While it might not seem like it just now, summer has officially begun. And we all know what that means: hayfever Wimbledon and firing up the barbecue at the first hint of sunshine. Of course, it’s the latter that really gets the tills ringing as shoppers seem to get carried away once there’s the slightest opportunity to sizzle sausages and burn burgers in the great outdoors.


That’s the number of adults in the UK who have a barbecue at home, according to TNS BMRB

Retailer Steve Bassett of Londis Weymouth in Dorset says that once the sun comes out, sales start hotting up, so it’s wise to be prepared. “It may seem early, but I’m already getting ready to put out displays of disposable barbecues and charcoal, because as soon as the weather breaks people want to have them,” he says. “The second the sun comes out, customers start asking about barbecue products, so it’s better to have them ready rather than wait until later on in the year and miss out.”

Allied Bakeries category director Guy Shepherd says convenience stores are better placed than the multiples to make the most of the barbecue season - something we have the weather to thank for.

“The frequent fluctuations in the British weather mean that barbecues can often be an impromptu decision, with consumers involved in a last-minute rush for rolls and meat products,” he says. “Convenience stores have a great opportunity to capitalise 
on this by stocking everything consumers need.”

He adds: “Over the summer months there are plenty of excuses to have a barbecue, with many school and bank holidays stretching across the summer. Barbecues provide a cost-efficient family activity, and can be the first point of call for consumers looking for an evening activity. These occasions mean that retailers have a number of opportunities to maximise sales, specifically at the weekend when 49% of BBQs take place, and in the evenings with 73% of BBQs running from 4-9pm (Kantar Worldpanel August 2012).”

Caroline Hoare, national account manager at disposable barbecue manufacturer Bar-be-quick, explains the British love affair with the barbecue: “Barbecuing has managed to retain its stance as a British institution over the years, as it very much embodies the fun-loving nation that we’re renowned for being,” she says.

Retailer’s view

“When the weather is good, our barbecue products do really well. It’s just getting that decent weather which is the difficulty. When we know it’s going to start getting warm, we set up a special display in the store which includes everything customers need for a barbecue.

“There’s a caravan park not too far away from us so once the summer starts we’ll stock more barbecue items as the people going there never pack food. We’re the nearest shop so they’ll come straight to us. We’ll have plenty of displays of summer goods as these are always popular, as well as some fresh meats in the chiller which sell really well when it’s barbecue season.”

Jag Purewal, Spar Romsley, Worcestershire

“Even with the most simple of menus, limited budget and lack of sunshine, Brits love getting together with friends and family during the summer months to have a barbecue. It’s so much more than a meal - it’s really become an occasion. The fact that barbecues are economical and so varied has contributed to their ongoing success.”

Shepherd adds that retailers need make sure they stock the basics to capitalise on sales. “Rolls remain a barbecue favourite. Purchased for 35% of barbecues, they are essential for burgers, sausages and cold meats at picnics,” he says. “In order to cater for consumers’ varied needs, retailers should consider stocking a wide range of rolls, such as Kingsmill’s range of white, 50/50 and wholemeal rolls. They’re easy to prepare and can be filled with barbecue favourites such as salad and cold meats. In fact, salads are the most popular non-meat items purchased for barbecues so retailers should consider cross-selling meats or rolls with salad items to drive sales.”

Hoare advises retailers to create a display dedicated to barbecue products to make shopping as simple as possible for customers. “Retailers can benefit from creating a seasonal area to not only help shoppers navigate their way around the shop, but also to help increase basket spend,” she says. “With so many summer-specific food and drink items available, it draws the customers’ attention when they’re marketed in-store collectively.”

Hoare says that if customers are prepared to eat outside, then why not take your barbecue displays al fresco? “Utilising outside space, such as the front of the shop, to display larger items is one way to create awareness of your stock,” she adds. “Also, displaying posters or POS material can help to raise awareness of your summer items.”

Unilever UK category manager Kieran Bansi agrees that displays are key to growth, and vital for lifting sales of allied products such as sauces and condiments.

