Summer is always a real opportunity for retailers thanks to family celebrations and get-togethers.

Summer is an interesting challenge for retailers due to the uncertainty of the weather, but it is always a real opportunity thanks to family celebrations and get-togethers.

“The most obvious change in behaviour is that social occasions increase,” says Dan Harwood, brand activation manager for Eisberg alcohol-free wine. “Parties, picnics and barbecues all happen more regularly. After last year’s washout summer, the appetite for outdoor occasions will be greater than ever and retailers should prepare for a surge in demand for picnic and barbecue drinks.”

“We certainly see an increase in sales during the summer months,” says Amit Patel, of Belvedere Food and Wine in Kent. “Cider sales increase ten-fold during this time. Kopparberg and Rekorderlig are the best-sellers which we promote on multibuy.”

Sid Ali, of Nisa Mintlaw and Maud, Aberdeen, agrees that cider is the ‘obvious’ front runner in the summer, citing Magners Original and Kopparberg Summer Fruits as the best-sellers in his store.

David Sheppy, managing director at Sheppy’s Cider, says there is “no doubt that summer and cider go hand in hand”.

“We see a particular rise in the popularity of our flavoured ciders – cider with raspberry and cider with blackberry & elderflower – as well as our lighter ciders such as Somerset Draught.”

Nigel Dowdney, of Earlham Shopper & Stalham Shopper in Swainsthorpe, Norfolk, says he has been shocked by the rise in popularity of fruit ciders.

“I come from Somerset and there used to be dry cider, sweet cider and scrumpy. Nowadays there’s a multitude of different flavours of cider. I think that the fruit cider has taken over the alcopop market, which has virtually disappeared. The fruit ciders are more popular than ever and I think the fruit varieties are increasing people’s interest in the category as a whole so consumers are experimenting with all flavours.

“Ciders are definitely more popular in the summer and I think it will be top of the market this year. People like a nice cold glass of cider with ice on a hot day.”

Debs Carter, marketing director for alcohol at SHS Drinks, says there has been a “dramatic” increase in the number of consumers drinking cider in the past few years. She says almost two-thirds (60%) of the adult population now include cider in their drinking repertoire, and research shows that four out of 10 (41%) consumers who drink alcohol at home choose to drink cider, which makes it almost as popular a choice as lager (50%), with 41% of cider drinkers consuming cider on a weekly basis (Mintel).

“It’s an important category for impulse retailers, with the premium glass bottled cider sector alone generating about £79m a year (Nielsen Scantrack) in sales for impulse stores, and it’s also a sector in which impulse retailers are outperforming multiple grocers,” she says.

Thanks to his location, John McKinnon sells a huge amount of cider at his Spar store in Ilminster, Somerset, especially Thatchers. He has noticed that bottled fruity ciders become better sellers in the summer. “The flavoured ciders tend to be slightly more upmarket so the glass bottles are the most popular format for those,” he says.

Nicky Kaur, who owns Drinks Express Anchor Wines in Aldridge, West Midlands, which is a Lifestyle Express, says bottled beer and cider sells much better in the summer as shoppers are happier to spend more money for special occasions such as garden parties.

“The older generation will stick to their four-pack cans, but the younger generation is more likely to buy bottles and are more likely to try new, premium products.”

However, Carter says: “The cider category has reached a watershed and is currently in a state of flux, with some brands showing steep double-digit declines in sales, while others are flourishing. This makes it difficult for retailers to manage the category effectively, and it makes it even more important to ensure that they are stocking the brands which continue to perform well and have the staying power to ride out the ups and downs of the category.

“As we head into the summer, it’s a good time for retailers to review their cider range in the light of current trends and get it in shape for this key trading period.”

Ahead of the summer, Aston Manor Cider plans to make the most of the cider splurge by extending its Friels Vintage brand with new formats and variants. Glen Friel, the company’s sales and marketing director, says although flavoured cider has been effective in recruiting new consumers to the category and driving sales there have been signs that sales of fruit cider are starting to slow and consumers are being drawn back to apple ciders, particularly in the premium end of the market with different formats and styles available.

Carter says there has been a lot of focus and shelf-space devoted to fruit-flavoured ciders in recent years, but she says their growth is now “plateauing” and apple is showing a resurgence, particularly in the impulse sector.

“Supermarkets are already adjusting their cider fixtures to reflect this change,” says Carter, “and it is something convenience store retailers should be looking to rationalise, too, especially if they have taken on an extensive flavour range. If more than half of the shelf space is given over to fruit-flavoured ciders, it will certainly need rebalancing.”

