Sharing size packs of savoury snacks, confectionery and drinks are big news all year round for wholesalers and the independent retailers they serve, but they really come into their own in the autumn, with the start of the Big Night In season.

With the evening snacking opportunity estimated to be worth over £6.5 Billion and growing, it’s vital that wholesalers and their retail customers include a range of consumers’ favourite treats alongside the latest innovations, to drive shoppers’ Big Night In purchases to new heights. With autumn just round the corner, we talk to the top suppliers and share their insights on how to maximise sales of the leading brands.

Chocolate is still the number one preferred treat for a night in with friends and loved ones, says Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, followed by sugar confectionery, biscuits and crisps.

This generates plenty of opportunities for cross-category selling by retailers and wholesalers to help consumers create the perfect night in, with chocolate at the centre. 52% of confectionery occasions take place with other people present, so a range of sharing formats in depot and in store is key to maximising this opportunity.

Sharing bags are the fastest growing standard chocolate segment, and Mondelez is helping drive growth with its Cadbury and Green & Black’s brands. First, Mondelez has introduced new £1 PMPs on its chocolate bags, helping retailers improve shoppers’ price perception and boost ‘Big Night In’ and other sharing occasion sales. £1 x 95g PMPs are available on Mondelez’s bestselling bags Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons, CDM Caramel Nibbles, Cadbury Twirl Bites and Cadbury Bitsa Wispa.

Premium is the fastest-growing chocolate segment and Green and Black’s, growing at 11.1%, offers tablets and sharing formats. The tablet sector is also growing, up 3.2%, and Mondelez has a leading share here too. Building on CDM Oreo’s success in tablets, the brand launched CDM Oreo Sandwich in 2018. It is also available in a £1 PMP.

As we go through different life-stages, our taste buds change and some consumers look for a richer tasting chocolate with a higher cocoa percentage than milk chocolate. New Cadbury Darkmilk meets this consumer demand. Made with 40% cocoa, the new tablet provides a delicious cocoa hit combined with a creamy, smooth taste. The range includes Cadbury Darkmilk Original and Cadbury Darkmilk Almond in tablets and Cadbury Darkmilk Original in single format.

Cadbury Bournville Orange is now a permanent offering in the Mondelez range, meeting the trend for orange chocolate. Cadbury Bournville is also now available as a PMP. Bournville moved into sharing bags in March with new Bournville Giant Buttons. The Cadbury sharing bag portfolio is worth £126M and growing at 6.6%, led by Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Button, number one in the segment. Bournville Giant Buttons sharing bags provide a dark chocolate offer in this format.

Cadbury chocolate bags feature in Cadbury and Merlin Entertainments’ new on-pack promotion, offering consumers a free ticket with every purchase of a full priced adult ticket to a host of top UK attractions, including LEGOLAND® Windsor, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures, SEALIFE centres and new this year, the London Eye.

Sugar confectionery is another important part of a big night in and perfect to share with friends and family. Maynards Bassetts, the UK’s second biggest branded sugar confectionery brand, recently announced its first ever sour Soft Jelly product – Soft Jellies Fizzy Fish. This is the second launch in Maynard Bassetts’ Soft Jellies range, following Soft Jellies Wild Safari in 2018.

Maynards Bassetts has also recently launched a summer fun on-pack promotion to help retailers drive seasonal sales. Offering the chance to win one of 8001 wacky prizes, the promotion is available on a number of the brand’s hero bags including Wine Gums, as well as new sub-brands Wine Gums Tangy and Soft Jellies Wild Safari.

A key growth driver of the UK chocolate market, says Jodie Wood, Business Unit Controller at Ferrero is the popularity of the ‘big night in’ occasion, with families looking to recreate the cinema experience without having to leave the house. This has contributed to the incredible, consistent growth of sharing bags, which continue to be a strong proposition at almost £1.1 billion.

Ferrero capitalise on this popularity by launching seasonal variants of their sharing bags throughout the year, such as limited-edition packs of our Kinder Choco-Bons for Easter and Halloween. Traditional boxed chocolates also continue to be a popular choice for those opting for a night in, especially among shoppers looking for a more premium experience. For those seeking a high-quality product to either give as a gift, or in the case of a ‘big night in’, to share, Thorntons Continental, Thorntons Classic and Ferrero Rocher remain among the most popular choices all year round.

