The range of home entertainment on offer is has become extensive, more consumers are opting to stay in. How can retailers make the most of the big night in mission? 

There is just so much to be enjoyed on television these days. And with more ways to watch than ever before, with latest series and movies available on demand across tablets, mobile phones, laptops and PCs, the range of home entertainment on offer is so extensive, and so appealing, that it’s little wonder consumers are happy staying in.

According to research consultants HIM, 30% of consumers say they partake in movie nights in with family and friends. Luckily for retailers, telly binges go hand-in-hand with an opportunity to profit from all the drinks, snacks and meals that are needed to make a Big Night In a special one.

“The Big Night In customer mission is a growing trend in modern convenience,” asserts Steve Bassett, who owns two Londis stores in Weymouth, Dorset.

“The most popular areas of the store shopped by customers looking for a Big Night In continue to be alcohol, crisps and snacks. The biggest food trends for a Big Night In are for larger sizes made for sharing or indulging, with £1 pricemarked pack (PMPs) of crisps and sweets very popular.”

Data from HIM backs up Steve’s experience. It found that shoppers collecting supplies for a Big Night In said they would typically buy soft drinks (35%) and wine 
(34%), while the most popular category was identified as crisps and snacks (46%).

Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Chocolate UK, has identified this as a market trend for ice cream, too.

She says: “The trend for sharing has become ever more prevalent as people look for treats to enjoy during their nights in at home with friends and family, with ice cream being the third largest category for in-home treats.

“Some 66% of UK consumers say they now entertain at home as much as, or more than, they did 10 years ago, while 20% plan to host weekly gatherings at home over the next six months, with 68% planning to home entertain at least once a month. The most prolific home entertainers are the 18-24 age group, with one in three planning to host a meal every week for friends or family.”

Hena Chandarana, trade communications controller for Pladis (United Biscuits), says that the opportunity for Big Night In sales comes all year round. “The Big Night In isn’t a seasonal phenomenon; people enjoy nights at home all year round, with the series of recent sporting events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, boxing and football meaning an increase in shoppers looking to enjoy time at home with family and friends.”

Get it noticed

With popular shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and the Great British Bake Off back on TV screens, and the evenings drawing in, it is likely that Big Night In sales will be on the rise, and for Terry Caton, owner of two Londis stores in Chesterfield, that means ensuring he’s fully stocked with multipacks and sharing variants across key categories.

He says: “I have noticed that there has been a shift towards sharing pack sizes as manufacturers notice the latest Big Night In trends. One of our most popular categories is crisps and snacks, while we also seem to sell a lot of frozen pizzas and ice cream when people come in to grab supplies for a Big Night In.”

David Nice, who owns two Nisa stores in Essex, has also picked up on the demand for products that are easy to share in big groups of people at a social gathering. He says: “We always sell a lot of big bags of snacks and confectionery that are easy to share with family and friends, particularly on a Friday or Saturday night, and in the colder months when people stay in more.”

Pladis’ Chandarana agrees, adding: “Built around staying in with friends and family, retailers should focus their Big Night In range around products suitable for at-home sharing. When targeting the Big Night In trend, large sharing bags and multipack products, as well as re-sealable pots or tubs, are most popular with shoppers.”

Karmel Maletta, innovation controller, Mr Kipling and Cadbury Cakes at Premier Foods, believes sharing packs allow consumers to try a variety of food and feel as though they are treating themselves without over-indulging. “The Cadbury Amaze Bites range perfectly fits into this occasion and its convenient re-sealable tubs – containing 14 bite-sized portions – make it an ideal partner for a big night in,” she adds.

Mondelez International trade communications manager Susan Nash says it’s important retailers don’t overlook savoury snacks and the wealth of new product development the category is seeing.

“The savoury category has an important role to play in the Big Night In mission,” she says. “Within the savoury category, evidence suggests that shoppers are branching out from traditional fried potato crisps to more innovative and often lighter options. Baked snacks can deliver on taste while offering a lighter way to snack.”

Mondelez International launched Ritz Crisp and Thin in May 2015 and Nash says it has shaken up the crisps and snacks category. “It has become the leading driver of category growth within crisps and snacks in the UK. The new oven roasted chicken and lightly sea salted flavours joined the sharing bag range in June and will help retailers attract Big Night In customers looking for a lighter, savoury snack to share,” she adds.

