1. Soft drinks, confectionery and snacks are all in double digit growth 

2. Two in five Brits are going out less frequently in 2023

3. 22% of Crisps & Snacks Sharing growth in the last year is through NPD 

4. There is a £1.2m opportunity to grow the ‘Special Treats’ biscuit segment in convenience

5. 31% of consumers say they’re likely to drink beer in a home environment more this year

6. Smaller beer packs mean bigger sales – for now

Snacking at home

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1.     Soft drinks, confectionery and snacks are all in double digit growth 

If Big Night In (BNI) has ever had the chance to shine it’s right now.

With consumers cursing “How much?” every time they’re served a coffee, sandwich or mortgage statement, people are downsizing their entertainment options to what’s happening between their own four walls.

But they’re not staying home the whole night. Consumers will certainly be planning a c-store trip for stay-at-home supplies to make their evening feel special.

“Ever since Covid-19, when it was compulsory to stay in, Big Night In has been a massive section for us,” says Bobby Singh from BB Nevison in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. “[Sadly], now with the cost-of-living crisis and everything, people are struggling a little bit and the category is progressing ever further.”

To help customers out, Bobby puts together tenner bundle deals on posh drinks, crisps, nachos and “everything customers need to have a big night in” in a dedicated section in-store.

Atul Sodha of Londis Harefield in Middlesex is equally well-prepared. “With Big Night In you have a window of say, six until nine, to make sales” says Atul. “So you need to have done your due diligence during the day and ensure you’ve got the stock out there, your promos are right, and your staff are ready to sell. That then allows you to create a friendly atmosphere for when customers come in. It’s all about meeting their mission.”

As far as product selection goes the BNI occasion fits very nicely with bread-and-butter c-store impulse fare.

“Impulse categories are driving growth in the independent convenience sector [in the BNI category],” says Sarah Coleman, director of communications at TWC. This includes soft drinks (+11%), confectionery (+13%) and crisps snacks and nuts (+21%) [TWC].” 

Clare Newton, trade marketing manager at Swizzels, says that in-store location makes all the difference. “Making use of smaller spaces, especially near to other occasion-based products, such as crisps and soft drinks, will invite customers to potentially purchase items that they wouldn’t have usually considered, especially when they are purchasing for at-home movie nights for example,” she says. “Consumers are reacting incredibly well to fun, novelty lines and are also trending heavily to more ‘pocket money’ lines, such as chew bars and our 69p Squashies range.”

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Meal at home with friends burgers

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2. Two in five Brits are going out less frequently in 2023

Let’s not beat around the bush. A major reason for the buoyed BNI category is that price-conscious shoppers are eschewing the inflation-driven price of eating out.

“When customers look at our prices I think they realise that, instead of going out for a meal, you can have all the goodies at home for a lot less,” says Bobby.

“The latest research shows two in five (40%) of us plan on going out less frequently in 2023 [CGA], and three fifths (61%) are spending more cautiously than before [Attest], but we still want affordable indulgence,” says Josh Corrigan, customer development director, UK at St Pierre Groupe. “With the cost of living crisis impacting consumer shopping habits, Big Nights In offer an affordable alternative to going out.” He advises retailers to capitalise by offering more premium lines such as brioche, which allow consumers to elevate their meals.

Elaine Rothballer, head of marketing, consumer brands, at Kepak, says that she anticipates the BNI category will enjoy “tremendous growth ahead”, citing TWC research from last year, which found that 39% of consumers planned to eat out less during the cost of living crisis, while 29% planned to have fewer takeaways. 

“The rise of the ‘fakeaway’ trend which came to the fore last year (recreating eat-out favourites at home) is set to continue, with many planning to increase ‘entertaining at home’ occasions,” she says. Rothballer hopes Rustlers (which claim two products are sold every second in the UK) will pick up the slack.

St Pierre Groupe concurs that the fakeaway trend remains strong. “The category is set to benefit from the increasing popularity of more substantial Big Night In meals, such as burgers and hot dogs – driven, in part, by the rise in ‘Americana-style’ dishes on menus across the UK,” says senior national account manager Mark Frossell. “Consumers are looking for quick and easy ways to create ‘fakeaway’ favourites. Baker Street’s range of Burger Buns and Hot Dog Rolls are ideal for consumers looking to recreate classic burgers and hot dogs, served with a variety of toppings.”

In fact, there’s plenty of evidence shoppers are willing to trade-up for a meat-based meal-time treat.

“When treating OOH, we know consumers favour meat-based dishes such as lamb, steaks, and burgers, and what is evident in recent demand data is that some of these areas are actually seeing some positive trade up within retail, bucking the overall grocery and total meat, fish and poultry (MFP) trend [AHDB/YouGov Tracker, May 23],” says Kim Heath, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board senior retail insight manager.

“For example, though steaks are in decline overall, sales of the premium tier of steak are growing slightly. Plus, in pork, premium tier growth is evident in cuts like shoulder, belly and chops.”

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Women sharing crisps

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3. 22% of Crisps & Snacks Sharing growth in the last year is through NPD 

“The Big Night In category can include anything and everything … people want a bit of indulgence,” says Atul.

