The lure of staying in shows no sign of waning, but retailers need to shout about their offer if they are to avoid missing out to the mults.

Retailers were certainly able to go big on Big Night In during this summer’s World Cup, with fare for family feasts, snacks for sharing and drinks to celebrate (and commiserate) in big demand. Now the popularity of the Big Night In occasion is about to bubble over again, but in a very different way.

“As we come into the colder months we look to promote the Big Night In occasion as shoppers become more interested in staying in in the evenings,” says David Knight, of Knight’s Budgens of Hassocks, West Sussex.

It’s not simply a re-run of summer, though. He points out that our tastes change as we come into autumn and winter. For example, people want more hot, hearty meals and red wine as opposed to salad with lager, white and rosé wine.

The really great news for retailers is that there’s an over-arching trend towards people sta

ying in, as opposed to going out. A great driver behind this trend is the 18-24 age bracket, who seem much less keen on spending their evenings in the pub or a nightclub than previous generations. In fact, 72% of this demographic say they often prefer to stay in than go out (survey of 2,000 adults by Deliveroo, 2016).

Sharon Palmer, head of trade marketing at AB InBev, says the reason that socialising in the home is on the increase is that consumers are looking for “more private, cost-effective, controlled and personalised experiences to share with friends”.

Mintel research backs up this finding with its own study, concluding that it is simply a case of students and young professionals thinking it’s ‘too much effort’ to go out and so they would much rather curl up with a drink and watch TV or stream media.

Susan Connolly, sales director of Connolly Spar, in Tidworth, Wiltshire, says the Big Night In mission has exploded and she’s been amazed by how many people are opting to stay in.

“People in their early 20s now come in to buy a bottle of wine and pizza for a Big Night In on a Friday and Saturday night. When I was that age I was in the clubs.

“We can see it in the pubs as well – they aren’t as busy as they used to be. It’s definitely benefiting us as we’re seeing an increase in our alcohol sales. I’ve even noticed people are being friendlier now to their neighbours as they’re interested in spending more time socialising with local people.

“It’s so much easier to host a Big Night In or go to one at a friend’s house nearby, as then you save money on food and drink and you don’t need to worry about drink driving.”

Carlsberg creates plastic-free alternative with snap packs

Reducing plastic packaging waste will become more important than price for shoppers in the next 10 years, according to a recent survey.

A national study of 2,000 people by ThoughtWorks found that the need to reduce plastic waste and use recyclable materials would be the main purchase driver for 62% of shoppers in the next 10 years, ahead of the price.

No surprise then that stocking brands that have committed to reducing their plastic waste and lowering their carbon footprint ensure relevance with millennial consumers.

As part of its ongoing sustainability pledge, Together Towards Zero, Carlsberg Group last month unveiled a ‘Snap Pack’ for cans. It promises to reduce the brewer’s plastic usage by 75% globally.

Snap Pack replaces traditional, bulky plastic rings with a pioneering solution that instead bonds packs of multiple cans together with specially formulated glue dots.

The dots are easily snapped apart when required, but robust enough to stand up to handling to and from the store, the company says.

Alistair Gaunt, vice-president for national sales business unit at Carlsberg UK, says: “The new Snap Pack is a revolutionary new way of responsibly packaging – and we know that sustainability is as much a priority for retailers as it is for us, and, of course, shoppers.”

The format will be rolled out across all four-, six- and eight-packs across all variants.


Increase your share

The demand may certainly be there, but retailers could still be missing out on the potential of Big Night In as seven in 10 shoppers choose supermarkets over c-stores when buying for events such as this (HIM Bitesize Insight). The main reasons given are price perception and concerns about the range available in c-stores.

But independent retailers can do a lot to increase their share. HIM points out that 46% of shoppers say promotions would influence them to buy from a c-store, so multibuys and cross-category merchandising are highly recommended.

It’s a strategy that’s working for Samantha Coldbeck. Her Premier Wharfedale store in Hull isn’t in an affluent area, but she’s still noticed a lot of families coming together to do Come Dine with Me-style nights in, and makes sure she caters for them with meal deals and multibuys.

“This is quite a low income area and people really are looking for a good deal. We offer everything they need in the store with our frozen meal deals for a fiver.”

Harry Goraya has a similar offer in his Nisa Rosherville Post Office store in Gravesend, Kent. He says this is popular because of the great saving shoppers can make.

“We have our frozen meal deal for a fiver with products that would usually cost about £7. We also do a Big Night In offer, usually for £10, and we make sure that the products would cost £13 to £15 to buy separately. This ensures the shoppers are getting a good value deal.

