Even before the pandemic hit, Big Nights In were always a popular alternative to being out on the town and not surprisingly, retained their appeal while pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues remained firmly shut. ‘At home’ snacking experienced continued growth during lockdown with the savoury snacking occasion growing significantly by 47% during the first four weeks.

“The Big Night In is a firmly entrenched tradition in many people’s lives,” comments Cofresh brand manager Jon Roberts. “It’s a hugely popular social highlight in which snacking plays a central role.

“While people were cutting back on the big spends such as foreign holidays or new cars, snacking became the affordable treat. The Big Night In took on new meaning and significance during lockdown, as people always have – and always will – love a tasty treat while they’re socialising. Following the recent success of England during Euro2020 we expect the BNI to be even more popular than ever, with people meeting their mates to watch all the thrills and spills of the championship.

“Whether in or out of lockdown, consumers will continue to look to brands and products to make the Big Night In feel like the Big Night Out.”

With little prospect of overseas holidays to look forward to this summer, consumers are replacing travel with taste adventures from the comfort of their own homes. Globalisation of flavours is on the rise, with Indian flavours leading the field in terms of spicing things up – according to a survey by Mintel, 41% of UK snackers find the combination of sweet & spicy appealing. Great taste remains a key driver for snack purchases.

“Authentic Asian flavours and taste adventures are an enduring trend. For retailers the Big Night In is a key selling time and the opportunities to maximise sales are significant as snacking and sharing are integral parts of these popular occasions,” says Roberts.

To help wholesalers and retailers capitalise on the growing demand for new flavours, Cofresh has just launched a raft of new snacks to deliver a whole new snacking experience for the Big Night In.

Developed as part of an extensive NPD programme, they’ll be supported by high profile PR, advertising and social media campaigns as well as in-store promotional activity to help drive footfall to the fixture.

The latest additions to its Grills and Crackers ranges are based on two of the UK’s most popular Anglo-Indian flavours – Mango Chutney and Onion Bhaji. Cofresh expects these two new snacks (Mango Chutney Grills and Onion Bhaji Corn Crackers) to become firm favourites in the at-home snacking sector as the familiar flavours will appeal to all ages and in 80g and 60g packs respectively, they’re the ideal size for sharing.

For those seeking a little extra heat from their snacks, the new Masala Chips and Chilli Chips are crisp, crunchy and bursting with warm and spicy Indian flavous. In 70g packs, they’re a great addition to the BNI line-up and are delicious either on their own or with dips such as chutneys and raita. Also new – and drawing on the company’s Indian heritage – is Thin Sev Mamra in generous 325g packs. These thin and crispy fried noodles are authentically seasoned with turmeric and eaten either straight from the pack or sprinkled on to ‘chaat’ savoury snacks.

Finally, following their success as a limited edition snack for Eid, Cofresh’s three popular Party Mixes are now available all year round. In three mouth-watering flavours – Jalapeno & Cheese, Sour Cream & Chive and Sweet Chilli – these 70g packs of assorted potato-based Grills, Spirals and Hoops are the perfect addition to any party.

“In lockdown, people cut back on the big spends and replaced them with the immediate comfort of an affordable treat,” comments Helen Pomphrey, Marketing Director at Eat Real. “Although the Big Night In took on new meaning and significance during lockdown, one of the effects of many more people enjoying time at home with the family or online with friends is a rise in demand for premium snacks.”

“However, while great taste and authentic flavours remain key drivers for purchase, consumer attitudes towards health are also changing. Lockdown has shown us that many more consumers have health at the top of their agendas and are actively seeking out great-tasting healthier snacks in preference to more traditional products,” adds Pomphrey.

This preference for guilt-free healthier snacking gives wholesalers a premium opportunity to capitalise on demand as healthier snacks can command premium pricing.