SHS Drinks points to the buoyancy of the heritage cider sector, which includes brands such as Merrydown, Westons, Thatchers and Aspall. Value sales of heritage ciders have grown by 32% over the past two years (Nielsen Scantrack), but SHS Drinks believes they don’t always get the amount of space on the cider fixture that they deserve.

Spar’s cider festival, which usually takes place in August, encourages stores to make the most of the summer boost to cider sales by running national cider promotions, local deals and encouraging cider displays.

“We do make a bit more of an effort when it comes to displays. It makes customers more interested,” says Georgi Burns, development manager for four Burns & Co stores under the Spar symbol in Worcestershire.

The exercise is turned into a competition at Burns & Co and Georgi helps to judge the stores’ displays to encourage them to create some eye-catching fixtures. The site manager who creates the best displays is given a prize, such as vouchers. Georgi says last year they ran a competition which awarded the manager of the store which achieved the biggest increase in sales in their cider compared with the previous year.

Saqib Ghafoor, of Bargain Booze Select Convenience, in Ashington, Northumberland, says he always places alcohol with disposable barbecue sets, meats and other barbecue-related foods and products over the summer.

Nicky advises other retailers to bring in new alcoholic products and create displays around them. “To make the most of your summer alcohol sales, offer as many brands as you can and, if you have the room, consider expanding your range to try new lines as you could be missing out on a best seller. If you introduce new stock, always make it prominent in your store. I’ve discovered that an eye-catching stand always leads to a rise in sales of the featured product.

“I find the best time to introduce new alcoholic products is during the summer as people are happy to try new flavours as they want to take a selection to barbecues and garden parties.”

Saqib says that to really drive up sales, he puts new and popular products on multi-buy promotions, which consistently gets great results. “By offering three or four products for a set price, I increase my sales and my customers are happy, knowing that they have a bargain that they couldn’t get elsewhere”.

Nigel McNally, managing director of Brookfield Drinks, says retailers should use gondola ends to cross-merchandise seasonal products and maximise upselling opportunities. “Use this space to display promotional lines alongside products that shoppers are likely to be looking for because of the sunnier weather,” he says, suggesting disposable barbecues and equipment, beers, wines and ambient snacks.

He also reminds retailers that they should be refrigerating products which are designed for immediate consumption. “If possible, convenience retailers should chill all products that are best served chilled, as the majority of customers will usually want to consume their purchase within a few hours of buying.”

Carter says there is a great deal of interest around food-matching drinks, adding: “Convenience retailers can enhance the customers’ shopping experience this summer by featuring shelf-strip tasting notes and food-matching suggestions, which can be found on a lot of brands’ websites, as well as offering seasonal recipes and tips.”

Sheppy points out that its ciders are a delicious accompaniment to cheese, so stocking them together is a fantastic way to inspire customers to try something new, and up-sell other products.

“Cocktails are on trend at the moment,” adds Sheppy, “We have a collection of luxury cocktail and long drink recipes, featuring our Great Taste 2015 winners Oak Matured Vintage and Dabinett Apple. Retailers can make the most of this trend by creating cider 
cocktail recipe cards. This is a great way to entice customers, and cross-sell your cider, fruit juice and soft drink offerings.”

Sheppy also says consumers are much more interested in where their cider has come from, and how it is produced so it is important that retailers are stocking craft and premium ciders to keep up with this demand.

Craft ales

“Ciders are a very strong market, but I think they’ve peaked and they’re probably going to be overtaken by the craft ales,” asserts Adam Hogwood, manager of Budgens Broadstairs, Kent.

“This summer is going to be all about craft beers for us as we’ve introduced a lot of unique beers from craft breweries. Initially, we did this to combat the problem of an off licence opening very nearby. I wanted to get in with these suppliers before the off licence to give us a point of difference, and that’s been really successful. It’s made us a destination for craft beer.

“Consumers are much more interested than they used to be in trying new weird and wonderful products that they have never seen before.”

Bargain Booze head licensed buyer Matt Cain agrees that ales are fast becoming the new trend.

“We are seeing customers turn to locally-brewed drinks more and more. In the past year, Bargain Booze has added more than 45 lines, solidifying its leading premium bottled ales offering within the sector.