KP snacks, which owns Tyrells and Butterkist brands, concurs that BNI and trading up go hand in hand. “We know there is a high demand for premium lines as consumers look to replicate night out experiences in home,” says trading director Matt Collins, citing Kantar research from 2020, which found that 46% of shoppers are more inclined buy premium food and drink options when dining at home. He adds that products “focusing on the fun”, such as Butterkist’s new Crunchy Hazelnut Chocolate flavour toffee popcorn, can help to drive BNI sales.

Mike Chapman, head of wholesale at PepsiCo, agrees that shoppers want something different from the norm to enliven their nights in.

“Enjoyment is the number one driver of choice when buying crisps and snacks, so offering not just well-loved core brands, but also a wide range of bold and different flavours, will appeal to consumers looking for excitement and help to maximise sales,” he says.

“Big Night In shoppers are also often looking for something a little different to their usual snacking needs, with many wanting to try something new.”

At PepsiCo this includes its Doritos Burger King Flame-Grilled-Whopper flavour and Wotsits Prawn Cocktail. The brand is also tapping into another big family-friendly OOH brand with new Walkers Max Pizza Hut. 

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Premium chocolate biscuits

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4. There is a £1.2m opportunity to grow the ‘Special Treats’ biscuit segment in convenience

Price is all relative in the BNI category. So while buying a posh biccie might be pushing the boat out a little, shoppers still know it’s cheaper than purchasing a cookie from their local coffee shop. Colin Taylor, trade marketing director at Fox’s Burton’s Companies, reckons there’s potential to push the upmarket segment even further by growing the ‘Premium Treats’ segment, made up of ‘Special Treats’ and ‘Big Cookies’.

“The ‘Special Treats’ segment is worth £46.8m to the convenience market, which is seeing strong YoY growth of +£6.2M (+15.3%), outperforming the growth seen across Total Coverage [Nielsen],” says Taylor. Nielsen IQ, Convenience, 52 Weeks to 18.02.2023

“Despite a strong performance across the ‘Special Treats’ segment in convenience, there is still a £1.2m trade opportunity, which will support the ‘Big Night In’ occasion, at a time when shoppers are increasingly engaged with entertaining themselves at home,” he says.

This ‘Special Treats’ segment includes fully coated chocolate biscuits like Fox’s Fabulous Chocolatey Rounds and indulgent recipes like the nutty, caramelised Thomas Fudge’s Florentines and buttery, chocolate-dipped Fox’s Fabulous Viennese Fingers.

“‘Special Treats’ are seeing growth partly as shoppers stop buying cheaper everyday segments such as ‘Everyday Treats’ and start buying more premium biscuits, as well as growth driven through existing ‘Special Treats’ shoppers spending more versus the prior year [Kantar], Kantar – Total Market, Special Treats 52 w/e 19.02.2023”, says Taylor.

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Man grabbing beer bottles from fridge

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5. 31% of consumers say they’re likely to drink beer in a home environment more this year

With just under a third of consumers saying they’re likely to drink beer at home or at someone else’s house this year more often than last year (Bulbshare), there’s clearly a sales opportunity for c-stores.

“Customers tell me that a pint of beer out now costs around six quid,” says Bobby. “Obviously that delivers what it has to, but I think customers are looking around at other options.”

And, according to Asahi UK, there’s plenty of sales action is happening at the premium end of the category.

“Traditionally Big Night In displays have included mainstream beer, crisps and confectionery brands, but with off-trade premium beer sales growing by 6.8% in the past 12 weeks – the only price segment of beer to do so – it is clear shoppers now expect more [Nielsen],” says Steve Young, sales director at Asahi UK.

Alexander Wilson, category and commercial strategy director at Heineken, agrees. “While shoppers are attempting to make savings across large expenditures, such as household bills or eating out, smaller purchases like alcohol are one area where consumers are happy to spend a little more with the largest purchase occasion for lager in the impulse channel being as a treat (40%) [Lumina],” he says.

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Small beer packs

6. Smaller beer packs mean bigger sales – for now

Value for money in BNI is about balancing value with quality. Right now in beer that means the smaller four-pack format is winning out.

Miriam Thompson, off-trade category development manager at BrewDog PLC, believes that the six- to ten- packs will may a comeback, “often delivering more value for money than smaller packs or single cans”.

“However, in the short-term, if a shopper is trying to reduce their basket spend and only has say £10 left in their budget, a larger multipack of beer that exceeds £10 could be regarded as a big-ticket item they can’t afford in that shop on the day,” she says.

“So, alternatively they will stay loyal to the brand, but trade down to a smaller pack for a night in alone or with a partner, albeit at a higher price per litre.”

Wilson says this is happening in cider too. “One key trend occurring since the cost-of-living crisis is the growth of smaller packs. Cider single packs (44.4%) and Cider small packs (39.3%) are the largest contributors to Cider Impulse value sales [Nielsen] and we are seeing smaller multipacks – such as small and mid-packs growing their share of spend.”

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