Staying in is the new going out. With inflation hitting a 40-year high earlier this year, many people are drawing in their belts and spending less on nights out at restaurants and pubs. Past downturns have taught us that shoppers look for affordable treats to cheer themselves up and share with friends and family at home at times like these so what do convenience retailers need to know about Britain’s Big Nights In for coming months?
1. It’s game on for women’s football!
It’s official: England has the best women’s football team in Europe. A record 17.6 million people tuned in to watch the team assert that fact over Germany at the Euro Final on 31 July, making it the most-viewed women’s football match ever on UK television and the most popular programme of any genre so far this year.
What’s good for viewing figures is also good for sales, of course. “We were really busy prior to the final and saw a big uplift in sales of soft drinks, beers and crisps and snacks,” says Harj Gill, who runs The Windmill Select & Save in Birmingham. “It was definitely the busiest I’ve ever seen before a women’s match. People really seemed to get behind it.”
That bodes well for sales during summer 2023, when the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand. However, with time Down Under anywhere between nine and 12 hours ahead of the UK, there may be as many Big Mornings In than Big Nights In during next year’s tournament.
2. Premium brands expect growth at home as 40% of Brits plan to go out less
The gathering economic clouds have a silver lining in store for convenience retailers. “We’re seeing consumer confidence falling at an accelerated rate, with the rising cost of living the number one concern for 46% of Brits,” says Campari Group UK marketing director Sandra Brunet, citing a CGA poll from May 2022.
“In response to inflation, 40% of consumers are planning to go out less and 20% will visit fewer premium outlets. In response to this, there is a shift towards mainstream and premium brands to enjoy at home - creating a valuable opportunity for retailers offering these products as part of a budget-friendly shopping experience.”
Brunet tips the Aperol Spritz Kit as a way of tapping this trend. Each kit contains a 35cl bottle of Aperol and 37.5cl Cinzano Prosecco, allowing shoppers to mix spritzes just like staff make them at their favourite bar, at home. “Forty two per cent of shoppers seek convenient and effortless ways to purchase products like this (CGA),” she adds.
There’s plenty of evidence from the shop floor that consumers are seeking more premium drinks to sup at home too. Budweiser Brewing Group’s new Unfiltered Stella Artois, Heineken UK’s Heineken Silver line and Molson Coors premium Spanish lagre Madri Excepcional are three examples from the world of beer.
“The biggest new launch we’ve seen recently is Madri Excepcional which is doing very well,” says Conrad Davies, who owns two Spar Express stores and two Spar supermarkets in North Wales. “I think the branding is very good and it’s been launched at a time when people want to try something different.”
3. Size matters for beer and cider drinkers
Sales of pint cans are booming, with Budweiser Brewing Group reporting earlier this year that 60% of lager drinkers now only buy this format. This explains the growing number of brewers and cidermakers, from Guinness owner Diageo to cidermaker Aston Manor, that are offering their products in pint cans.
“We have launched our award-winning British cider brand, Crumpton Oaks, in a four-pack pint can to broaden the brand’s consumer base, attract new shoppers to the category, and reinforce its quality and value proposition,” says Aston Manor head of marketing Calli O’Brien. “The £4 price-marked pack of four 568ml cans offers great value to shoppers.”
4. At-home cocktail sales surge 27% in impulse
More and more drinkers are looking to recreate the sort of experiences they get in pubs and bars at home, report many drinks suppliers. So, sales of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails and cocktail mixers are booming.
“With the cocktail market now worth £10m a year and growing at 27% in impulse, 2022 will provide a wide range of occasions for consumers to enjoy these in an RTD format, such as outdoor drinking and eating events in Spring and Summer,” says Funkin Cocktails marketing director Ben Anderson, citing (NielsenIQ).
“Creating cross merchandising opportunities in Impulse channels will allow consumers to make the natural link between the food and drink categories and treat themselves to both for occasions that combine cocktail drinking and snacking.”
Anderson tips Funkin’s Pina Colada line as the ideal accompaniment to Caribbean cuisine, while the brand’s Passion Fruit Martini is great with ice cream or dessert. Tim Dunlop, brand director at drinks wholesaler Hammonds, says US brand Buzzballz Chilli Mango and Espresso Martini RTD cocktails are also poised to sell well this summer.
“Cocktail nights at home is a trend that we see continuing into the summer and beyond for big nights in, as there is a huge desire to spend time together at gatherings and parties,” says Dunlop.
“Many consumers will be tightening the purse strings as the winter months set in, so gatherings in the home are certain to increase, where shoppers may trade up to treat themselves at the weekend, or to impress guests.”
5. Flavoured vodka sales fly by more than 50%
Meanwhile, Diageo head of off-trade category development Lauren Priestley says flavoured spirits offers drinkers an easier way of mixing more exotic serves at home.
“Eighty seven per cent of spirits growth has come from new flavour innovations over the past few years, which is testament to the popularity and success of flavoured spirits across various different categories and makes them a must-stock,” she says, citing IWSR figures for total trade volume.
“Within this category, flavoured vodka is experiencing the fastest growth of 51.9%. Innovations from well-known brands such as Smirnoff cater perfectly to this trend. For example, Smirnoff Raspberry Crush and Smirnoff Mango & Passionfruit Twist offer people the option to create simple but effective twists on classic serves.”