“We’re helping franchisees capitalise on the trend for premium beers and craft ales by launching new products and promotions. For example, our three for £5 mix and match offer means shoppers can pick from a wide range of craft ales and premium bottled ales and is designed to drive trial and increase customer appreciation of the category.”

McNally says sales of premium bottled beers see growth throughout the summer, thanks to the increase in social events. “A trend that looks set to continue throughout 2016 is the increasing popularity of premium world beers. Retailers should ensure they have a selection of chilled world beers available which will appeal to shoppers looking to recreate memories of summer sun experienced on past holidays.

“Super Bock is the best-selling Portuguese beer in the world, and is anticipated to become a leading line for independent retailers in the world beer sector. Super Bock is malty and fruity, with average body and balanced flavour.”

Sid has noticed that consumers are becoming more adventurous as they travel further abroad on their holidays. “As people are flying to other countries and experiencing new drinks, they come home and try to find it here. So instead of your typical Carling or Fosters, people are trying Cobra, Corona and Asahi.

“South American beers lend themselves to hot weather. They are very refreshing with a slice of lime,” he adds.

Craig Clarkson, category trade marketing director for Heineken, says the brand is concentrating on pushing its premium and world beers during 2016. Amstel Bier has been given a complete rebranding to appeal as a modern continental beer for social occasions. Clarkson says the beer is tipped to sell well this year as it is genuinely authentic and people are happy to pay a premium price for it.

According to Clarkson, Desperados is growing by 10% year on year. “We’ve launched a new 250ml slim can,” explains Clarkson. “It’s a trendy shape which is easy to drink on the go. This is a perfect opportunity for convenience stores.”

The slim can has an rrp of £2, or a 6x330ml can pack retails at £11.25.

“This is not a cheap option, but we don’t think the consumer minds paying more for a good quality product. It’s perfect for a special occasion,” Clarkson adds.

Demand for premium

Friel believes that one of the big trends impacting the alcohol market is the rising consumer interest in provenance and quality.

Rav Garcha, who owns four stores in the West Midlands, believes shoppers are trading up with alcohol in general. “We are doing a lot more with spirits now. We have created double the space for the spirits range so we have a massive range now with lots of 
flavour variants.”

Sid agrees and says this is a good opportunity. “From a retailer’s point of view we are probably getting the same amount of revenue, or possibly more, because of this change in attitude.

“We actually have people coming in saying they want a 25-year-old bottle of malt whisky or Johnnie Walker Blue label. And malt whisky doesn’t need promotion as people will buy at full price.”

Sid says gin is seeing a big resurgence in popularity among all ages. “The spirit that flies off shelves at the moment is gin, which I find strange because it was in decline for a while. People are opting for premium Scottish gins. The drink lends itself to summer. A gin and tonic in a large glass with a slice of lime and ice: it’s sparkling and refreshing. That’s what people tend to be looking for when it’s hot.”

Sid has also noticed the grab-and-go cans of pre-mixed spirits and mixers are increasing in popularity and are particularly sought after during summer.

“The pre-mixed cans are very popular as people take them to the park or have them outside in the garden,” he points out.

Malibu has picked up on this trend and earlier this year the brand created a super-summery strawberry & kiwi pre-mixed can to add to its range, alongside cola, diet cola and pineapple.

Jameson cashes in on move to premium

Jameson has tapped 
into the trend for premiumisation and unveiled a new premium Irish whiskey called Jameson Crested.

Pernod Ricard UK says the variant is set to further increase excitement around Irish whiskey in the UK, which is growing 2.4% in value and 1% in volume.

Available now, Jameson Crested (rrp £29.99 per 70cl bottle, 40% ABV) is a triple-distilled Irish whiskey.

Pernod Ricard UK head of marketing Vicky Hoey says: “We are very excited about launching Jameson Crested into the dynamic UK Irish whiskey market as the feedback that we receive from consumers is that they want to increase their knowledge about the heritage of the category in an authentic, personal and meaningful way. Jameson Crested offers discerning drinkers and existing brand fans a completely new taste experience, while retaining the recognisable smoothness that is distinctly Jameson.”

The design showcases the product quality; a tapered neck is left uncovered so that the cork can be clearly seen and is complemented by an authentic seal. The new design is being used across the family of Jameson premium whiskeys.

“Our pre-mixed cans range has exceeded expectations since launch in 2011,” Pernod Ricard UK marketing manager Joanna Alexander says. “The Malibu Pineapple variant alone has generated double-digit value and volume growth in the past year, at 21.1% and 23.4% respectively. Our consumers love new products, especially innovative flavours. We expect Malibu Strawberry Kiwi to continue the positive momentum of the ready-to-drink sector, which is helping us to extend our footprint in impulse and convenience.”