“Having the right core range is key as stocking family favourites and trusted brands will help capitalise on sharing segment growth, but make sure that it offers customers and consumers a clear point of difference to the established mainstream players,” says Pomphrey. “Eat Real snacks for example, are a great tasting, healthier alternative to traditional potato-based snacks and also have the benefits of being vegan-friendly and gluten-free.”

Eat Real snacks are made from natural ingredients for great taste and authentic flavours, and include the popular Hummus, Lentil and Quinoa Chips, all available in 80g-135g share packs (ideal for Big Nights In).

Eat Real has recently reformulated two of its best-selling SKUs – Tomato & Basil and Sea Salt Hummus Chips – to reduce salt content by over 50%, and developed a brand new Hummus Chips flavour, Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar. These non-HFSS products have been developed as part of Eat Real’s on-going commitment to creating healthier and tastier snacks and will be available later this year.

“While shopping habits for the Big Night In tend to be characterised by high frequency, spontaneous or last minute purchases in person, more retailers are now also offering online shopping facilities as many people are still cautious about leaving home for more crowded venues. Offering a great range of snacks in larger formats is vital and will help drive share-sector growth,” adds Pomphrey.

David Miles, Senior Whisky Specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory (EBS), comments: “At home occasions have become increasingly important over the last twelve months with more consumers choosing to spend on spirits in the off-trade. While, shoppers who already purchased spirits from the off-trade are choosing to spend more, treating themselves to premium iterations of their favourite spirit.

“In addition to this, consumers are becoming increasingly adventurous due to the growing at home cocktail trend with spirits and malts becoming more popular. This is good news for retailers as newly cocktail confident shoppers will continue to shop with them to satisfy their cocktail making needs.”

The Famous Grouse, Courvoisier, and Sourz are amongst the top selling brands in EBS’ portfolio at current. Sales for Courvoisier grew in the last year thanks to online and cultural trends establishing the liquid as the no.1 cognac in the UK. In July 2020, Courvoisier VSOP sales increased by +30% due to the creation of the Courvoisier Dalgona Martini. EBS has also seen growth in the sales of Sourz due to the at home cocktails trend over the past year, with more consumers sharing their fun creations on social media.

The flavoured whiskey category is growing as demonstrated by the launch of Jim Beam Peach earlier this year. The refreshing new bourbon is designed to cater to the trend for Peach flavoured alcoholic drinks in the UK while also providing an authentic nod to the Kentucky-based distillery’s southern heritage. The smooth bourbon is best served neat or with soda water as part of a highball cocktail. For a more exotic option, try a twist on the popular Pornstar Martini made using Jim Beam Peach, soda water and passion fruit syrup.

The Famous Grouse also recently launched a limited-edition bottle to celebrate its role as the Official Sponsor of The British & Irish Lions. Following more than 30 years of involvement with the sport of rugby, the limited-edition bottle aims to drive engagement with fans across the UK throughout the tour, championing the game’s unparalleled sportsmanship and camaraderie. It also forms part of The Famous Grouse The Spirit of Rugby campaign, following the announcement that The Famous Grouse will be the Official Partner of Premiership Rugby, SA Rugby, and Glasgow Warriors.

EBS also recently announced Naked Malt, formerly Naked Grouse, which evolved to reinforce its quality credentials and reflect the blend of some of Scotland’s finest single malts. The launch of Naked Malt saw no change to the award-winning liquid. The only change was to the packaging which is now 100% recyclable. The bottle – which remains transparent to showcase the liquid – is also embossed with a “Naked” first-fill sherry cask, a homage to the unique process and the flavour it embodies.

“One piece of advice I would give is to play up to the premium end of the market as much as possible,” says Miles. “Encouraging consumers to drink better rather than more is vital so wholesalers must ensure they have the necessary mixers available as well as ice and fresh garnishes such as citrus fruits. Wholesalers should also pay close attention to the mixers they stock as it’s important to offer more than just tonic water and lemonade as consumers become increasingly experimental and adventurous at home.”

