Over the last few months, much of society has been confined to their homes as part of the UK-wide lockdown.

While these restrictions are gradually being eased up and down the country, the rise of in-home occasions is likely to have a lasting effect and the Big Night In occasion particularly to provide retailers with continued opportunity to drive footfall and revenue.

In-home occasions focused on winding down and quality time are growing amongst consumers – faster in fact than any other at-home occasions (Kantar). As part of this, in March alone there were an additional 7m alcohol occasions at-home (Kantar) as shoppers sought premium, high quality options to replicate the pub and bar experience.

“This highlights an opportunity for retailers to boost spend by stocking premium beers such as Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona – all of which have grown in volume and value by double digits over the last 10 weeks,” comments Jess Markowski, Convenience Sales Director at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I.

With a quarter of British drinkers saying they have cut down on their alcohol consumption during lockdown (YouGov), retailers must consider their no and low options. Budweiser has launched Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois Alcohol Free, both of which enable retailers to tap into this market and provide consumers with alcohol-free options.

“Offering the same iconic taste of Budweiser – the second most valuable beer brand in the off-trade – Budweiser Zero, at zero alcohol, zero sugar and 46 calories, responds directly to consumers who are looking to moderate their alcohol consumption to suit their active lifestyle,” adds Markowski.

The launch of Stella Artois Alcohol Free allows retailers to tap into a growing brand – consumers spent an extra £19.7m on Stella Artois last year (Nielsen) – and to draw upon the increased demand for alcohol-free options. Furthermore, Stella Artois Alcohol Free has launched in 4x330ml, the best-selling small pack bottle format (Nielsen) – making it perfect for sharing occasions like nights in.

“Retailers can also look to increase basket spend by grouping items across different categories together for the Big Night In occasion, such as food with drink. The crisp, clean taste of Bud Light for example, pairs perfectly with a selection of crisps and dips – items that are typically popular for nights in. Alternatively, Stella Artois, with its Belgian heritage, complements continental-style platters such as charcuterie and cheese for a more sophisticated evening in,” Markowski adds.

“Grouping items together like this will allow shoppers to easily grab everything they need, providing a convenient and positive shopping experience that will help to increase customer loyalty in the long run. It is also an effective way of encouraging spontaneous purchase amongst shoppers, by highlighting other options that may not necessarily have been on the shopper’s list, but that fit well with the Big Night In occasion.”

Nigel McNally, Managing Director at Brookfield Drinks, comments: “The closure of establishments and spending more time at home during lockdown have both been contributing factors in the rise of alcohol sales.

People have had to become accustomed to this ‘new normal’ by establishing new ways of socialising. Shoppers have been stocking up on alcohol to enjoy a tipple with their friends over zoom or skype to re-create a pub-like atmosphere.

This new virtual way of living has extended to include pub quizzes, festivals, and gigs. Regardless of the recent ease of lockdown measures which has allowed pubs to re-open, many people are still opting to stay safe and remain at home.”

World beer has had +84.2% YOY sales growth in the 4 w/e 19th April and continues to grow at an accelerating rate (CGA).

Super Bock is available in the UK in 4x330ml and 660ml bottle formats and is currently achieving significant and continued growth rates throughout the UK off-trade.

Off-trade UK beer sales in Q1 2020 were up 1.8% on Q1 2019 (British Beer & Pub Association). Kestrel is available in 5% and 9% variants which are both vegan friendly, making this an appealing choice for consumers even with specific dietary requirements. Both cans are available in 500ml can format.

“Despite the doom and uncertainty of this global pandemic, there has at least been one silver lining throughout the past few months,” adds McNally. “We have been fortunate enough to experience some incredible weather, which has further brought people together, whether that be virtually or at a social distance. With the easing of lockdown measures, outdoor gatherings have been safely taking place, meaning consumers are stocking up on summer drinks to make the most out of the situation we find ourselves in.”

Cider and perry show a +60.3% UK CPG total market value change in the 4 weeks leading to June compared with last year (IRI). Diamond cider is triple filtered for purity and available in 500ml can format. Suitable for vegans and containing no artificial flavours, Diamond White cider possesses a lower calorie and sugar content than many other ciders.

Also available from Brookfield Drinks is Star cider, available in a White Star and Black Star variant. Both ciders are sold at a competitive price point, and available in a 500ml can format.

Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director at Heineken UK, comments: “The Big Night In occasion represents a key opportunity for wholesalers to maximise on sales. This is particularly true during the summer – one of the biggest trading periods of the year – as consumers look to enjoy the warmer weather.”

With a third of all drinking occasions now including food, many consumers will also be looking to enjoy BBQs at home. As such, retailers will be looking to implement cross-category merchandising in order to offer shoppers the whole package for their Big Night In. Wholesalers should therefore look to stock brands that facilitate this by supporting retailers with ranging and merchandising ideas.

“As we move through the summer and into August, consumers will also be looking to enjoy an evening at home watching the return of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League – wholesalers should therefore ensure they are stocking shopper favourites, synonymous with sport, such as Heineken and Amstel,” Lancaster suggests. “Alongside this, wholesalers should consider that the Big Night In occasion often sees an increased desire from consumers to spoil themselves with more premium product choices, as identified in the “We’re Worth It” driver of Heineken’s Greenpaper.”

