Get set for sizzling sales Now is the time to think about BBQ stock, ahead of a summer of sun and sport

Despite Britain’s unpredictable weather, the nation has fallen in love with al-fresco dining. Figures show that modern Brits like nothing more than to gather friends and family around – and pass out lashings of food and drink.

The BBQ food & drink market grew from 9 million BBQ occasions in 1997 to around 135 million in 2019 (Kantar), with indications that they’ll be even more this year.

In-fact, last summer, two in three adults ate food cooked on the BBQ (National BBQ Week).

With the typical British summer lasting longer and now starting earlier than before, wholesalers need to start planning now, especially as National BBQ Week is running its high-profile annual campaign May 25th – May 31st.

Most importantly, with Euro 2020 kicking off in June, followed by the Olympic Games in July-August, there is a glorious extended window of opportunity to drive sales of BBQ food, snacks, drinks and alcohol. “We encourage wholesalers to cross-merchandise to maximise the summer sales opportunity,” advises Haleem Sadiq – Director of Trading, Retail, Bestway Wholesale.

“For example, wholesalers could showcase drinks that pair well with food to generate uplift in sales and pair everyday take-home format drinks alongside BBQ food.”

Not surprisingly, the burger bun is a key element customers expect from shops, and so consequently what retailers expect to be able to pick up from wholesalers.

“The bun makes up 69% of the overall build [of a burger], so it’s essential to consider its quality – upgrade the bun offering to include Brioche Buns, Kaiser Cut Buns and Grill Marked Buns” advises Lantmännen Unibake Marketing Manager, Kate Sykes.

“Gourmet buns are more aesthetically interesting and help to complete the premiumisation message.”

Kate’s advice runs parallel to the latest trends in BBQ, which show the Grill Marked Bun being documented widely on food blogs, recipe sites and Instagram.

Lantmännen Unibake has tapped into this emerging trend with its Americana Grill Marked Burger Bun – a pre-sliced, glazed, burger bun with grill marks applied to the top to give an on-trend, authentic ‘just-grilled’ look.

The shape of the bun offering is also key, according to Charlotte Hulbert, Retail Sales Manager at Brioche Pasquier.

“Our Brioche Rolls are the perfect size for a sausage. Offering a brioche roll instead of a plain bread one adds a premium factor to a hot dog, and children love the soft texture and slightly sweet taste of our Brioche Rolls,” says Charlotte.

Customers want more choice for their buns, says Charlotte, yet retail offerings can be limited. This is where wholesalers can step in and educate.

“Wholesale customers are often in a hurry picking up shopping and are not always very imaginative about what they choose, often settling for the same familiar products they buy on a regular basis,” says Charlotte.

“If wholesalers are able to help guide them with their choices this can help boost sales, encouraging customers to try something different, or pick up a little something extra.”

Brioche Pasquier’s Brioche Rolls and Brioche Rolls with Chocolate Chip are available in packs of 6 or 8 and Charlotte recommends that these Brioche Rolls are stocked both in the bakery section, and alongside a display.

“One of the benefits of using our products on a display is that with the 21-day shelf life, they can remain there for a considerable time, whilst bread or bread rolls would need replacing daily.”

Speaking of premiumisation, it doesn’t get much more superior in the home cooking world than Mary Berry.

As well as being a television star of the kitchen, she also has a range of food lines. These include dressings and sauces that are ideal for the BBQ season and which have just revamped and expanded.

The colourful new look comprises colour-coded labels and vibrant images of each recipe’s natural ingredients making it even easier for the customer to choose their favourite variants.

In addition, Mary Berry’s Foods has introduced two new products to its growing line up of dressings – Fruity Pomegranate and Blue Cheese.

The brand, owned and supplied by RH Amar, now has a nine-strong range of offerings that also includes Classic Salad Dressing; Caesar Dressing; Special Mustard Dressing; Honey & Balsamic Vinaigrette; Mango, Lime & Chilli Dressing; Lemon & Thyme Sauce and finally, Light Salad Dressing.

Available now with an RSP of £2.99 in 235ml glass bottles, products in the Mary Berry’s range carry either Vegetarian or Vegan Society stamps of approval.

When thinking about ways to draw in shoppers over the BBQ season, it is important to remember to stock a much wider range of drinks than ever before due to diversifying trends.

In regards to alcohol, BBQ has been traditionally associated with lagers and beers. While this is still true in part, it is equally true that cocktail serve, non-alcohol and soft drinks have become just as important. Even within the old staple of lagers and beers, the category has evolved.

We have seen over recent years a rapid growth in world beers, a sub-category that allows consumers to reminisce about warm holidays abroad while the BBQ is firing up.

Portuguese drink Super Bock, from Brookfield Drinks, is a world beer that has achieved significant growth rates throughout the UK off-trade, with value sales up +20% year-on-year.

“Portugal is an extremely popular holiday destination for people in the UK, and Super Bock will provide consumers with memories, available in a 660ml bottle format and a 4x330ml pack format, ideal for the ‘grab and go’,” explains Managing Director of Brookfield Drinks, Nigel McNally.

The drinks supplier also caters for craft drinkers with Kestrel, an award-winning, full-bodied, premium range of lagers at a premium-value price point.