“Wholesalers must ensure that the whole package is available,” adds Miles. “For example, if they have a spirit on promotion such as gin, it is important to make sure the product is easily visible and stocked next to complimentary ingredients such as tonic, lemons and limes.

“Another good idea for wholesalers is to provide some form of recipe for people to follow, whether that be on show in the shop or through scanning a barcode. This gives people the confidence to try new recipes at home and spend that bit more.”

“Partnership is key,” Miles continues. “As a business, we’re trying to be as supportive as possible. We have to listen to wholesalers’ feedback as to what consumers want in order for products to sell and do well. There’s no point us pushing a product that isn’t demanded by consumers, so we need to work together to create that entity.”

Kat Jones, Marketing Manager, Ice Cream at General Mills, comments: “In 2020, ice cream the category accelerated with an exceptional 21.1% growth, seeing a sales increase of +£278M (Nielsen). With 20% of ice cream occasions driven by refreshment (Mintel), we anticipate a strong uplift in impulse purchase of ice cream for out of home consumption.”

As a brand, Häagen-Dazs is currently worth £98m with significant growth of +19% (Nielsen); this has only accelerated in the latest 12 weeks where the brand is outpacing the total category (growing +28% vs. category +26%).

Since COVID-19, the brand has acquired 750,000 new buyers with a total 19.7% household penetration (Nielsen).

“This success is attributable to our strong brand positioning as a result of activation pivots last year, as well as the performance of take-home pints as consumers sought indulgence and comfort,” adds Jones.

At a total category level, luxury pints and chocolate handheld variants have been the biggest contributors growing £94m and £53m (Nielsen) respectively, with indulgent flavours, a space that Häagen-Dazs is famed for, like salted caramel, cookie, chocolate, and dessert flavours performing exceptionally well.

Interestingly, the value growth of convenience outpaced total market for the 26-week summer period last year, growing +31% (Nielsen). In the summer, this was driven by favourable weather as well as lockdown, which saw a shift in buyer behaviour lean heavily towards convenience for more planned and top up shops. The ‘top-up’ shop was the number one mission (63%) claimed within convenience store trips through October to December (IGD).

This growth continued well into the atypical ice cream season. During winter specifically, retailers grew their share of ice cream space as they looked to drive frozen conversion via ice cream. Even though ice cream sales tend to be seasonal, sales from last year proved that Häagen-Dazs is a weather-proofed growth engine over indexing vs the category for winter sales (Nielsen).

In store, Take Home Ice Cream was the #1 driver of growth across the same period in Convenience (Nielsen). Luxury tubs, as the biggest contributor, grew £4.6M, accounting for 35% of this take-home growth which saw Häagen-Dazs become the fastest growing luxury tub brand in convenience in Summer 2020 (Nielsen).

The Häagen-Dazs portfolio is multi-functional; our tubs tap into the sharing at-home occasion, while the mini cups (including our gelato selection) provide individual portion-sizes, ideal for those treat occasion opportunities, while also catering to the mindful consumption trend.

“Wellness has really expanded and evolved over recent years – we’ve seen a more holistic shift to ‘better for you’ which can take many forms, starting with a demand for clean ingredients,” says Jones. “At Häagen-Dazs, we pride ourselves on exactly this, clean ingredients and straightforward indulgence. Our core range answers the mindful indulgence trend with high quality, premium ingredients (fresh real cream and no artificial colours, flavours, palm oil or emulsifiers), so shoppers look to us as a trusted treat.”

A second major concern is around sugar. More than one third of category users have reduced their ice cream consumption in the last year due to sugar concerns (Food Village). Yet, out of those concerned, 50% of shoppers agree that having greater control over portion size is a good alternative to abstaining (Food Village). Häagen-Dazs’ differing portion sizes, from tubs to mini cups, support consumer choice and allow them to control their level of indulgence, a big purchase driver.

The lower calorie range, Gelato, is ideal for shoppers looking for a lighter option, containing only 150 calories per mini cup 95ml portion, 30% less sugar and 50% less fat than regular ice cream.

