The nature of the Great British weather may be unpredictable, but one thing for certain is the British public’s love of outdoor cooking whenever the opportunity presents.
Consumers’ passion for digging out their barbecues at the first hint of sunshine doesn’t seem to be flagging, as according to the National Barbecue Week statistics, two-thirds of the UK population now own some sort of barbecue equipment and the average number of barbecues per family per summer has increased from 2.5 to nine over the past decade.
While convenience store retailers might not be able to count on the weather, they can rely on sizzling sales with a well-stocked barbecue range.
“The summer weather is often fickle, but it is important that retailers prepare for the warm weather and get their stock just right because the barbecue occasion can provide massive opportunities,” asserts Dean Holborn, who owns two Holborn’s stores in Surrey.
He says: “On a summer’s day, people don’t want to waste time travelling to a supermarket and waiting in a big busy queue and instead will look to their local c-store to top up on food and drink for barbecues and carry their items back home to enjoy, so it produces a perfect opportunity for retailers to make more sales from time-sensitive shoppers, too.”
Shopper research firm HIM has found that 39% of the UK population will host a barbecue this summer, while 52% will attend a barbecue, with 51% influenced by a good weather forecast alone. Other leading influences to fire up the barbie include promotions on barbecue products (18%) and Bank Holidays (15%). HIM also found that, on average, people are willing to spend £27.83 on food and drink for a barbecue shop.
Data from Kantar shows barbecue opportunities clocked up sales of more than £2.5bn in 2015, up from about £2bn in 2013.
Where the barbecue menu is concerned, old favourites sausages and burgers continue to be mainstay items, but there is increasing demand for different types of meat, new styles and flavours, mostly influenced from America.
Mandeep Bassi, owner of One Stop Saughton Mains Gardens, Edinburgh, says: “Last year we did very well and sold a lot of fresh meat, burgers, sausages and chicken and made a very good margin on our fresh meat range, which was our most popular line of products.
“A common trend is with the growing number of innovations in flavour; you only have to look at how many pulled meats are now on the market. Meanwhile, sauces and sides to be enjoyed alongside the mainstay barbecue favourites are growing in popularity.”
Dean adds: “We get our fresh meat from a local butcher who has introduced a range of products specifically suited to barbecues that include different flavour variations of sausages and barbecue ribs, which we expect to be very popular in the summer months as customers are increasingly looking for new flavours and tastes.”
Latest data from HIM found that meat, as expected, was the leading category purchased by customers planning a barbecue, with 90% buying meat for their own barbecue event while 45% bought meat for a barbecue they were attending as a guest.
Justin Taylor, owner of Spar Winford, Somerset, is hoping to make it easy for his barbecue shoppers by selling meat products supplied from his local butcher together at a promotional price. He explains: “Customers can get a barbecue essential box of meat for £15, which will provide great value for money and drive our meat sales even further. We hope it will be very busy this summer.”
HIM also found burgers and sausages continued to be popular items to cook outdoors last summer, with about 77% of barbecue hosts including them on the menu. Barbecued chicken breast was enjoyed by 38% of customers; 37% bought steak; and chicken drumsticks were the fifth most popular meat item.
“Meat was a big seller for us last year and customers keep coming back for the classic barbecue favourites,” says Justin.
“Our local meat supplier has expanded the range for this summer with barbecue sauce-flavoured chicken and a wider meat range, but even though there is growing interest in innovations such as marinated meats and new flavoured sauces we still find the mainstay barbecue foods - particularly burgers - are most popular.”
The UK burger market is valued at £2.9bn while beef burgers are the most frequently listed item on a menu, up 1.9% in snacking occasions and 8.2% as a meal-time option, according to Lantmännen Unibake UK.
Head of marketing Ian Harris says: “Burgers are still in high demand and retailers should stock a premium range of burger buns in order to entice consumers and sharpen profit margins.
“Latest innovations include our Americana pre-sliced glazed Brioche bun made with butter and free-range egg for a superior flavour that goes great with the latest flavour innovations and trends such as a smoky barbecue pulled pork filling topped with jack cheese and coleslaw.”
Manny Patel, owner of Manny’s in Long Ditton, Surrey, says: “Our range of meat is good and includes all the classic barbecue essentials, from hamburgers and sausages to meatballs and more irregular items. I’m considering introducing new lines of marinated meats, but at the moment our focus is on the mainstays and products that are traditionally popular with our customers.”
Spice it up with sauces
Along with meat and bread, sauces are another must-have for summer sizzling. HIM found that sauces were the fourth most shopped for items by customers hosting a barbecue last year, behind meat, burgers and bread buns.
The thirst for new flavours is having an impact on the sauces we are buying. Mandeep says that spicy barbecue and peri peri-flavoured sauces are popular at his store. “Customers are always interested in new products and experiment outside of your usual ketchup and mustard sauces,” he says.
