One fail-safe way to make sure you are fully prepared is to opt for frozen products. Birds Eye general marketing manager Will Hemmings points out that consumers are looking to frozen foods as they eliminate waste.

“From a frozen perspective, barbecue has been one of the biggest winners over the past few years,” he says. “The added benefit of using frozen food for barbecues during the credit crunch is that it limits food wastage, so if the weather is poor the food can be kept and used at another time. Some 82% of consumers believe that ‘waste not, want not’ is an increasingly important concept.”

Retailer’s view

“We only recently opened our shop, but over the season we will be stocking charcoal, disposable barbecues and locally-produced sausages alongside beer and soft drinks. We’ll do special combinations involving all the relevant products. For example, for £10 we’re thinking of offering four cans of Fosters, a pack of local sausages, a disposable barbecue and a pack of 2-litre Coca-Cola bottles which would save shoppers around £2.” Kash Odedra, Mace, Whissendine, Rutland

Hemmings reports that frozen beef and chicken burgers stood out as the key performers in the first half of summer 2010 with a 34.4% increase in year-on-year sales.

Birds Eye has relaunched the packaging across its entire burgers range, highlighting the brand’s commitment to buy beef from European farms that only use responsibly-sourced meat. All packs will also include a ‘BBQ straight from frozen’ label which Birds Eye hopes will increase consumer awareness of the use of frozen products on the barbecue.

He adds that retailers need to get in early in order to get the most out of the season and ensure that the freezer is fully stocked in time for the late afternoon rush. “Research has indicated that the barbecue occasion is all about evenings, when 30% of them take place, and weekends, when 59% of them take place (Kantar Worldpanel 2010). It is therefore essential to ensure that top barbecue meats are available during these key periods.”

Hemmings adds that as well as the number of barbecues taking place in the UK increasing, the number of people enjoying them has also grown. “Extensive research into the category has revealed that the number of barbecue meal occasions has grown over the past year, with children and adults over 35 increasing their barbecue consumption,” he says. “This means there are three different barbecue consumers, creating opportunities for cross-promotions between different meats to ensure all of the family is catered for.”

Even though the great British barbecue has evolved to comprise much more than just burgers and sausages, these continue to be the best-selling barbecue products in the UK. More than half (52%) of barbecue occasions in 2010 featured sausages and 40% featured beef burgers. 

Snack time

If a plate of meat isn’t enough to satisfy your customers’ appetites, perhaps an offering of sharing snacks will help fill any gaps and increase some sales. 

Nick Stuart, commercial manager at United Biscuits, says that rather than retailers picking exclusively barbecue products over others, they should use the season to build up as much basket spend as possible with incremental sales. “Displays for occasions linked with home barbecues offer a great opportunity to drive incremental sales, especially when linked with cross-category deals that encourage customers to buy more such as a sharing bag of crisps, confectionery and a bottle of cola,” says Stuart. 

“A small selection of multi-bags space permitting also provides extra value for money for those at-home family occasions. 

“Sharing size bagged snacks are absolute must-stock products for convenience retailers looking to capitalise on the growth of parties at home during the summer season,” adds Stuart. “Bowls of crisps and nuts have long been enjoyed as one of the staples of social gatherings at home, along with soft drinks and alcohol. It makes sense for retailers to make sure that these categories are merchandised together in a barbecue display.”

Sausages were the biggest growing meat cut at barbecues last year, seeing a 13% growth compared with the previous year (Kantar Worldpanel 2010).

Although the meat-free sausage and burger markets saw a 7.4% and 5.6% year-on-year decline (Nielsen data), according to the Food Standards Agency almost 10% of the UK population is either part or full vegetarian so retailers shouldn’t alienate their veggie customers by failing to provide meat-free options.

Market leader Linda McCartney did buck the downward trend with 0.8% growth in the vegetarian sausage category and 1.4% growth in the burger category. Head of marketing and innovation James Gentle says that rather than begrudgingly having a vegetarian offering, retailers should look to stock products that appeal to carnivores as well as herbivores.

“It’s all about choice for the consumer,” he says, “so that it’s not just one token vegetarian offering, but a selection of desirable products relevant to a broader audience that happen not to contain meat.”

Gentle says that just because the products are stored in the freezer doesn’t mean they have to be far removed from the barbecue display. “Retailers can place a stack of disposable barbecues close to the freezer so that customers see them and make the connection,” he says. “They can also devote a section of their freezers to barbecue and draw people’s attention to it. They’ll not waste anything by stocking up their freezer and can still be ready for those impromptu moments.”

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