Towards the end of last year, wellness took a back seat with the low-calorie segment falling significantly behind the total Ice Cream category in total market, +3.4% vs. YA (Nielsen).

“We are expecting growth to return in the long-term as wellness remains an important on-going trend and we may see more NPD innovation to meet demands, particularly with HFSS regulations on the horizon,” continues Jones. “A new trend that we’re seeing within ice cream is ‘snackification’; Suppliers are taking alternative routes and expanding into new formats across the category. We’ve seen this so far take the form of cookie dough bites, mochi and ice cream sandwiches amongst others, where ice cream is being introduced into compatible snacking formats, leading to a more versatile overall snack.”

Amy Giacobbi, Marketing Manager at Continental Wine and Food Ltd, comments: “More than ever consumers are searching for convenience and value. The lockdowns of 2020 saw people reimagine what the home meant, it is no longer only a place to put on your slippers and turn on the TV. It is the place to entertain and create a hub of enjoyment. People want to be spending their time enjoying themselves and making the most of lost time; the push for convenience is higher than ever before.”

As of June 2021, wine is the leading alcohol consumed by Brits at home or a friend’s house, with company.

The Straw Hat is the UK’s Number 1 British Wine Brand and as well as the bestselling 75cl bottles, features a bag-in-box format within the core range of White, Red and Rosé variants. Each box is equivalent of 3 x 75cl bottles and features an easy-pour tap which is ideal for those individuals wanting to refill their glass, all without having to trail back and forth to the fridge for a top up.

“The bag in boxes stay fresh for up to 6 weeks after opening and boasts value for money for the consumer,” says Giacobbi. “By stocking a range of size options, retailers can become key players against supermarket giants as choice and availability remains a key component of customers core values.”

For the mid-week Big Night In, something light and easy drinking may be the preference such as Silver Bay Point British Wine, which boasts low calorie and low ABV features at only 8% – perfect for the mindful consumer.

The full range is 66 calories or under per 100ml glass and whilst it’s light in calories, it’s also light on the pocket for consumers which creates extreme shelf-appeal and is a great margin generator. Both ranges are proudly Vegan which now appeals to a mass-audience as Vegan movement goes mainstream.

“Producers all over the world have seen an increased demand for vegan-friendly products in their ranges, and it is crucial that retailers follow this trend by stocking these products within their stores to appeal to the wider shopping audience,” suggests Giacobbi.

CWF has recently launched Paradise Bay Cocktail Co a range of lightly sparkling ready to drink premixed cocktails made with natural flavours, inspired by some of the UK’s favourite cocktails. Developed with quality, convenience and value as key principles, the range comprises a Pina Colada, Mojito and Strawberry Daiquiri, all with an abv of 4% and conveniently packed into shareable and resealable 70cl bottles.

The RTD market is expanding rapidly, with the “premiumisation” of the category opening it up to new consumers. These types of premixed drinks have evolved and become more sophisticated since their ‘alcopop’ heyday but what has remained common is the low abv, sweet and fruity style. Improved quality and variety of RTDs have enticed newbies into the category and won back consumers who had shifted to other categories by offering exciting and innovative flavours.

Paradise Bay Cocktail Co. solves the consumer drive for convenience and the continued surge in the development of the home being the hub of entertaining and enjoyment and is perfect for the Big Night In.

Consumers are buying into the Paradise Bay Cocktail Co brand, having just launched Instagram and Facebook CWF is already seeing a lot of user generated content for the products, with the polished labelling and great flavour, people are looking to share the great product they’re enjoying. With an RRP of £2.99 these tick all the boxes, for quality, convenience and value.