Bargain Booze’s Cain says: “Our ready-to-serve cocktails range has also seen more than 15 lines introduced over the past 12 months as we have seen more and more customers turn to these quick and easy solutions. In line with this, sales in frozen pouches have already seen an increase. With over five variants available, including Kopparberg and WKD Blue, Bargain Booze continues to offer its customers choice as well as value.”

pineapple malibu shakes it up

Following success in the US, Malibu has unveiled new Malibu Pineapple in the UK – a blend of tropical pineapple with classic coconut rum.

Available now, Malibu Pineapple capitalises on the continued trend for flavoured spirits, which the brand says is the biggest flavoured category in beers, wines and spirits.

“More than 50 new flavoured brands have launched into the category over the past year, achieving £11m sales,” explains Pernod Ricard UK marketing manager Jo Alexander. “But only six account for three-quarters of total sales, so it can be quite confusing knowing which brands and flavours to focus on. We would advise retailers to focus on the big brands that drive value and to stock a good range of the on-trend flavours that consumers seek.

“We know that pineapple is a hot flavour right now. Our pre-mixed Malibu Pineapple can is living proof – it has generated double-digit value and volume growth in the past year, at 23% and 24% respectively.

“Malibu is synonymous with pineapple, which explains why it is one of the most popular mixers bought and consumed with Malibu Original and in a piña colada. Malibu Pineapple offers the great flavour combination right out of the bottle, to be enjoyed with lemonade, orangeade, or even an ice cream float.”

Malibu Pineapple is available in a 70cl bottle (rrp £14.99). Cases include six bottles of Malibu Pineapple with a recipe neck collar applied to each bottle.

Many cocktails and long drinks feature wine or prosecco as a base. This summer Freixenet will be celebrating the summer season with its Ice Cava (rrp £12.99), a unique Cava blend to be enjoyed over ice.

The drink is being marketed as perfect for summer cocktails, with the suggestion of serving it with elderflower liqueur, cucumber ribbons or peach liqueur, strips of ginger and a slice of grapefruit.

Freixenet says the drink is refreshing yet bursting with aromas of peaches, flowers and nuances of tropical fruits.

Adam is hopeful prosecco will perform as well this year as it did last summer. “Prosecco was a massive trend last year and is still popular,” he asserts.

Continental Wine & Food (CWF) marketing manager Amy Ledger anticipates key trends for this spring and summer will include unusual blends and upmarket proseccos, with sparkling wines as a category continuing to grow at a remarkable pace.

Sid Ali says sales of rosé and white wines always increase in the summer. “Red wine says ‘winter’ to me, but white and rosé are associated with summer. They do really, really well. I guess because they are served chilled.”

John McKinnon, who has a large range of alcohol in his Spar store, says cider is popular all year round in his area, but he does notice that white and rosé wine both sell better during the summer, adding that rosé seems to be becoming a more fashionable drink in general.

CWF says retailers need to review their displays and how they merchandise their wine for the summer. “For example, do not over complicate the wine fixture otherwise it can be a daunting experience for the customer. Simplicity is the key – either separate the wine into red, white, rosé or sparkling, or arrange by wine style.

“Having a chilled shelf or unit for the white, rosé, sparkling and even lighter red wines is great for convenience stores as it promotes impulse purchases. It’s great to be able to pick up a bottle of pre-chilled wine en route to a family barbecue, or simply on your way home after work.

“Retailers can look at creating bespoke POS to clearly indicate special offers, promotions and new listings and should think laterally in how to promote their products. Try engaging with the customer through calendar events such as the bank holiday or Wimbledon. Wine and drink tasting evenings often prove popular with customers who want to try something new.”

CWF says there is an increasing demand from consumers for wines that are lighter in style and in some cases with a lower ABV. This can be due to health reasons, or simply wanting a lighter-style drink for a social occasion.

Valerie Archer, who owns three stores in Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Cheshire, says fruity wines are popular choices. She will be increasing her stock in time for summer, as well as ensuring she has a good supply of chilled rosé and white wines.

“People enjoy the fruity flavour drinks in the summer; drinks which can be chilled, including wine, cider, and pre-mixed cans,” she says.

CWF has recently introduced a collection of three fruity new variants to its Silver Bay Point range. Ledger says the new wines add an “exciting dimension to the burgeoning fruit-flavoured wine market”.