“I know that I would only feel I was getting a good deal if that was the sort of saving I was making.”

Louise Hammond says shoppers at her Mace Forecourt store in Halesworth, Suffolk, definitely want good value options when shopping for their Big Night In. She simply ensures she provides a good range of pricemarked packs and these hit the mark.

“When it comes to snacks such as popcorn and sharing crisps, Big Night In shoppers always pick up the PMPs,” she explains. “If you think about it, if someone’s having a Big Night In then they’re having it for a reason. They want to save money and so their choices are going to be monetary driven.”

Sam adds that the way a deal is laid out greatly influences its popularity with shoppers. “Next to that frozen offer we have our ice cream freezer, then our alcohol and snacks displayed on end stands. Everything they need is in one place. Plus I promote the deal heavily on Facebook.

“I know when I go into M&S to pick up one of their meal deals, if it’s not all in one place then I won’t bother.”

Susan agrees with this grouping advice, adding that this mission is relevant to every demographic of shopper. “The Big Night In can mean many different things to many different people, from the girls getting together to slag off boys, to a date night, to the empty-nesters who have the place to themselves again.

“Each type of night in requires different products, but c-store retailers should already be selling everything needed for the Big Night In, there’s no specific products for the mission, so it shouldn’t take a great deal of effort to cash in.”

She is a big advocate of cross-merchandising. “Put nuts and pork scratchings with beer, and put prosecco next to the pizza. We have straws next to our 2ltr bottles of pop. It’s important to cross-merchandise those products that people wouldn’t necessarily plan or think to buy, but will pick up if they see them.”

Keep it sweet for a successful night in

Retailers need to remember that chocolate is the number one choice for those settling down for a night in with friends or loved ones, followed by sugar confectionery, biscuits and crisps (Kantar Worldpanel w/e 11 September 2016).

“Confectionery is key to unlocking sales from the night-in shopping mission,” says Mondelez International trade communications manager Susan Nash. “Tablets play a big role in the Big Night In trend and are in growth (up 2.4% YTD).”

As confectionery is the most impulsive category in convenience (CTT 2017), ensuring availability and creating eye-catching displays are vital, she points out.

She says Mondelez is driving growth through its Cadbury, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Green & Black’s brands.

Earlier this year the company added Green & Black’s Velvet Fruits, a bitesize product which offers a bite of real fruit, coated in dark chocolate.

Velvet Fruit comes in raspberry, orange and blueberry flavours.

Along with Velvet Fruit, the confectionery giant introduced new £1 PMPs within its chocolate bags range – a move likely to chime with Big Night In shoppers partial to a pricemark.

The 95g PMPs are available across some of its bestselling bags: Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons; Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Nibbles; Cadbury Twirl Bites; Cadbury Bitsa Wispa; and Terry’s Chocolate Orange Minis.

Nash adds: “The chocolate bags segment is key to nights in and is the fastest growing standard chocolate segment (IRI 1 January 2018; Kantar 1 January 2018) and Mondelez International is driving growth through innovation.

“In 2017 hero brands were brought to the bitesize category with the launch of Cadbury Fudge Minis, Cadbury Curly Wurly Squirlies and Cadbury Picnic Bites.”

A new product joined the Maynards Bassetts candy range in March. Wine Gums Mocktails aim to broaden the product’s appeal to younger adults.

Packs include non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri; pina colada and cuba libre flavours, adding to the range of iconic Wine 
Gums shaped jelly sweets.

Another Mondelez International brand partnership headed into bitesize in February. Cadbury and Oreo added Cadbury Oreo Bites, which include small Cadbury bitesize pieces filled with an Oreo filling.

The company hopes to build on the winning Cadbury and Oreo power co-brand which continues to grow (+25%) and is worth £35m (IRI, value MAT 31 December 2017).



Snacking success

Toby Lancaster, category and shopper marketing director at Heineken UK, says the Big Night In opportunity is there for the taking if retailers consider all the elements shoppers will be after.

“Merchandising crisps and snacks alongside the core range is the first step for retailers to increase basket spend, as consumers make the natural link between the two categories when stocking up for the Big Night In.

“What’s more, 43% of large single bottles are purchased to accompany a meal. Retailers should therefore make it as simple as possible for shoppers to pick up their meals and drinks by stocking and merchandising beer such as Birra Moretti alongside popular casual meals such as fresh pizza and pasta.”