The overall societal focus on wellbeing is making people more aware of what they are picking up in store, says Jodie Wood, even if it is an impulse purchase. “Suppliers are responding to that in a number of ways, such as putting a greater emphasis on portion control and showing shoppers how they can treat themselves in a permissible way. At Ferrero we make products that are to be enjoyed as treats and as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle, which is why our products have always been available as individually wrapped portions and over 95% come in portions less than 150 kcal.”

Calbee, the $2.5bn No.1 snack manufacturer in Japan, hit the news when it purchased Seabrook Crisps in October 2018 in a bid to further its strategic objective to grow internationally and establish a firm foothold in European markets. The addition of Seabrook to the Yushoi branded oven baked pea snaps range gives the company greater reach across the crisps and snacks market. Following Calbee’s acquisition of the Bradfordbased manufacturer, Seabrook Crisps is now the UK’s fastest growing major crisp brand.

The Big Night In opportunity goes hand in hand with the sharing occasion, making Calbee’s twin offering of Seabrook Crisps and Yushoi an excellent choice for wholesalers wanting to cash in. Jon Wood, Commercial Director of Calbee UK, takes up the story, starting with Seabrook:

“Adult snacking occasions that support Big Night In, such as snacking alone, as a couple and within a group, are currently driving consumption of the total Crisps and Snacks category, as people are more likely to snack as they get older. These are also the most popular audiences for Seabrook Crisps and, therefore, the brand is able to attract them to the category.

“Seabrook Crisps is a great traditional crisps brand to stock for Big Night In because it’s a popular choice with over 45s, the fastest growing age group purchasing crisps. Not only that, those aged 45 and over are more likely to snack, especially in the evening, the most popular time of day when consumers enjoy Seabrook.

“Quality of flavour is one of the top reasons these consumers love Seabrook Crisps and over the last year, the brand has invested in marketing and promotional activity that promotes this message to create demand in-store.”

“Our new Fire Eaters range is a prime example of a product with a strong flavour and quality ingredients which appeals to those with adventurous tastes. The range is great for the Big Night In occasion as it can be used as a talking point amongst guests as they dare each other ‘Can You Eat the Heat?’ Seabrook Crisps has also added two price-marked packs to its wholesale portfolio. £1 PMP 6 x 25g packs are available in a variety pack containing two each of the nation’s flavour favourites, Sea Salted, Salt and Vinegar and Cheese and Onion. £1 80g PMPs are available in Sea Salted, Cheese and Onion and Beefy flavours.

Building on last year’s success, Seabrook is continuing as the category exclusive partner with Alton Towers Resort in 2019, offering two for one entry. Running through to September, the on-pack promotion appeals to families and young adult thrill seekers. The brand is increasing TV spend in 2019 as part of the campaign.

The other half of Calbee’s snack portfolio is Yushoi. Inspired by Japan, Yushoi combines new flavours and textures with naturally healthy ingredients. The brand has experienced continuous growth for the past three years, up 20% YOY and worth £6.7m, and over 1.8m UK households now purchase Yushoi.

With consumers becoming more health-conscious, it’s important to stock a range of relevant options. Made from 68% green pea, Yushoi’s baked pea snaps caters to this growing consumer requirement with naturally healthy ingredients and added nutritional value, making the tasty 21g bags a healthy alternative for the Big Night In. Suitable for vegetarians, the oven-baked pea snaps are a source of protein, high in fibre with 90 calories or less per serving. Almost all flavours except Sour Cream & Chive are suitable for vegans. The gluten-free snacks have all green and amber GDA’s.

Microwaveable hot snacks are another important part of the Big Night In. Rustlers, the UK’s No.1 microsnacking brand, is continuing to meet demand for hot, tasty and convenient meal solutions that can be enjoyed as part of a Big Night In, says Monisha Singh, Shopper Marketing Manager at Kepak Consumer Foods.