“We always expect to see continued growth of value brands as the popularity of the Big Night In spikes, and with millennials heavily driving the Big Night In trends only one-quarter of them shop with a particular spirit brand in mind, indicating there is plenty of opportunity for brands and retailers to influence in-store alcohol purchases by younger adults,” adds Giacobbi. “As operating costs become squeezed and margins with it, CWF offers plenty of additional scope for the convenience retailer to make profits stretch even further with brand options designed with the take home trade front of mind. Popular mixer favourites such as Nectars – a peach Schnapps and Sandy Cove – a Caribbean Rum and Coconut flavoured drink are striking a chord with millennials as their stylish and high-quality brand appeal balances up with the ultimate ‘value for money’ price pitch which they offer.”

In the home or eating out, people are spending more and more often, with non-essential purchases ballooning by 60% and the amount spent on eating and drinking totalling more than £1 billion in Q2.

CWF is seeing exceptionally busy periods and higher demand for product. The company predicts this will continue to build; people are more comfortable spending, they want to experience the best they can. The pandemic has made people take a step back and rethink, placing an emphasis on enjoying the moment they’re in; celebrating the small things has become much more commonplace.

“Whilst shopping, customers aren’t going to buy drinks for their Big Night In without the snacks to share,” continues Giacobbi. “You can build on these sales by targeting for this trend, large sharing bags and multi-pack products are most popular with shoppers, so we advise spotlighting these by creating a dedicated section to a Big Night In focused around popular products and different pack sizes, whilst entertaining cross-category promotions to encourage purchases. Providing your buyers with display ideas to boost their sales also, such as how a display should ideally be close to the store entrance which will draw attention and intrigue the customer or positioning them close to the chillers which is a complementary category to drive more impulse purchases, sharing these ideas with store owners will increase their sales and therefore their purchases with you.”

Jo Sinisgalli, Senior Brand Manager for Gifting, Mars Wrigley, comments: “Creating a clear display that communicates the Big Night In occasion draws shoppers into the fixture and cross category promotions will certainly encourage incremental purchases. Positioning products alongside salty snacks, soft drinks and other complementary items will also raise awareness.

“Remember to focus the display on products that are ideal for sharing such as Starburst Tear and Share Pouches, which are individually wrapped and offer a variety of flavours for everyone to enjoy. In order to drive impulse sales through maximised availability, core lines should always be updated and constantly well-stocked as well as showcasing NPD.”

Availability is everything. As consumer behaviour evolves it brings new shoppers and new purchase occasions to every category. With 38% of occasions happening at home, particularly whilst relaxing or after a meal, and almost half of all gum purchases unplanned, it is crucial for retailers to make gum available and visible for every shopper, every trip.

Launched in April 2021, Extra Refreshers bottle is sold at £2.19 RRP in three flavours, Peppermint, Spearmint and new Tropical flavour which is also available in a single pack of 7 pieces at £0.59 RRP. The popular bottle format aims to ensure that consumers have access to their favourite gum whatever the occasion, at home or on the go.

Mars Wrigley recently launched Skittles Giants Crazy Sours. With research showing that fruity confections shoppers expect variety in flavours and textures with Sours being the most incremental flavour after Fruit in the category. Skittles Giants Crazy Sours are three times the size of standard Skittles and have a soft chewy centre designed to strike taste buds with sourness, delivering an intense, fruity, mouth-watering flavour.

Available in a £1 PMP treat bag (125g), a 141g value pouch and 170g grocery pouch, Skittles Giants Crazy Sours offers a format for every occasion, helping to maximise those all-important together moments that have been missed out on in the past year.

“It comes as no surprise that consumption trends and consumer demand have changed over the past year,” adds Sinisgalli. “We’ve seen a rise in sharing and premium formats, in addition to moments like the ever-popular Big Night In, become increasingly popular while the nation stayed at home.”

There is a long-time association between M&M’S and entertainment, and this connection to a Big Night In has helped the brand grow by 6.6% (Nielsen).

Following the international success of M&M’S Block in the US and Australia, Mars Wrigley brought four M&M’S Block variants to the UK market – Chocolate, Crispy, Hazelnut and Peanut. More recently, consumers can get their hands on M&M’S Block Crunchy Caramel.