“Kestrel Premium 5% abv lager is a truly divine brew, boasting flavours of mature citrus, seasoned grain and sweet vanilla toffee with roasted root vegetable undertones and malted grip. The perfect answer to a premium 5% crafted lager,” enthuses Nigel.

Gin has continued to shine in the spirits category and has the benefit of being linked with summer months through its strong association with being mixed in drinks such as G&Ts and spritz style serves.

“As well as the classic G&T, gin is ideal for creating long, refreshing serves. Think about stocking alongside popular components – such as soda, prosecco, lemonade and white wine to encourage additional purchases,” advises Hannah Dawson, Head of Customer Category, GB Off Trade at Diageo

Gordon’s is the UK’s biggest gin brand (CGA), while pink gin, according to Hannah, has undoubtedly been the driving force behind the category’s growth.

“Gordon’s Premium Pink Distilled Gin has been the biggest spirits launch in Great Britain in the last five years and is now the no. 1 gin after just under two years in the market,” says Hannah.

RTDs are also perfectly suited to the summer, with lines like Smirnoff’s premix cans playing a critical role in recruiting new consumers into the RTD category due to brand recognition.

Going for the social media savvy crowd is Global Brands with its canned cocktail brand, Shake Baby Shake.

It comprises a range of compact and eye-catching 250ml canned cocktails, available in three flavours; Passion Fruit Martini, Raspberry Mojito and brand new flavour, Tropical Daiquiri.

Incorporating the most popular on-trade serves into a convenient, ‘Instagrammable’ package, its bold animal print cans is designed to stand out on shelves and draw customers in.

Eye-catching cocktails which look great – but don’t require you to be an expert mixologist, or complex equipment and processes – also need to be considered by wholesalers for the BBQ season.

An ideal choice for customers would be for Aperol Spritz, a combination of Aperol, Prosecco and a dash of soda water.

“Super simple, refreshing, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with friends – especially as the Aperol Spritz continues to be one of the top 10 best-selling cocktails in the world, and is the number one branded cocktail in the on-trade too,” says Campari Group UK Marketing Director, Nick Williamson.

“This year we will be offering clear messaging for retailers to merchandise Aperol next to Prosecco to secure a higher basket spend and tap into the aperitivo trend for lighter, refreshing and shareable drinks with friends over the summer period.”

According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of teetotal adults in the UK grew to 20.4% last year, with many citing health benefits as a key reason.

This is why this summer wholesalers should put a big emphasis on soft drinks.

Haleem Sadiq – Director of Trading, Retail, Bestway Wholesale says: “We suggest wholesalers offer a selection of non-alcoholic wines and beers – plenty of the well-known brands offer alcohol-free versions which taste very similar to the real thing.”

Tapping into the health-conscious BBQ-er is the Budweiser Brewing Group, with Beck’s Blue, the UK’s biggest alcohol-free brand that makes up 24% of all sales (MAT) or Bud Light, which, holds a strong repeat purchase rate of 33%.

“For wholesalers looking to position themselves as leaders in the space, a canny trick is to offer advice on food and drinks pairings – including healthier options,” says Sharon Palmer, Head of Trade Marketing at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I.

“For example, pairing Bud Light with chicken sausages is perfect for the health-conscious who don’t want to over-indulge at a BBQ.”

Another trend wholesalers need to be aware of during BBQ season is the rise in shoppers following vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diets – and ‘free-from’ shouldn’t be limited to food.

“Stella Artois Gluten free has been certified by Coeliac UK, making it a must-stock for wholesalers that want to help their customers appeal to as many different people as possible,” says Sharon.

Continuing on the health trend, Bestway’s Haleem Sadiq points out “there is also a big trend for healthy and exciting soft drinks”.

These include fruit mocktails, infused waters and sparkling soft drinks with fresh herbs.

“Creating a summer soft drinks station featuring a range of soft drinks including soda, tonic and flavoured water, helps customers feel inspired and are ideal for at-home mocktails,” he says.

These drinks essentially make up the sub-category known as adult soft drinks, which includes products like Appletiser, a brand in growth by 30.2% (Nielsen).

It is made with pure fruit juice and contains no added sugar, making it a popular choice with health-conscious consumers whether being enjoyed on its own, or as an ingredient for cocktail or a mocktail.

“As well as delivering on taste and refreshment, Appletiser helps offers a sophisticated alternative to alcohol that the growing number of teetotal consumers are happy to drink while others may be having beer, wine or cocktails,” says Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP).

Schweppes also continues to be one of the nation’s favourite mixer brands, delivering double-digit growth (Nielsen).

“As a result, it is still a brand that shoppers reach for when looking for a high-quality mixer, whether that’s for a mixed drink, cocktail or alcohol-free mocktail. With this in mind, Schweppes Tonic and Schweppes Slimline Tonic 1litre PET bottles are must-stocks this summer,” says Amy.

Of course, after the burgers have been eaten and drinks downed, every BBQ occasion needs a sweet treat.

For these moments, wholesalers should consider the fact that sugar confectionery sees a spike in sales this time of year.

To suit everyone’s taste, Swizzels has a range of eye-catching sharing products, such as Swizzels’ Squashies.

The Squashies range sees classic sweets such as Drumsticks and Refreshers ‘squashified’ into softer foam gum versions.

To further engage wholesalers in the category over the summer Swizzels is launching an engaging PR and social media consumer campaign, which will feature a roadshow with product sampling across the UK and a new launch.