the Discover range of Mediterranean-style cheeses including salad feta, halloumi and mozzarella.

The British Turkey sector Group (BTSG) is targeting consumers with the ‘Try it with Turkey’ slogan in its bid to make turkey a year-round meat.

Welsh Lamb is focusing on its low-fat, easy-to-prepare qualities with recipe ideas and a booklet giveaway.

Seafish will be highlighting the fact that fish products containing a certain amount of omega-3 and carry a new heart health claim on the packaging after receiving approval from the Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI).

Sutter Home will be using the sponsorship to highlight several of its wines – White Zinfandel 2003, Unoaked Chardonnay 2003 and its Sutter Home Fre range of alcohol-free wines.

Zip is highlighting the benefits of its single wrapped firelighters which showed a huge growth in 2004.

CUSTOMER CORNER

Pahrti McHugh, Bewbush, Crawley, West Sussex

“I love barbecuing; chicken, corn on the cob, burgers, sausages, salads. I marinade chicken with yogurt, salt, chilli powder, garlic, green chillis and a bit of brown sugar. it’s lovely. We drink wines, beers, spirits and have loads of friends round. If the weather’s nice, we’ll have one every Sunday.”

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