According to Grace Foods UK brand manager Sam Bidgood, people are travelling to more exotic destinations and are looking to bring their favourite flavours into their cooking. He adds: “Encona has a range of table sauces, dips and marinades suitable for barbecues, and last year introduced an exotic range of marinades alongside a label refresh across the entire range.”
Encona marinades are available in three 180g variants: Korean barbecue; Jamaican Jerk barbecue; and Moroccan Harissa (rrp £1.49). They are said to be perfect for marinating meat, fish, poultry and vegetables.
Bidgood continues: “Encona found a growing interest in hotter flavours and as a result more and more retailers are now taking space away from traditional sauces and increasing their non-conventional sauce range. Sales of Encona also reflect this growth; our West Indian Extra Hot Pepper Sauce remains our third best-selling flavour with value sales growing 18.5% year on year.”
The growing trend of consumers experimenting with new flavours when it comes to meat marinades, glazes and dips has inspired other brands to create new flavour innovations.
Heather Soutar, from Baxters, which licenses Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces in the UK, confirms this trend. She says: “Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce was the original US brand that entered the UK market and is still the number one premium sauce in the category. But barbecue sauce isn’t a new option in the supermarket aisles and consumer tastes are sophisticated; this is why we will continue to add to our range with carefully developed, quality sauces in future rather than flood the fixture with options.”
The brand launched Tennessee Honey Glaze last year, based on the success of the Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey Liqueur.
Mayonnaise market leader Hellmann’s has reacted to trends by creating 10 new premium sauces as part of its ‘Grilltopia’ campaign in time for this year’s barbecue season.
The Grilltopia range comprises four grilling barbecue sauces: smoky American, spicy Brazilian, sticky Japanese, and sweet Australian (rrp £1.89); three hot and spicy sauces: Mexican chipotle, Jamaican habanero and Moroccan harissa (rrp £1.89); and three smooth and creamy sauces variants: burger sauce, hot garlic chilli and garlic & herb sauce. All have an rrp of £1.69.
Hellmann’s brand manager Hannah Webb says: “Our new range of barbecue and hot sauces will introduce a global palette to the UK barbecue occasion with eclectic flavours inspired by food cultures from around the world that are sure to excite British consumers and mayonnaise fans alike.”
Each product variant within the range has been paired with a specific food highlighted on its packaging to help inspire customers. Hellmann’s says this is supported by on shelf POS material, with advice on how best to use the sauces, be it glaze, pour, marinade and dip.
Bel UK head of insights Chloe Feminier say that when it comes to adding something extra to hot barbecue foods, toppings and condiments are at the forefront of shoppers’ minds so a plentiful supply of big flavour additions is key. She adds: “Consider displaying items such as bacon, pickles and cheese slices in easy sight of shoppers to encourage incremental sales. Leerdammer’s ranges of pre-sliced cheeses are ideal for use as burger toppings, including Leerdammer Toastie and Burger. Boasting Leerdammer’s sweet and nutty flavour, and thicker slices are ideal for melting on top of burgers and provide added convenience to customers by coming in pre-sliced packs.”
Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth and Unilever UK’s range and merchandising controller, points out that 99% of households buy table sauces, dressings and condiments “so this is a key category for top-up and immediate need purchases”.
He continues: “Areas of growth include flavoured mayonnaise, squeezy formats, salad dressings and others such as barbecue and hot sauces.
“In the summer, when a lot of shoppers are popping in for last-minute barbecue or picnic items, retailers should try siting complementary products next to each other to prompt purchase. For example, tomato ketchup by burgers and sausages, mayonnaise and salad dressings by salad bags.”
All the trimmings
Once consumers have got their barbecue mainstays sorted it’s time to consider those added extras to make the event go with a swing. Salad, coleslaw, potato salad, cheese, crisps and snacks and even confectionery will be in demand and it’s important that retailers merchandise these key barbecue ingredients around their store to tempt impulse purchases.
According to HIM data, 73% of customers who held a barbecue bought a side, while 32% bought sides to a barbecue occasion hosted by someone else. The most popular side was salad, which was bought by 59% of shoppers. Coleslaw came in at second place, picked up by 46%, while crisps and snacks played a valuable role in convenience, shopped by 34% of customers.
Tristan King, owner of Spar East Retford, Nottingham, says: “We stock a great range of fresh vegetables, from common popular vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and lettuces that are popular ingredients for barbecue burgers and hot dogs to vegetables that could be suitable for cooking on the barbecue, too, such as courgettes and peppers.”
While it’s important for retailers to stock the right balance when it comes to their barbecue food range, it’s equally important that their alcohol range is stocked and ready to be shopped ahead of the barbecue season, as outdoor social activities can create uplift in alcohol sales.