Jacob’s Cracker Crisps also target the growing evening sharing occasion, and have been a hit for United Biscuits since the range was launched last year. Says Chandarana: “These baked ‘hybrids’ between a cracker and a crisp use time-honoured baking excellence to deliver an unmatchable crunch with fantastic flavours and texture. The range has delivered the strongest-ever scores Jacob’s has seen and, as a result, the product is on track to deliver £15m RSV in year one. It’s a Big Night In must stock.”

According to PepsiCo, 97% of households buy savoury snacks at least once a fortnight, showing a huge opportunity for retailers. The company is helping retailers capitalise on this with Walkers Tear ‘n’ Share, the crisps range served up in packaging that turns into a bowl (rrp £1.99/150g).

Matt Goddard, head of impulse field sales at PepsiCo, says: “The range has the unmistakable taste of Walkers on a thicker-cut crisp in a new pack that can be transformed into a unique sharing bowl for family and friends to open, share and enjoy straight from the pack, an innovative first for the market.”

Tear ‘n’ Share is available in lightly salted, salt & malt vinegar, Cheddar cheese & onion, sticky bbq ribs, and sweet chilli.

Alongside the must-stock crisps, snacks and confectionery, some retailers are seeing demand for healthier Big Night In items, as concerns over obesity and high levels of salt and sugar in some products stay in the headlines.

Steve Bassett says he has noticed his customers’ buying habits slowly changing. He says: “Customers are becoming more and more health conscious, and there has been an increase in the number of people cooking from scratch and visiting us to top up on ingredients as opposed to buying a frozen pizza to enjoy in front of the telly in the evening. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t indulge on a one-off night in as well, and in moderation they’ll tend to pick up a big box of Maltesers or something, too.

“What we try to do is to make sure we have a strong range that offers customers a good choice of products and make sure that everything is fully stocked and looking good on a Friday and Saturday night as this is when we see our biggest spike in sales in the Big Night In.”

The soft option

Soft drinks manufacturers are reacting to changing demands by producing healthier options. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says: “Consumers are increasingly aware of their health and wellbeing and, as a result, demand for low- and no-calorie soft drinks continues to grow. Retailers should look to provide a variety of traditional favourites as well as lighter options to offer a wide choice for shoppers stocking up for their night in.

“Providing these variants across our ranges has long been a key focus at CCEP, and 39% of all drinks we sell in the UK are now lower- or no-calorie. We are investing £30m (2012-2017) in reformulation and new product development, and everything we sell has a lower- or no-sugar option, enabling retailers to increase their sales by offering more options for consumers.

“Coca-Cola Zero Sugar was launched in the summer, and we have now introduced a selection of £1 PMP 500ml bottles, 65p 330ml cans and 1.75ltr PET bottles, rrp £1.69, to enable retailers to offer clear value for money to shoppers while also increasing their sales.”

Sugar debate

Meeta Raja says that reduced-sugar soft drinks variants are becoming more popular at her Best One Raja Store in Leicestershire. “I have seen a big uplift in sales of sugar-free soft drinks; it has surprised me how much sales have gone up by, because now we sell almost the same amount of sugar-free variants as the full-sugar options. I think this is down to customers becoming more health conscious and becoming brand loyal.”

She says that she had great success when the store ran a promotion on the new Coca-Cola Zero. “It sold really well and even when it ended it continued to sell well still, because people enjoyed it and become loyal to that brand. We had a similar situation with the new Lucozade Zero products.”

David Nice says he has seen a gradual increase in sales of sugar-free variants, but original versions continue to perform well at his two Nisa stores in Essex. He adds: “These soft drinks still sell very well for a Big Night In; it is surprising that they still perform so well considering that there has been a number of campaigns against sugar and increasing pressure from the government on soft drinks.”

Amanda Grabham, marketing director soft drinks at SHS Drinks says that a sizeable 21% of shoppers purchasing for a Big Night In are buying soft drinks. According to Grabham, more than one in five adults doesn’t drink alcohol at all, and there will always be party guests who won’t be drinking alcohol for religious or health reasons, because they are driving, or are mums-to-be.