“In 2012, we saw some retailers move away from placing sauces in BBQ seasonal aisles,” he says. “However, one retailer led the way with an ambient foods first - an ‘in aisle plinth’ of new BBQ lines - which helped lift sales during the key Jubilee period of 2012. This demonstrated the effectiveness of tapping into the consumer mentality of looking for inspiration around meal occasions.”

Bansi says that the sauces market suffered somewhat in 2012 due to the poor weather, so store owners need to make products as visible as possible. “Growth in sauces during the barbecue summer period was not as strong in 2012 as in 2011, down 3%, with 2012 being reported as the second worst summer on record,” he explains. “However, meal occasions and inspiration have a large part to play in category growth as consumers shop by meal occasion and not by component ingredients. Therefore, visibility is key for the barbecue occasion in 2013, and dual-siting complementary products such as dips and sauces with other BBQ items such as crisps and snacks will help promote cross-selling opportunities and increase sales.”

Snack time

With the economy showing no signs of improvement, staying in is the new going out. According to HIM research, 36% of consumers are entertaining at home more, and when friends and family get together the demand for sharing packs of savoury snacks shoots up.

The statistics back this up. Nielsen figures show that the sharing sector is driving the crisps, nuts and snacks category forward, showing a 23% growth compared with an overall category increase of 7.5%.

Just because the entertaining moves outside in the summer doesn’t mean the demand falls, either. While the chef is sweating over hot coals, crisps and dips can fill the gap before the main meal.

For retailers, tailoring snacks around the barbecue occasion is a must, as siting complementary products together encourages impulse purchase.

HIM research shows that 98% of shoppers want pricemarked packs, but a quarter of independent retailers don’t stock them. Pricemarking provides reassurance and can prompt trial: 44% of consumers are more likely to purchase an item on impulse when it is pricemarked.

To capitalise on this trend, Kettle Foods has added a range of smaller pricemarked sharing bags ideal for barbecues. Available now, the ‘Little big bags’ provide 100g in the top-selling seasonings of Kettle Chips, with a £1.29 pricemark.

Doritos is also looking to provide retailers with the opportunity to offer customers more transparency with £1 pricemarked packs in four flavours. To complement the chips range, it has also launched salsa dips with a £1.29 pricemark.

Against all logic, barbecue-flavoured sauce isn’t performing as well as it should, with penetration into households at less than 20% (Kantar WorldPanel 52 weeks ending January 20, 2013). According to Heinz, this provides an opportunity for the market to grow as more families begin to try it as a marinade or dip.

The trend within the sauce category is towards the adventurous, with the British public looking to try hotter flavours, especially from the Caribbean. According to MAT data, the hot/chilli sauces market clocked up 15.3% value growth last year, highlighting the huge demand for spicy flavours.

“These are exciting times for Caribbean food and drink,” agrees Encona Sauces brand manager Lisa Leung. “There is a growing consumer demand for taste experiences from around the world.”

The brand recently extended its range with two new variants: Encona African Peri Peri Sauce and Encona West Indian Extra Hot Pepper Sauce. Leung says that the latter is the brand’s hottest ever sauce. “Consumers are becoming increasingly adventurous with flavours, and many are seeking new levels of heat when it comes to sauce,” she says.

“We’ve responded to this trend with a distinctive hot sauce, using a super-fiery blend of some of the hottest peppers in the world, including Jolokia and Scotch Bonnet.”

She says that while sauces are integral to any barbecue going off with a bang, the range has more than one usage. “Encona Sauces can be used for a wide range of cooking occasions such as an ingredient for cooking, a marinade, or simply as a dip,” explains Leung.

In an effort to help retailers communicate this to shoppers, Encona is segmenting its range into three occasions - dipping sauces, cooking ingredients, and hot condiments - with colour-coded trays to help them stand out.

Tropical Sun Foods has also made a move to help retailers capitalise on the demand for Caribbean flavours. It has recently launched Rub Rub, a range of premium coarse seasonings suitable for barbecues. Available in four variants - meat, chicken, fish and hot - the rubs have an rrp of £2.49.