Another great way to beat the mults is by ensuring you offer something different. Simon Biddle, of Biddles Spar in Redditch, Worcestershire, ensures he stands out from the crowd with homemade ready meals for customers’ Big Night In.

“These work for any night of the week when you need something quick and easy. They even sell well on a Sunday as families will be busy all day; they might be at a football match and need a quick-cook option when they get home, but we can also make these for people planning a Big Night In with friends. We can make a meal big enough for 10 or 15 – something like a chilli con carne or a rogan josh.

“This is a great thing for us to do as then people will also buy all their accompanying snacks and drinks to go with the meal.”

Simon says the Big Night In occasion is as much about what’s on TV as it is about the night of the week.

“Those bigger meal options tend to be more of a weekend thing, but we do still find that as soon as there’s something popular on TV, whether it’s The X Factor or a football match, we start to see people picking up more sharing options.”

Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth merchandising and creative controller, agrees that TV has had a major influence on people now wanting to stay in. He says: “With box sets and TV/film/sport on-demand services becoming increasingly popular, staying in is becoming the new going out. This means snacking moments are as much about relaxing and being social as they are about eating.”

Sandeep Bains, owner of Simply Fresh, Faversham, Kent, says when he thinks of the Big Night In occasion he thinks of the everyday opportunity of the family evening meal, and not just the weekend blowout.

“The Big Night In mission is a massive thing for any c-store. You want to be convenient and you want to have all the options for the family meal. Of course, on a Friday and Saturday the Big Night In occasion gets much bigger, with much more alcohol, but this is an all-week opportunity. You have to make sure your store has all the elements of the basic family meal as well as all the sides, sauces, snacks and drinks.”

It’s an occasion that pays to tap into, too. Jon Rooney, convenience channel director for Birds Eye, adds that shoppers tend to spend more on a meal-for-tonight mission as they are willing to pay up to 234% more for a meal solution (Kantar Worldpanel State of the Nation 2017) so displaying complementary products together, and signposting them clearly, provides a consumer-led solution and helps to drive greater spend.

“The Big Night In occasion is a great opportunity to encourage shoppers to fill their basket higher, with food being pivotal to the experience.

“Meal bundles are a great and easy way to drive basket size as they prompt shoppers to consider new items. We’ve seen great results with meal bundles during the year, especially when they are targeted to different events and able to capitalise on popular occasions.”

Get switched on to TV snacking

Watch out for a spike in snacking over the next few months as consumers tune into winter sports such as football and rugby. That’s the prediction of Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth (PfG) merchandising and creative controller.

He points out that our multi-ethnic population and changing tastes will have a big impact on what’s being scoffed on the sofa. “The UK population is becoming increasingly diverse and, at the same time, consumers’ tastes are becoming more adventurous,” he says.

He points out that health is also becoming an increasingly important factor in snack choice, with 68% of UK adults believing they should eat more healthily. The proportion of snacking occasions where ‘health’ was an important consideration for choice is rising, he says.

Instant hot snacks are another growth area, according to Widdowson. “They are increasingly being seen as tasty and filling options, relevant for social meal occasions and evening consumption, so making sure instant hot snacks are visible in store in the evenings, as well as at lunchtime, is key. Some 82% of pot snacks are bought on impulse, so put them somewhere visible.”

Don’t forget about ice cream, either. Widdowson says ice cream consumed for ‘special’ or ‘treating’ reasons has soared in recent years. “Demand for ice cream as an evening treat grows as the weather gets colder, so stocking the best-selling lines is crucial. Npd drives excitement into the category when people are ‘treat focused’.”



Susan agrees that Big Night In shoppers are quite happy to trade up as they know they’re still making a saving compared with going on a night out.

“People will happily buy a bottle of prosecco for a Big Night In which seems a lot as they cost £8, but they know they’d spend £6 on a glass of prosecco in a bar so it’s great value for money.”

In fact, research has shown 28% of shoppers would like to trade up to more premium products (HIM 2018) when entertaining at home.

Sam Coldbeck agrees that shoppers seem happier to pay for the better quality spirits now in order to make their Big Night In that bit more enjoyable for themselves and their guests. She says that as a result she sells a great range of quirky flavoured gins and vodkas.

“One particularly popular flavour is the Zymurgorium unicorn marshmallow gin liqueur, which a few years ago I would never have imagined I’d be able to sell, but now I’m really struggling to keep it in stock it’s so popular! These have an rrp of £28.99, but I sell them on promotion at £27.99.”