Rustlers is ideally placed to help convenience retailers and wholesalers boost profits with its quick and easy to prepare range. As shopper demand increases for convenient meal solutions that also deliver on taste and value, Micro-snacking is showing strong growth in evening meal occasions, growing at 50.7%.

“For the Big Night In, consumers want food and drink that can be prepared easily and delivers on taste – Rustlers fits the bill perfectly, providing a tasty solution that takes only minutes to be served,” says Monisha Singh. “Fresh and chilled is the largest sector in the total grocery market, with shoppers purchasing more frequently, which further highlights the importance retailers should place on chilled as part of the Big Night In occasion.”

Kepak has identified eight shopper needs which are satisfied by convenience foods. The three that align with the Big Night In occasion, ‘quick option’, ‘treat myself’ and ‘comfort’, account for 62% of these needs, indicating a big opportunity for wholesalers and retailers to support sales within the occasion by stocking Rustlers.

“Rustlers is the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of Big Night In options including soft drinks, alcohol, sides and desserts, which provide shoppers with the variety and convenience that they’re looking for. On average, shoppers buy two packs of Rustlers per trip,” says Monisha Singh, “so we’re working closely with the channel to educate them on the right range for their store, and best practice for merchandising the chiller, such as ensuring 100% availability on shelf.”

Sharing tubs are the clear winners as the favourite ice cream format for entertaining at home, with 54% of hosts choosing this option versus 24% opting for ice cream on a stick and 22% picking ice cream bars. Either way, says Michelle Frost, general manager at Mars Ice Cream, ice cream in all its formats has without doubt become a popular dessert choice for big nights in and other home entertaining occasions. And there’s more:

“Ice cream has also moved from being a summer staple to an all-yearround favourite. The research revealed that just 15% of consumers only have ice cream at home in summer, with almost half of all consumers (48%) keeping some in the freezer throughout the year.”

The UK ice cream market is worth over £1.2 billion, with value sales up 10% year on year. In convenience, Wrapped Handheld ice cream – singles and multipacks – is worth £260m, representing 65% of ice cream sales, while Tubs account for a third.

Michelle Frost says: “It’s clear that Wrapped Handheld products are key to driving ice cream category growth, and in convenience in particular. With value sales of branded products growing at 13%, it’s important for retailers to stock a range of favourite confectionery brands in ice cream, to reap the sales benefits of familiarity and eye-catching packaging.”

Mars’s range of singles includes Mars Ice Cream Bar, Snickers Ice Cream Bar, Maltesers Teasers, M&M’s Peanut and Skittles Cooler. In Tubs, the Mars ice cream tub encompasses creamy ice cream with smooth caramel and crunchy chocolaty pieces, while the Snickers ice cream tub delivers a combination of roasted, crunchy peanuts, smooth caramel and chocolate with real ice cream. Maltesers Ice Cream Tub features a blend of malt ice cream, Maltesers mini pips and chocolate.

In February, Mars Chocolate Drinks and Treats announced an addition to its ice cream range, Skittles Cooler. A wrapped handheld single, Skittles Cooler combines a fruity flavoured ice cream with crunchy pieces, wrapped in a refreshing strawberry sorbet made with fruit. Skittles Cooler joins Mars’s other confectionery favourites in an ice cream format, including the UK’s top selling ice cream bar Mars, Snickers Ice Cream Bar, Maltesers Teasers, Bounty Ice Cream Bar and M&M’s Peanut in the freezer.

Looking at drinks for the Big Night In occasion, the wholesale sector can maximise the Big Night In opportunity, says Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks. by stocking topperforming brands that provide the choice, quality and value shoppers are seeking. Taking soft drinks first, brands such as IRN-BRU, Rubicon and the Barr flavours range are perfect for Big Night In shoppers looking for soft drinks to share:

“Wholesalers should stock sharing size bottles of trusted, well-loved soft drinks brands, knowing retailers can merchandise them with other Big Night In essentials to create a range of eyecatching deals, including PMPs and multi-buys.”