“Silver Bay Point Fruit Flavours is a collection of natural fruit-infused British wines created with fruit cider drinkers, entry-level wine consumers and Silver Bay Point’s current target audience, in mind,” she explains.

The three wines, ABV 8% vol, 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 natural fruit flavours.

Sid Ali says the fruity wines are very popular during summer, adding: “It almost makes the drink into a cross between a wine and a fruity cider. The lower- alcohol wines are coming into fashion a lot more, and because they are low in alcohol you can get the lower price point and so they sell much better.”

Dan Harwood, brand activation manager for Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine, says: “Sales of alcohol-free wine are booming in the UK, with an increase of 42% (Nielsen, 52 weeks ending 12 October 2015) and brand leader Eisberg is leading the way with a sales increase of 35% (internal sales data, 52 weeks ending 31 January 2016). This has been founded on strong demand for our Chardonnay, which has doubled its sales in the past year (internal sales data, 52 weeks ending 31 January 2016).

“In addition, we listened to consumer demand to launch a Sauvignon Blanc variety. Our wine-makers taste-tested the product extensively pre-launch to ensure the quality of the Sauvignon Blanc grape remains, even after the alcohol has been gently removed.

“Sauvignon Blanc is the ‘go to’ white for wine drinkers; it’s both a grape and name that consumers recognise immediately and feel confident ordering, and early sales figures confirm that there is a demand for an alcohol-free variety.”

Ledger says thinking about your customer and what they might be planning during the summer months is the key. When the sun does make an appearance, there will be a big and almost instant demand for products suited to outdoor get-togethers, and convenience retailers usually benefit more than supermarkets from this sudden rush.

So keep an eye on the forecast and ensure a good range of chilled products ready for those impromptu barbecues and social gatherings.

A Caribbean addition to World Beers

Specialist food and drink distributor Wanis International Foods is hoping to shake up the world beers market with the introduction of Caribbean lager Stag to the UK.

Launched in Trinidad more than 30 years ago, Stag will be exclusively distributed by Wanis in a 275ml, standout dark green bottle with 5.5% abv.

The brand is one of Carib Brewery’s (CBL) fastest growing products and has a loyal following across the Caribbean and beyond. Its popularity is largely attributed to its crisp and clean flavour fused with a fermented fresh fruit aroma and gentle hop bitterness.

The brand has become well-known across the Islands for its market positioning as ‘A Man’s Beer’. However, it continues to appeal to a broad spectrum of beer drinkers and will be aiming to capture a wider audience in the UK.

Wanis International Foods marketing manager Jag Singh says: “There has been a demand for Stag from consumers and businesses for a number of years and we are extremely excited to finally be able to offer it to the UK market.

“Stag already has strong ‘street cred’ and equity among people who are familiar with the lager, and we intend to build on that over the next few years.

“The demand for World Beers is very strong and Caribbean food and drink is on the ascendency. Add to this the product’s fantastic taste and authenticity and Stag becomes a ‘must stock’ for businesses looking to capitalise on these growing international trends.”

Stag is joining other CBL products already available in the UK, including the company’s flagship Carib Beer and its low-ABV Shandy Carib range.

Kopparberg enters fruit lager arena

Kopparberg has introduced a new Fruit Lager designed to expand the brand’s popularity over the festival period.

The 5% abv lager offers a crisp lemon & lime flavour, and aims to extend the drinking occasion in the spring and summer months for younger millennial drinkers, by giving them a refreshing alternative to other lagers on the market.

Best served ice cold from the bottle, the new drink delivers a refreshing balance of flavour, which marries Kopparberg’s signature fruit taste with a subtle, premium lager bitterness.

Kopparberg senior marketing manager Jodie Alliss says: “Our research demonstrated that fruit is still a hit with our millennial drinkers, as our fruit ciders remain number one in the category. By launching Fruit Lager, we are extending the drinking occasion for those consumers via an innovative product that combines subtle premium lager bitterness with Kopparberg’s expertise in fruit refreshment that fans know and love.”

Marketing support for the product launch will form part of Kopparberg’s £6m marketing campaign kicking off from May, including outdoor, digital, PR, social media, and in-store activity.

Much of the outdoor activity will take place at music festivals during the summer as these will be attended by 18- to 30-year olds – Kopparberg’s main target audience for the new product. The lager will be available in a pack of four 330ml bottles for a special promotional price of £5. The normal rrp will be £5.99.