Can you smell charcoal burning in your vicinity? Don’t call the fire brigade – it’s probably someone having a barbeque. We Brits are a hardy bunch, and if the sun’s out for more than five minutes we’ll spark up the charcoal, even on weekday evenings.

The 2011 UK barbeque season is in full swing, with the late Easter and Royal Wedding bank holiday getting the party started with a vengeance. And if the weather holds, entertaining in the garden is set to soar still higher in popularity between now and the autumn.
The trend for staying in and entertaining at home instead of going out in the recession has also been a key factor supporting barbeque growth in recent years, building on the BBQ bonanza kicked off by last year’s World Cup.

The intrinsic feel good nature of these highly sociable occasions means Barbecues have serious ‘premium’ potential, and continue to offer canny neighbourhood retailers and the wholesalers who supply them a major profit opportunity. The key is for local convenience stores to capture spur of the moment barbeque impulse sales by displaying a strong offering of BBQ fuel, lighters, sun care and ideally, barbeque-related food.

The word ‘ideally’ definitely applies. Sadly, food for barbeques can be something of a holy grail in the independent retail sector: for various reasons chilled and frozen food are notoriously underperforming areas in these outlets, though not in all outlets, it’s true, and there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of stocking and availability.

But given commitment from wholesalers, chilled and frozen barbeque foods present a strong opportunity for neighbourhood retailers who have a strong food offering and the cabinet space to go with it to offer consumers the chance to shop local for barbecue foods, particularly premium-end products.

The figures are mouthwatering. According to Mintel, two in three adults in the UK ate food cooked on the barbecue in summer 2010, with some 120 million barbecue occasions fuelling estimated sales of barbecue foods of some £1.7 billion in 2010. Healthy growth in recent years has been helped by better weather, which remains a key driver of barbecue occasions, since the washout summer of 2007. Not only that, but barbecue foods that are quick and easy to cook have potential to win over those consumers who see barbecuing as time-consuming. Barbecue dishes positioned as healthy or light stand to appeal to those people who see barbecue foods as unhealthy.

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