Susan has even managed to sell 10-packs of premix cans such as Gordon’s gin and tonic and Jack Daniel’s and coke.

“If you think we sell the 10-pack for £10.99 that’s cheaper than buying a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and a bottle of Coke, so people are happy to pay it,” she says.

The Big Night In occasion is a huge part of sales at Harj Dhasee’s Nisa Village Stores in Mickleton, Gloucestershire, especially as the mission has evolved from the standard pizza, chips, crisps and popcorn.

Harj says that most adults looking to cater for a Big Night In with friends will be looking for meals that they can cook from scratch, as well as premium snacks to impress.

“Certainly with my demographic it’s all about scratch cooking. So shoppers will come in to buy their meat, their sauce and their veg. Usually those catering for a Big Night In will be cooking for about six people and will often opt for Indian, Thai or Italian dishes which can be pretty easy to make if you have all the ready-made sauces available.

“When it comes to snacks, they want to buy something a bit more sophisticated than a bag of Walkers. They might by some premium breadsticks and dips. They often will also buy a high-end bottle of spirit. These shoppers will spend £50 to £60 on a Big Night In occasion.”

Katy Hamblin, marketing manager of Pipers Crisps, has a theory about why shoppers are looking for premium snacks and ‘grown-up’ flavours for a memorable night in. “Whether eating out, or enjoying a special night in, there is a definite and growing trend towards premium food and drink consumption. Customers are becoming far more discerning, actively seeking great-tasting snacks in preference to mediocre, commonplace fare whenever there’s a choice. And the good news is that they are willing to pay for that premiumisation. For them, it’s not about price; much more important is the value they get from the quality of the food they consume.”

She says this is excellent news for retailers as it creates an opportunity to make a real point of difference by premiumising your offer, “helping you stand out from the competition on the high street while driving your customers’ average spend”.

Shoppers’ willingness to trade up is good news for snacks, a key element of the occasion. Some 48% of shoppers typically eat crisps in front of a film at home (HIM 2018). What’s more, evening snacking is worth more than £6.5bn and is growing (Kantar Worldpanel w/e 11 September 2016) so getting these shoppers into your store will prove very fruitful.

One way to entice snacking sales is by trying npd, as 53% of consumers are tempted to try new snacks when they see something new (Mintel, Consumer Snacking, UK March 2017).

When it comes to the flavour of snacks, consumers are opting for bigger, bolder and full-on flavour products (Nielsen MAT 17 June 2017), which has led to a rise in products made with chilli flavouring, with many coming with ratings on the ‘hot’ scale.

One major influence on flavours has been the explosion in popularity of street food cuisine in recent years. A massive 79% of millennials experiment with products from different cultures/countries (Global data 6 July 2017).

Joshua Guest, marketing and projects manager for London Flavours, says part of this increased interest in exotic flavours is due to consumers wanting to eat food that makes a statement about who they are, and that experimenting with unique and quirky flavours is “cool”.

The company introduced a range of Street Food hand-cooked crisps in August. The range includes three vegetarian flavours – Pho; Teriyaki and Sticky Ribs – sold in 40g and 150g bags.

Guest adds: “We saw an opportunity to capitalise on the high consumer demand for adventurous new Street Food flavours and cuisines, infusing them into a range of premium crisps.”

He says that the next trend to watch out for is veganism. “We cannot discuss shopper trends without at least mentioning the seismic shift towards vegan cuisine.

“A new survey from reported a dramatic rise in veganism in the past two years, with the number of identifying vegans now an estimated 3.5 million in the UK.”

Go super-premium for super sales

Asahi UK says it has seen the super-premium beer category increasingly become a part of the Big Night In trend, with the sub-category’s share of the quiet meal at home occasion increasing year on year by 30% (Kantar Alcovision Off-Trade month ending 30 June 2018) .

One in five off-trade beer purchases are made for the quiet meal at home occasion, the company reports.

With their breadth of styles and tastes to pair with an ever growing variety of food choice, super-premium beers have qualities that are well suited to the Big Night In. They also offer the provenance and brand stories that shoppers believe in, Asahi points out.


Pizza and chips

Despite a definite trend towards more interesting flavour options and spoiling friends and family during Big Night In occasions, Harj points out that the simple pizza and chips combo is still important – especially for those who are shopping for their children.

“When a mum comes in looking to buy food and drink for a Big Night In for her teenage children and their friends, she will buy pizza, chips, Ben & Jerry’s, Doritos, popcorn and a bottle of pop. They will usually have a budget of about £20.”