She adds: “There’s ample evidence that convenience store retailers could benefit from ensuring soft drinks, particularly adult soft drinks such as Shloer which are purchased for social occasions at home, are included as part of the night-in offering. Shloer also has Halal accreditation for its white grape, red grape, rosé and Shloer celebration variants and is a popular choice among the Asian community where it is often served at family social occasions.”

Wine time

While there are plenty of people choosing to abstain from the hard stuff, it seems alcohol is still a key ingredient to some consumers’ Big Night In.

Terry in Chesterfield says: “Our most popular product for a night in has to be our wine range. We know that we have a lot of customers who like to relax in the evening with a glass of wine, and they like to enjoy wine for a big night in front of the telly, so we make sure we offer an extensive range and at a good price.”

David agrees that alcohol plays a starring role in the Big Night In mix. He states: “When customers come in looking for food and drink for a Big Night In, it is alcohol that is the go-to category. We sell a lot of beer, wine and spirits when there is a big sports event on the TV, or a popular TV show comes on.”

Amy Ledger, marketing executive at Continental Wine & Food, believes that wine continues to form a key part of the Big Night In occasion, but that buying wine tends to be a more planned purchase decision based on a specific event. “Consumers will purchase according to what kind of Big Night In they are planning,” she explains. “For example, for a midweek girls’ night in [shoppers might choose] a lighter, easy-drinking wine such as our Straw Hat available in either white, rosé or red.

“Such is the popularity of the brand that two new size formats have been launched: 18.7cl and 2.25ltr bag in box, available in each varietal, that represent excellent value for money, with each box containing the equivalent of 3x75cl bottles.”

Continental Wine & Food has recently introduced a collection of three fruity new variants to its Silver Bay Point range. The three varietals available are: Silver Bay Point white with mango and peach natural fruit flavours; Silver Bay Point rosé with raspberry and lemon natural fruit flavours; and a second Silver Bay Point rosé with cherry and kiwi flavours (8% vol).

Frozen treats

Maltesers Teasers was made available in a four-pack earlier this year, capitalising on the trend for in-home treats to share, growing popularity of ice cream on a stick, and the Maltesers brand.

Last year sales of the single variant of Maltesers Teasers ice cream grew by 13%, making it the number three best-selling branded ice cream bar, according to the company, behind Snickers and Mars ice cream bars.

Maltesers Teasers join Mars and Snickers ice cream bars in a four-and six-pack, and Bounty in a six-pack.

Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Chocolate UK, says: “Retailers tend to do a fantastic job of merchandising the outside and inside of their stores, but the freezer aisle is often overlooked. Retailers should display the packs prominently, face forward to make the most of the appeal of the highly-recognisable brands. Mars Ice Cream also offers a range of complimentary POS, including freezer stickers.”

Value for money

Offering value for money in all its guises continues to be a necessity for retailers as shoppers look to make a saving where they can. Research from HIM suggests that 61% of convenience shoppers are more likely to shop for PMPs and one in three say knowing that a c-store offers PMPs positively influences their decision to shop there.

Cadbury Dairy Milk offers a range of £1 promotional price-marked packs (PMP) tablets. The £1 PMPs feature on tablets of Cadbury Dairy Milk, Fruit and Nut Chopped, caramel, Oreo, Bubbly and Milk Puddles.

Susan Nash at Mondelez International says: “Evening snacking is worth £5.2bn and is growing at 2.8%. Chocolate is still the number-one choice for those settling down for a night in with friends and loved ones, while 52% of all confectionery occasions take place with other people present.”

She adds: “The products aim to help independent stores make the most of shopper excitement surrounding these favourite products at the same time as capitalising on the advantages of pricemarked packs. Cadbury Dairy Milk tablets have grown by 2% year on year with almost six tablets sold every second in the UK.”

Meeta says offering her customers big value is crucial. “We sell a lot of large bags of crisps, with big brands at a round pound price tag the most popular. Our most popular brands are Doritos, Walkers Sensations and Cheetos, which customers love when they are on promotion.

“Because these brands come in big sharing bags they are perfect to enjoy with family or friends and are good value for money, too.

Making sure shoppers know exactly where to head for their Big Night In provisions is a priority for Meeta. “We merchandise the store in a way that maximises its potential, as it is only 1,500sq ft. We have wide aisles and everything is clearly signposted around the store to let customers know exactly where things are.