Take Home products are also hugely important as they are higher value items which encourage footfall and loyalty. Consumers are increasingly aspiring to improve their diets and live healthier lifestyles, meaning shoppers are looking for greater choice at the fixture.

Wholesalers should ensure their offering includes a good choice of low and zero sugar variants to cater for everyone’s needs. They should also remember that consumers are health conscious but are not prepared to compromise on taste, and a growing number are looking for low and zero calorie options featuring the full-on flavour they get from regular products. An example of this is IRN-BRU XTRA, which is full of extra IRN-BRU taste, with no sugar.”

Shoppers are becoming more adventurous and open to experimenting with new flavours, says Adrian Troy, so it’s important to stock a wide range of different products to cater for these customers. Barr’s approach to managing the soft drinks fixture focuses on three key drivers that it believes will be a major contributor to category growth in convenience retailing, including for the Big Night In occasion. As Adrian Troy explains, the three drivers – Health & Wellbeing, Taste & Fun and Lifestyle & Culture – reflect our changing consumer lifestyles, influences and needs in relation to soft drinks.

Barr has identified six specific shopper need states covering all the major soft drinks consumption occasions, enabling retailers to merchandise the fixture and engage shoppers. Barr Soft Drinks products cater for each of these need states, including significant ones which are relevant for Big Night In. Tasty Hydration is about low-calorie products combining the health benefits of water and the great taste of a carbonate. A blend of sparkling spring water and fruit juice, with 15 calories or less per bottle, Rubicon Spring has already delivered more than £20m of sales since launch. Everyday Enjoyment, the backbone of the soft drinks fixture needs a good range of great-tasting choices like IRN-BRU, the UK’s No.1 flavoured carbonate brand, and a choice of family favourites like the Barr range, the UK’s biggest flavour lineup.

‘Adult Social’ is about indulgent treats and options for people avoiding alcohol, such as Snapple, San Benedetto and Bundaberg. Snapple is popular for premium occasions. Snapple Iced Teas also appeal to consumers looking for a low-calorie option, as they contain just 10 calories. Barr Soft Drinks has also brought the authentic taste of Italy to UK shoppers with San Benedetto, the premium Italian soft drinks brand that contains less than 70 calories per can.

Talking AG Barr into new territory, last year Barr finalised a franchise agreement for UK and Ireland with Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, an Australian family-owned business focusing on craft-brewed premium nonalcoholic beverages. The UK range comprises six flavours, Ginger Beer, Root Beer, Blood Orange, Lemon/Lime & Bitters, Peach and Pink Grapefruit.

Lastly, addressing growing demand for exotic flavours, Rubicon offers a choice of still and sparkling drinks that complement world cuisines. Containing still fruit juices with natural flavours and herbs, Rubicon Street Drinks, the category-boosting new range from the UK’s No.1 exotic juice brand features flavours inspired by authentic street drinks from the world’s hottest places. Sharbat features the traditional Turkish flavour combination of Pomegranate and Rose. Mexico is the inspiration for Agua Fresca, comprising watermelon, lime and mint flavouring. Indian Inspired Nimbu Pani includes lemon, cumin and mint flavours and African influences are found in Bissap, featuring hibiscus and ginger.

Cocktails have boomed last year and the party is carrying on into 2019, says Christian Sarginson, Brand Controller at Global Brands: “Cocktails are more popular than ever, and this is something we expect to continue to develop and evolve.”

Global Brands’ portfolio is home to a number of canned RTD cocktails that are perfect for convenience retailers to stock. All Shook Up was launched early in 2018, and is now worth almost £3m. Five delicious flavours are available; Passion Fruit Martini, Espresso Martini, Flamingo Colada, Hawaiian Daiquiri and Violet Cosmo, all housed in 250ml cans and priced at £1.50 with a 4.5% ABV. The most recent additions are two 2.25L bag in box formats of Passion Fruit Martini and Flamingo Colada. The equivalent of nine cans in one box, they’re perfect to share for a Big Night In.

Another bestseller from Global Brands, VK, the UK’s number one student RTD, is always a must-stock when it comes to Big Nights In. The colourful, well-known brand not only stands out on shelves, but also caters to shoppers on a budget. VK is available in a 10x275ml mixed pack, and 70cl pricemarked bottles, coming in at £2.49.