According to CWF, the trends for this spring and summer are for unusual blends and upmarket Proseccos, with sparkling wines as the category continues to grow.
CWF marketing manager Amy Ledger says: “Retailers must stock a good range and selection of wines this summer as shoppers look for the perfect drink companion for their barbecue meals. The Prosecco market continues to grow and our award-winning Prosecco DOC Treviso Frizzante Spumante Brut from Casa Gheller is a fantastic product in an iconic bottle that also comes in a rosé variant.
“Retailers also need to review how they merchandise their wine. It’s important not to over-complicate the wine fixture otherwise it can be a daunting experience for the customer, as simplicity is the key. An effective way of doing this is by separating wine into red, white, rosé or sparkling or arrange by style. Having a chilled shelf or unit is great for c-stores as it promotes impulse purchases so that shoppers are able to pick up a bottle of pre-chilled wine en-route to a family barbecue. Retailers could also look to calendar events such as Bank Holidays and Wimbledon to push further sales.”
HIM found that a large proportion of customers bought alcohol products for their barbecues, with 69% buying for guests at their gathering and 68% purchased alcohol when on the way to a barbecue. Beers and wines were the top selling products, with 61% and 49% of customers purchasing those, while cider was popular, with 32% of shoppers choosing that as their beverage.
Dean is optimistic that this summer will be a good one for c-store retailers. “I expect this summer to be one of the biggest for local retailers because of the highly anticipated Euro Football tournament, for which Wales and Northern Ireland also qualified, along with the Olympics and the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. If the weather plays its part then people will be enjoying more outdoor activities than previous years, which will provide retailers with a significant opportunity if they merchandise effectively.”
Tristan agrees and is making sure he is ready for the anticipated increase in demand for alcohol. “Alcohol is a big seller for us when the weather gets a bit warmer and people start enjoying cooking outdoors. I expect the summer of sports to have an effect on sales, too, especially the Euros. Hopefully England stay in the running for as long as possible!
“We have been stocking up on alcohol along with our meats and essential barbecue range to maintain high levels of availability throughout summer.”
Justin Taylor’s Spar store has recently expanded from 1,100sqft to 2,500sqft, opening up more opportunities to merchandise promotional products, in particular alcohol. He says: “I expect the barbecue occasion to have a knock-on effect on the sales of alcohol and, because of our expansion, we now have a new large storage allocation and we are stocking up on alcohol in preparation for the summer. Sometimes it pays to be prepared, in case things do sell even better than expected - you don’t want to be caught out and sell out and lose customers, which we prepare against.”
Coals and lighters
When customers visit their local store to pick up all their BBQ food and drink, it can be easy to forget some vital non-food essentials such as charcoal and lighter fuel. Dean makes sure customers don’t forget by positioning them where customers can’t miss them.
“We merchandise effectively through an outside display of disposable barbecues, coals, charcoal, fuel and lighters so customers get the message upon arrival and don’t forget vital elements of their barbecue.”
Firelighters are another easily forgotten item, and could be in increasing demand as more consumers turn to using coals to create a more authentic BBQ taste.
Richard Harris, sales and marketing director at Standard Brands, which supplies Zip firelighters, says: “Customers are seeking authentic and smoky barbecue flavours and more traditional cooking methods are on the increase. Although gas is still a popular option for consumers there has been a recent trend towards a more authentic, smoky flavour which can only really be generated using coals. While this can take some skill and effort in order to get the coals smoking, the use of firelighters is an increasingly popular choice for convenience and cleanliness.
“Zip firelighters are the most powerful in the category, the easiest to light and burn for the longest time, and as they require fewer cubes they deliver better value for customers. They are also a convenient accompaniment to help speed up the process of preparing to cook while still helping to deliver an authentic taste.”
Mandeep will be giving BBQ coal a try this season. “This year for the first time we will stock barbecues, coal and flick lighters thanks to our supplier One Stop. It is very important to market these items all together to bring attention to the fact that customers can shop at the store and pick up everything they need for their barbecue in one just one spot. Our One Stop planograms will source the best location for them in the store.”
Standard Brands’ Harris adds: “Because barbecues are often impromptu, retailers need to keep their displays well-positioned and available. By building a display which includes barbecue essentials such as charcoal, firelighters, bread rolls, sauces, drinks and snacks retailers could drive incremental sales from those shoppers who make a last-minute decision to fire up the coals. The recent introduction of PMPs to the Zip range will help with retailer sell-through as this format remains popular with consumers in creating trust and confidence in retailer pricing. Zip Energy High Performance Block 20s PMP £1.79 and Zip Wrapped 16s PMP £2.69 are the leading SKUs which we recommend convenience retailers stock.”