“The snacks and confectionery are positioned opposite one another, making the aisle easy to shop and people are able to get all their snacks for a Big Night In all in one place.”

David Nice ensures he cross-merchandises alcohol with snacks to increase basket spend, and he also runs promotions on beer and wine when purchased with a share bag of snacks, often Doritos crisps or a big grab bag of Walkers.

“One of our most recent successful promotions was when the popular TV show Cold Feet returned,” he says. “We made our own POS material with the Cold Feet logo on it and had a special discount offer on a four-pack of beer or bottle of wine and merchandised it at the front of the store with snacks at the bottom of the promotional shelf; people really responded well to that.

“Sometimes it pays to know what is coming on the TV and how to make the most of an opportunity,” he says.

Steve also recommends cross-merchandising categories to bring attention to the shopper mission. “We cross-merchandise with snacks, as we have a metre-long shelf of crisps underneath our alcohol, and this often encourages additional purchase,” he explains.

In-store theatre and a tactical use of POS material can drive additional sales, too, especially in high-footfall areas, according to Bep Dhaliwal.

Snap up the more adventurous snacker

For retailers looking to offer something a bit different when it comes to snacking for a Big Night In, Japanese-inspired Yushoi Snapea rice sticks could provide the answer.

Made from 68% green peas, the Yushoi Snapea rice sticks range is described as high in fibre and a good source of protein, suitable for vegans and vegetarians and nut free. The snacks are available in four flavours including lightly salted, soy & balsamic vinegar, smoked salt & Szechuan pepper and sweet chilli & lemon.

They come in four pack formats: 21g single-serve bags; 6x21g multipack; 63g sharing pack; and 105g sharing bag.

Sarah Brown, senior brand manager for Yushoi Snapea rice sticks, says: “As ‘better for you’ products continue to rise in popularity, consumers are looking for a variety of unusual flavours and ingredients. Retailers need to capitalise on this by stocking a selection of products, especially snacks, that meet with this trend.”

She continues: “We are also seeing a trend in consumers choosing to follow free-from and flexitarian diets, which should be supported by retailers.

“The simplest way to do this is to have a dedicated fixture that is clearly labelled, explaining what products contain what ingredients so that consumers can make informed choices.”

“When merchandising pouch lines, core favourites should be displayed in a prime location, for example, at eye level on a wall display. Ensure you use all POS available, such as dumpbins and counter units. These are guaranteed to raise awareness and generate impulse sales.”

Retailers could consider creating a dedicated Big Night In area, based around the most desirable products and pack formats for this occasion, advises Chandarana. “A well-merchandised Big Night In display with paired products and cross-category promotions will always encourage incremental purchases and help drive up profits. Locating this in high-footfall areas at the front of store will help draw shoppers’ attention to the fixture, increasing impulse sales,” she points out.

David has perfected in-store theatre for the Big Night In mission in the past. He says: “One Nisa promotion that was extremely successful for us was the Summer Night In promotion, encouraging customers to enjoy the sunshine in the evening in the garden with a line of promotional products. We had POS and promotional bays decked out in signage that drew attention to the area. Sales across alcohol, snacks, confectionery and frozen were up by more than 20%.

“The trick for us is to do our own promotions and POS, and highlight the products at key times throughout the year, making sure that when there is a Big Night In occasion, whether that’s on a weekend or Friday night, or due to something good on the TV or the sport is on, we are fully stocked and have just what customers want.”

marmite muscles in on Popcorn’s popularity

As popcorn takes the snacking market by storm, Unilever UK has partnered with popcorn brand Joe & Seph’s to create the UK’s first Marmite-flavoured popcorn.

The new Marmite product consists of smooth and sweet caramel-flavoured popcorn glazed with the iconic spread to create a sweet and savoury combination.

Marmite Popcorn is available in a transparent 75g pack, complete with a co-branded Marmite and Joe & Seph’s label, and carries the iconic black and yellow Marmite design.

The range also includes a 21g impulse foil pack.

The 75g pouches retail at £2.99 and come in cases of 12 packs, while the 21g impulse packs have an rrp of 99p and come in cases 
of 22.