Available in Blue, Orange & Passion Fruit, and most recently, Watermelon, VK is the perfect sharer for a Big Night In, currently growing 27.1% and worth almost £2 million.

Hooch Lemon Brew is another RTD category staple catering for Big Nights In. Over half of Hooch consumers prefer to drink at home, which means retailers can maximise sales by placing Hooch next to movie snacks and popcorn to encourage link-selling.

Finally, channeling popular flavours and trends, but on the more nostalgic side, Hooper’s is the perfect choice to stock for a Big Night In. Growing at 14.1% and worth almost £700k in impulse, the brand has retro British culture at heart and caters to a wider generation than traditional RTDs. Available in two flavours, British staple Dandelion & Burdock, and hearty Plum & Sloe, Hooper’s is ideal for a Big Night In with the family.

Another RTD supplier, Manchester Drinks has launched a new drinks range, available to the wholesale sector. TGI Fridays Pre-Mixed Cocktails are already firm favourites with consumers and poised for a strong first year in the market, says Richard Benjamin, Manchester Drinks’ Director: “With consumers remaining conscious about their spending, this is an ideal opportunity for retailers to boost sales by stocking new eye-catching, innovative products consumers can enjoy at home and share with friends and family.”

The new TGI Fridays ready-to-drink Cocktails are perfect for big nights in. The pre-mixed cocktails range offers Passionfruit Martini, Pink Punk Mojito and Long Island Iced Tea. All containing no artificial colours or flavours, the 10% ABV range is available in 500ml glass bottles. TGI Fridays Cocktails have featured an on-pack promotion over the summer, in which consumers can win that ‘Friday Feeling’ with a range of cash prizes.

The RTD category continues to grow in Big Night In as younger consumers look for convenient, on trend flavours that not only taste good but look great. TGI Fridays Cocktails feature the red and white TGI FRIDAYS branding, attracting shoppers looking for premium yet affordable drinks to share with friends. Merchandising these products using in-depot displays alongside other Big Night In essentials such as snacks is an effective way for wholesalers to boost sales.

Big Night In – the Wholesaler’s view Don’t watch that, watch this! Russell Goldman – Buying Director at Rayburn Trading: The Big Night In consumer concept has been through constant changes over the past decade. Back in the day, customers would rent videocassettes and buy treats for nightsin at home. Since then the fundamentals have stayed the same, however, consumer tastes have majorly changed. With the rise of on-demand TV and TV subscription services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Now TV, more and more people are opting to stay in.

‘Binge watching’ is a growing term which is now associated with the category as more consumers ditch the Uber and decide to put their feet up. What changes should retailers implement to stay up to date with current Big Night In trends? – The first answer is simple. Pay attention to your surroundings. Understanding who your average customer is and how they spend their Big Night In is the key. For instance, is your retail store near to a university? Gamers, particularly teenage & young men are key consumers for quick and easy snacks such as Mug Shot, Snack Stop. The key is to look at the environment around your store and what sort of people pass by focusing on their needs.

Biscuits are a key selling point for retailers in the Big Night In category. We have noticed a rise in popularity for biscuits as consumers move away from chocolate and crisps to products which offer more of a variety. Biscuits are overall a lower calorie option for consumers with an average 113 calories per biscuit versus 230 calories in a 42g chocolate bar. There has been an increase in sales of price-marked packs of McVitie’s Digestives Milk Chocolate and McVitie’s Hobnobs as they’re seen as better value for money for consumers. It’s also important to remember that biscuits are consumed throughout the year compared to chocolate whose sales rise during the colder months.

Retailers should be constantly looking out for new healthier options to their Big Night In products. Healthy options which contain price-marked packs could be the answer you need as many consumers still think healthier means more expensive. There are many affordable options for healthy snacks such as Diablo’s range of sugar-free chocolate and confectionery. Studies show that 41% of consumers are on the lookout for products with reduced sugar thus stocking a range of healthier options while also providing the stock for consumers to ‘treat’ themselves is the key way forward.

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