Brand manager Jag Singh says the increase in demand comes from consumers attempting to recreate dining experiences at home. “We have seen an increase in sales of some our core Caribbean lines such as Jerk BBQ Sauce, Traditional Jerk Seasoning and our condiments and seasonings,” he says. “This relates to the massive appeal of jerk chicken, which has been popularised at Carnivals and outdoor festivals. Consumers then want to recreate the jerk taste at their own barbecue get-togethers, which have made ‘jerk’ the ultimate barbecue meat treat.”

Singh advises store owners to start stocking early to capture sales. “Retailers looking to capitalise should be merchandised and ready by early June to start inspiring consumers with barbecue items and creating promotions and linked deals between complementary products such as sauces, seasonings, meat and drinks,” he adds.

Go green

With so many big flavours making up a huge part of the barbecue, it’s easy to overlook salads. Florette commercial director Sandy Sewell says retailers need to be stocked up with salads for when the sun eventually comes along.

Ones to watch

Pride of place

There’s only one thing worse than cremated burgers at a barbecue - and that’s the cleaning up afterwards. Robert McBride, the maker of Oven Pride, has stepped in with BBQ Pride, designed to make the mammoth task of cleaning a barbecue easier. BBQ Pride comes in a 500ml box with an rrp of £4.

tel: 0289 442 5922

Clean sweep

There’ll be no more messy mayonnaise lids thanks to Hellmann’s new no-mess squeezy format, introduced across its entire portfolio in time for summer. The easy-to-use, squeezable packaging features a clean lock cap, with a ‘no mess’ patented design and bigger base for maximum stability.

tel: 0800 281 026

Quick start

Bar-Be-Quick has re-released its range of UK- manufactured instant barbecues to convenience stores. As well as the standard size (rrp £2.99), it also offers a family size barbecue (rrp £7) that can be cooked on for about two hours and used to feed up to 10 people.

tel: 01282 478200

Meaty sales

The Bestway Group has introduced a range of fresh packaged meats.

Available to Batleys and Bestway retailers, the Butcher’s Farm range features 12 lines which offer 25% profit on return. Products include beef rump steak and chicken breasts, and are fully traceable.

tel: 020 8453 1234

Falk tales

Swedish brand Falksalt has added three new flavoured salts to pep up summer cooking. Fiery red chilli, powerful smoke, and wild garlic flavour are all available in 125g tubs and are designed to be the perfect accompaniment to barbecues.

rrp: £2.99

tel: 01992 447 095

“Due to the unpredictable nature of our British weather, consumers often plan barbecues at the last minute, so convenience is key,” he points out. “This means pre-packed salads are the ideal choice as they can be grabbed straight from the fridge and served immediately. Our data shows that 96% of barbecues include a salad.”

To help retailers capitalise on the barbecue season, Florette is introducing several new products. Its Best Dressed salads range will be available in four variants: roasted red pepper dressing with pecorino shavings pea and mint dressing with sea salt croutons sweet chilli dressing with lemongrass, chilli and spring onion sprinkles and herb vinaigrette dressing with lightly salted bruschetta. Available from May, the 140g packs will have an rrp of £1.79. May will also see the launch of a 150g bag of Florette Peppery Crispy (rrp £1.74) which contains new trademarked leaf Peppercress.

Sewell says retailers needn’t be too worried about being stuck with stock if it’s not a scorching summer as salad remains popular with shoppers no matter what the weather. “We advise retailers to have a steady stock of pre-packed salad through the summer months, as even if we’re not blessed with a barbecue summer, consumers still want to eat lighter, healthier and easy-to-prepare meals,” he says. “Prepared salad is a resilient category and achieved growth of 5% in 2012, despite the unsettled weather.”

He advises retailers to consider where and when they stock their salads. “Retailers can merchandise next to meat or fish to meet the needs of those shoppers looking to add to their salad,” says Sewell. “Make consumers think pre-packed salad is a ‘must-have’ addition to their barbecue-focused shopping basket by ensuring point of sale material, merchandising and promotions are maximised to encourage consumers to buy.”