The old adage, ‘right place, right time’ has never been truer than when it comes to retailers correctly stocking and merchandising seasonal lines, says Caroline Morris, head of sales at Bar-Be-Quick. She says: “Retailers can capitalise on this trend by ensuring they place complementary products in the same location. When it comes to product offering, sausages, burgers and bread rolls remain barbecue essential. However, with people becoming more adventurous with their eating habits, it’s also worth stocking instant barbecues and charcoal near other meats, such as lamb and chicken, as well as seafood and grillable cheeses such as halloumi.”
She points out that with barbecuing being such an impulse occasion, it’s crucial to appeal to these customers with strategically placed displays offering all they need in one place. “Stocking instant barbecues on fresh meat or alcohol aisles, as well as at the front of the store, is likely to inspire customers to think about barbecuing. It’s a tried and tested way of encouraging shoppers to go on to buy additional items such as condiments and salads.
One way Bar-Be-Quick has tapped into this convenience aspect by joining forces with popular brands to offer in-store cross-promotions. Morris adds: “This year we’ve teamed up with Levi Roots and Hellmann’s, whose sauces and condiments are perfect for barbecues. We’ve also solved a common instant barbecue issue by launching our innovative dual-use grill stand to the market. It allows users to set up a barbecue anywhere without damaging the surface underneath.”
Some retailers will have plenty of food for thought on how best to merchandise their products ahead of the barbecue season, but for some there is no time like the present to cash in on sales of barbecue food, drinks and essentials.
Manny has been stocked up since the first sunny spells back in March. He says: “I have found that it isn’t just the summer that has this effect. Whenever the sun is out people are taking the opportunity to have a barbecue, so we decided to get all of our barbecue range out in March as soon as the sun came out - and it paid off. I recommend retailers take the proactive approach and make the most of any given opportunity when the sun shines.”
the easy option
Shoppers want quick and easy ways to spice up their BBQ food and Very Lazy has the answer. Its most popular BBQ companions are garlic and lemongrass pastes plus chopped garlic 200g, chopped red chillies 190g and chopped ginger 190g.
don’t forget the dressings
RH Amar has added three new vinaigrettes to its Mary Berry’s range of premium salad dressings, mayonnaises, sauces and chutneys.
The new vinaigrettes are said to offer shoppers a healthier, lighter way to dress their favourite salads without compromising on flavour.
They also can be used all year round as a flavoursome marinade for meats or fish, or drizzled over vegetables.
New to the Mary Berry’s range are: Roasted Garlic & Red Onion; Honey & Balsamic; and Lemon & Mustard.
They retail at £2.99 per 235ml glass bottle.
Mary Berry’s brand manager Anne-Marie Cannon says: “Summer is a really important opportunity for the Mary Berry’s brand in general, and we have traditionally done very well with our range during this period. These vinaigrettes offer intense and natural flavours that complement rather than mask the food they accompany.
“All three perfectly complement our seven-strong salad dressings range and tested incredibly strongly with our target audience of families and 45+ empty nesters, so we are confident they will do well with these audiences during the summer months following launch.”
Refreshing new summer look for Branston relish
The Branston range of relishes has been given a revamp by owners Mizkan based on usage occasions.
A new pack design clearly highlights which flavours are suited as an accompaniment to typical barbecue menus such as burgers and hot dogs, and can appeal for the more adventurous barbecue chefs.
The range is available with a £1.69 price flash.
Head of commercial marketing Barry McCrossan says: “This product is fantastic on all barbecue foods and perfect to add spice to any barbecue food plate. Branston Spicy Tomato relish is part of the recent trend to hot and tangy sauce products introduced to the market within the past year. Branston Spicy Tomato relish will be on promotion come July and August and we offer this product in PMP only.”
don’t leave shoppers disappointed
Warburtons points out that it’s vital convenience retailers don’t run out of barbecue bread essentials this summer, including the mainstays of burger buns and hot dog rolls.
Warburtons Portfolio Lead Emma Billinge says: “Warmer weather is on the horizon, bringing with it the barbecue season and a strong impact on driving impulse purchases in the convenience sector. To avoid disappointing shoppers in the lead up to weekends, and to capitalise on any sudden increases in demand, retailers should ensure they stock up on a core range of wrapped bakery products.”
Warburtons has a full range of bread buns and rolls suitable for a range of meat fillings, including packs of eight pre-sliced burger buns and packs of six pre-sliced hot dog rolls.
Billinge adds: “Hot dog rolls, burger buns and white rolls are essential products for any good summer barbecue, and as the number-one brand in wrapped rolls, with a 22.9% market share, Warburtons is a must stock for any retailer looking to boost sales during the warmer months.
“Warburtons’ eight-pack white rolls are also the number-one selling branded product in this category, making them a favourite with consumers.”
The company claims that Warburtons’ thin bagels, which launched last April, have sold six million units since launch and offer barbecuers a unique twist to their offering.
It is supporting its barbecue bakery essentials with POS material including four-tier shippers and small dumpbins.