Mars Wrigley UK has been exploring further sharing formats for the Maltesers brand, such as the launch of Maltesers Buttons – which generated £19.26M in value sales (Nielsen). Indeed, the launch recruited more millennial shoppers to the brand which helped Maltesers reach its highest ever penetration of 61.9% (Nielsen).

Following the nationwide success of Maltesers Buttons, Mars Wrigley UK introduced the UK’s first ever flavoured Maltesers product – Mint Maltesers Buttons.

Mint flavour products have rapidly grown and by coupling this popular flavour with the fastest growing Mars Wrigley UK brand (Nielsen), the new bitesize treat aims to drive new consumers to the segment.

This minty fresh variant now aims to continue this trend by tapping into occasions like Big Night In and sharing at home. With bitesize the fastest growing segment in chocolate, Mars Wrigley expects these products to continue to be a key trend as they offer an easy-to-share chocolate experience.

Nestle Confectionery Brand Manager Cat Mews comments: “Whilst the pandemic and lockdowns have impacted confectionery sales this past year, we can also see some positive growth now the restrictions are easing and there are more feet on the street.”

Sales of confectionery sharing bags have grown +9% in the past 4 weeks and +2.6% in the past 12 weeks, showing a turnaround from sales which were -5.6% over the last year. There have also been some stand out Nestlé brands which have performed well during this time, including: Aero Bubbles +14.1%, Munchies +35.3%, Smarties +28.9% and Rowntree’s +2.1% (IRI).

The chocolate blocks segment has also shown a slight decline over the past year -1.9%. Nestlé’s blocks range has performed well, +2.9%, with the growth being driven by Aero +5.1% and Milkybar +1.7% (IRI). “The strength in the performance of the Nestlé brands can be attributed to the fact they offer a point of difference to the category, for example, Milkybar offers a white chocolate option and Aero Peppermint offers a mint option,” says Mews. “Retailers can maximise sales by ensuring that they range products like these so that they do not lose shoppers by simply having products that are all similar in taste/texture profile.”

The ‘Big Night In’ is an important consumption occasion for confectionery. In fact, 66% of all chocolate sharing bags are consumed during the evening, their format making them ideal for dipping into and sharing with friends and family (Kantar).

“With lockdown restrictions being eased, retailers can capitalise on sales from sharing bags and blocks by focusing on the consumer occasions that they are suited to,” suggests Mews. “Having had a sustained period of time where lockdown has restricted family and friends getting together, the desire to spend time together is now greater than ever. Retailers should therefore look to cross merchandise social sharing categories together such as sharing bags, chocolate blocks, sharing crisps, beers, wine and spirits (BWS) etc and highlight the occasion through POS which focuses on occasions such as the Big Night In and offers the shopper the complete sharing solution. This could also be centred around key calendar occasions such sporting events, like the Olympics for example.”

Nestlé UK and Ireland is introducing an addition to the sweet snacking market this summer – Combos, a combination of tasty treats.

New Combos are available in three different varieties: Aero, Rolo and Milkybar.

Aero Combos includes smooth Aero bubbles meeting crisp, chewy toffee popcorn and melt-in-the-mouth dark chocolate malt balls in a mouth-watering mash-up.

Rolo Combos is a must-try medley of Little Rolos, melt-in-the-mouth fudge bites, and chewy toffee popcorn.

Milkybar Combos is a combination of creamy Milkybar pieces, chewy toffee popcorn and crunchy milk chocolate digestive balls.

Mews adds: “We are tremendously excited to introduce our Combos range to the market this summer. A deliciously different addition to the sweet snacking category, Combos offer a unique mix of tastes and textures, starring some of our best-loved confectionery products. We can’t wait for people to try them!”

Aero Combos are available in a 120g sharing bag, Rolo Combos in a 125g sharing bag and Milkybar Combos in a 110g sharing bag (all RRP £2.50).


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