Simon Biddle offers his own homemade pizza options, which he says fly out whenever there’s a big sporting event being aired on TV. He sells eight different varieties of 12-inch pizzas, which he sells to customers for £4.29.

He reports that the most popular option is the spicy meat feast, which contains chicken tikka, chicken tandoori and other meat toppings, and spices. “These offer an ideal option for anyone looking for a no-fuss option for a big group of friends,” Simon says.

Dates to remember

Jan: Easter season begins

Feb: Valentine’s Day; Rugby Six Nations (1 Feb-16 March)

March: Mother’s Day (31 March)

April: Easter (19-21 April); Grand National (6 April)

May: Football season finals; Cricket World Cup (30 May–14 July, in England)

June: Summer season; BBQ; Father’s Day (June 16)

July: Thank you Teacher; Wimbledon (1-14 July)

August: Holiday season

September: Back to school; Tour of Britain 2019; Rugby World Cup (20 September–2 November, Japan)

October: Halloween

November: Bonfire night, Christmas season begins

December: Christmas and New Year; Easter season starts


Healthy interest

It should come as no surprise to C-Store readers that the total better for you (BFY) market is now worth nearly £125m and is growing at 9.3% year on year, as more than half the population buys into the BFY category (Mintel Snacks Report 2017, Kantar 52 w/e 31 December 2017).

Katy Hamblin, marketing manager of Pipers Crisps, says that in this segment two-thirds of shoppers are repeat purchasers and healthy eating snacks are being bought far more frequently, up to six trips a year (Mintel Snacks Report 2017, Kantar 52 w/e 31 December 2017).

The snacking category has seen vast amounts of innovation in creating healthier alternatives as Mintel research (2018) has found that 39% of people who snack look for a healthy product, and 49% say crisps/savoury snacks are a healthier choice than sugary snacks.

Matt Collins, sales director for convenience, wholesale, discounters & foodservice at KP Snacks, points out that the nuts category plays well to these dynamics with their naturally high protein content and more natural credentials – something which he says is forecast to be a major growth driver within snacking in 2018.

Simon Biddle finds nuts are in demand by snackers looking for a healthier Big Night In option. “When it comes to snacks, Spar’s range of healthy dried fruit and nut mixes and protein mixes go well as they offer a naturally healthy and simple sharing option,” he says.

Sam Coldbeck says she’s noticed Big Night In shoppers trying to find healthy yet indulgent treats and says the Halo Top low-calorie ice cream tubs are perfect for shoppers with that in mind.

“We sell Halo Top alongside the Häagen-Dazs and the Ben & Jerry’s, and Halo Top is really popular with my shoppers.

“I think it’s important to offer the healthy options within a meal deal, to allow people to feel they can enjoy themselves without totally falling off their diet wagon.”

Susan says when it comes to soft drinks, shoppers are now very sugar conscious, and this is influencing the drinks they are buying.

“We can definitely see the shift towards healthy options in the soft drinks category. Our Diet Coke and Coke Zero now outsell our full-sugar Coca-Cola and we now have to give more facings to the diet skus in soft drinks. People might be buying pizza, ice cream and chocolate, but they’ll still buy the zero-sugar soft drinks.”

There is one product that Susan would never be without when it comes to Big Night In lines, though, and it’s not one with a multi-million pound marketing budget and unmistakable branding. It’s the simple bag of ice.

“The Co-op is for ever running out so we make sure to always have it in stock and we were even able to sell it at a premium in the summer.” Susan says that it goes to show that shoppers will pay more for products they can’t find in other stores.

So you’ve got the products and promotions sorted, but have you let your shoppers know about them. PfG’s Nick Widdowson says that retailers should “shout about” their offers via simple social media competitions. “Flag them up through signage in-store and use social media to tell people what’s on offer,” he says.

“Offering entry into a prize draw for people who like, share and comment on posts can spread the word and bring customers in,” he adds.

Make a splash, agrees Jon Burton, senior trading controller at Landmark Wholesale. He advises showcasing the event with POS, and using social media – “a great way to publicise products, linking in with Saturday night TV.”

From great deals to premium products, the Big Night In is an occasion that can be steered towards any demographic, but will the event still have appeal in the future? Paula Wyatt, head of marketing for pizza at Dr Oetker UK, certainly thinks so.

“Making time to get-together at home with family and friends will continue to be a growing trend, even in the face of economic uncertainty,” she asserts.

Whether it’s a cosy night in or get together with friends, the popularity of home entertaining is staying put for some time to come.