That’s not all. Flavoured gins are still very much in, with Priestley pointing to products such as Gordon’s Pink and the new Tropical Passionfruit line as must-stocks. “Over the past couple of years, many consumers found ways to create memorable moments at home and discovered their inner mixologist,” she adds.
“We recommend responding to the increasing demand for cocktails at-home which is playing an increasingly large part in the ‘big night in’ occasion. When it comes to popular spirits which form the base of cocktails, gin has been a popular choice amongst consumers for some time and is not a category to be overlooked.”
6. There’s a run on rum
Others suggest that retailers should widen the range of rum they stock to appeal to consumers who are increasingly discerning when it comes to the drinks they mix with at home.
“Stocking brands such as Wray & Nephew Rum will enable the convenience sector to leverage the growing opportunity around the rum category, which has seen the highest CAGR growth rate to 2021 with 4.8% growth, placing the UK as the third largest rum market in the world (Nielsen),” says Campari’s Brunet.
Sam Jeveons, co-founder of Indonesian rum brand Nusa Caña, says that more shoppers are looking to discover new drinks to share with friends and family during Big Nights In. “We’re seeing that shoppers are prepared to trade up to something they know will bring excitement and prestige to at-home drinking,” he says.
“In addition, drinkers care more about what they pour in their glass, taking a greater interest in the story behind the brand and take into account sustainability, care for the environment and communities, and materials used in production. Consumers are looking for more enhanced and advanced drinks – beyond the standard offering.”
7. Boxed wine is on a roll
Just as with beer, larger formats of wine are also showing strong growth, following the launch of several new bag-in-box formats by the big wine suppliers. Accolade, for example, has launched Vina Società’s Sauvignon Blanc, Rosato and Malbec in 1.5l bag-in-box lines.
“With Vino Società we are focused on transforming consumer perceptions around the quality of Wine On Tap wines and introducing new shoppers to category – and it’s the perfect format for a night in,” says Accolade marketing director Tom Smith.
“From a wine perspective, we are focussed on getting wine into the shopper journey, formats, and chillers. We have seen people pick-up wine more often and buy more of it and the convenience channel has been vital in increasing these impulse sales.”
Treasury Wine Estates has also moved into bag-in-box, rolling out its 19 Crimes brand in a 1.5l format. “It holds two bottles of wine and can be savoured for up to six weeks once opened, making it ideal for hosting multiple occasions throughout summer or taking along to a BBQ party,” says Treasury head of marketing Ben Blake.
“The box is also sustainable and more environmentally friendly than transporting glass bottles. The 19 Crimes Bag-in-Box 1.5l was developed to offer a premium and sustainable format option to the brand’s engaged millennial audience, as an introduction to the fast-growing bag-In-box category, with shoppers under 44 becoming much more engaged with the format. This summer we also added the 19 Crimes rose to this format.”
8. Snacks are crucial for Big Nights In for 49% of shoppers
Big Nights In aren’t just about the drinks, of course. Harj at Windmill The Windmill Select & Save in Birmingham says that demand for all the usual food choices for the Big Night In – crisps, snacks, chocolate, ice cream and so on – is undaunted by the rising cost of living.
“We actually dropped our promotions on snacks for Big Nights In during the pandemic and haven’t really brought them back because people were buying anyway,” he says. “Jimmy’s Nachos, which come with a dip are doing particularly well at the moment.”
Brands have certainly been busy innovating for Big Nights In. Examples of recent NPD include Calbee UK’s newly relaunched Seabrook Loaded line-up, which includes Crunchy Cheese & Bacon Fries and Sour Cream & Onion Rings.
“With the cost-of-living increase, a big night in rather than night out may seem like a sensible option to many,” says marketing director Claire Hooper. “Great tasting crisps and snacks are high on the shopping list to enjoy at home, whether it’s for a movie night or entertaining friends and family.”
Matt Collins, trading director at KP Snacks, says sharing formats are of key importance for the Big Night In. “Consumer demand for sharing products is on the up and snacks are a hugely important part of a memorable sharing occasion,” he says.
“Whether it’s a big get-together to remember, a casual drink paired with nuts, or a family movie night with popcorn, the CSN sharing segment has grown significantly and represents a huge opportunity for retailers. 49% see snacks as a must have for an evening in [Mintel 2021]. These have become increasingly popular as consumers continue to spend more time at home due to a more cautious spending and the lingering impacts of Covid-19.”
9. Take home soft drink sales surge 13%
Sales of soft drinks for Big Night In occasions are also booming. “Total take home soft drink sales in convenience and impulse over the last year showed significant growth of 13%, versus pre-COVID levels, which is great news for our retail customers,” says Britvic out-of-home commercial director Phil Sanders, citing IRI (IRI).
“Sales were only down slightly on the peaks seen during lockdown(IRI), when Covid restrictions limited us from socialising out of home and spend was significantly diverted, showing there is an opportunity to capitalise on the big night in occasion with large formats and multipacks across key categories.
“Even more promising for convenience retailers, the latest 12-week figures show significant growth in take home sales, up 6.3% ahead of pre-Covid levels, and 4.5% growth versus this time last year(IRI). It’s likely this trend will continue, with socialising at home continuing and people making up for social occasions lost during restrictions.”
So, it’s time to stock up!