Strongbow Original is currently the number one cider line extension in the category and Strongbow Dark Fruit is the number two cider line extension.

In March, Strongbow unveiled its latest variant, Strongbow Rosé.

With the return of the Champions League in August, Heineken – a brand with a strong sporting connection, currently in +34% growth – is a must-stock. The brand’s long-standing affiliation with James Bond movies will once again be leveraged in late 2020 ahead of the release of No Time to Die.

For No & Low options, Heineken 0.0 has become the fastest brand in the segment with growth of 80%.

Birra Moretti is one of the fastest growing alcohol brands in the UK off-trade, experiencing a growth of +67% in the past year, largely due to its exceptional food-pairing credentials, especially when consumers are at home, which further amplifies the brand’s strength and potential for growth.

Old Mout has been experiencing great success and is currently worth £8m to the Impulse channel. Driving this has been Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry which was launched in March 2019 in response to the growing demand from younger generations for more exotic, premium flavours.

Nick Williamson, Marketing Director at Campari UK, comments: “With many now working from home, consumers are looking for ways to separate evenings and weekends from the rest of the week. This often involves creating mini moments of joy and treating themselves at home, particularly over the weekend. The ‘Big Night In’ occasion is one clear way for consumers to differentiate between week and weekend, indulging in more premium experiences.”

Food and drink have proved an important part of this over recent months – in March alone, there were an additional 7m alcohol occasions at-home.

For these nights at home, consumers will be seeking to replicate the premium experiences they would normally enjoy in pubs or bars. This presents a clear opportunity for retailers to boost spend by encouraging consumers to try their hand at recreating their favourite drinks, and stocking popular ingredients for simple-to-create cocktails. ‘Build in the glass’ classics like the Aperol Spritz, Negroni and Campari G&T are light and refreshing

on-trend cocktails, perfect for the Big Night In occasion.

The Aperol Spritz with its combination of Aperol, Prosecco and a dash of soda water is simple to create and continues to be one of the top 10 best-selling cocktails in the world. This creates huge potential for impulse purchases of both Aperol and Prosecco where retailers display the ingredients together – as well as increased basket spend if merchandised alongside soda and oranges.

For consumers who want to add a twist to their usual drinking habits for their Big Night In, the Campari G&T adds a new dimension to a tried and tested spirit. With a vibrant red hue and a unique taste, the addition of Campari to a traditional gin and tonic brings a complementary infusion of bitter herbs and aromatic plants.

“Simplifying the Big Night In shopping mission for consumers, by grouping items from different categories together, is another way for retailers to maximise the occasion,” adds Williamson. “This encourages spontaneous purchases by highlighting the options that may not have been on a shopper’s list. For example, merchandising Aperol Spritz ingredients next to simple aperitivo food – like cold meats, cheese and olives provides consumers with a differentiated and premium option for their Big Night In, as well as helping retailers increase cross-category spend.”

Hannah Dawson, Head of Off-Trade Category Development, Diageo GB, says: “The Diageo Drinks Report 2019 identifies pillars for potential growth, one being ‘Make the Moment’ – as people adjust to spending more time at home, we believe that this trend will continue as the consumer demand for creating cocktails and memorable moments at home increases. As lots of socialising continues to be virtual, there is still also the opportunity for an ‘Aperitivo Moment’ at home as people still want to enjoy quality time with their households, or on a video call, and enjoy easy to make, spritz style serves using versatile spirits.”

With convenience becoming more of a mindset, consumers seek serves that are easy to recreate at home. The demand for RTD products for example has increased in recent years, and it is seeing growth of +23% (Nielsen). Premix accounts for 44% of total sales (Nielsen), therefore it is important to keep a good range in store for customers to select and take home. The latest innovation from Smirnoff is Smirnoff Seltzers (4.7% ABV) – launched in response to the trend of Hard Seltzers in the US.

The beers, wines and spirits sector in convenience is seeing strong growth across all categories, with beer at 32% and spirits 23% total value share (Nielsen), with all types of beer seeing strong growth vs last year (Nielsen). For beer in the convenience sector, four-pack formats are one of the most popular, accounting for 52% of total beer sales, therefore outlets should ensure they are stocking four packs alongside other formats to make the most of this opportunity.

The spirits sector has experienced a recent 12-week growth of +39.3% (Nielsen). Vodka holds the biggest category share in convenience; therefore, it is key to ensure there is a good range of core lines available for customers to choose from, supplemented by premium and flavoured SKUs to ensure choice is provided for customers when planning a night in. Fractional sizes are also a popular choice with customers, and important to consider when developing a range. Consumers can then try spirits in a smaller format and experiment with serves at home with their favourite brands – 35cl is the bestselling fractional size, accounting for 20% of all sales in convenience stores (Nielsen).

“To effectively merchandise, retailers should consider blocking sub-categories together on shelf to make the shopping experience easy for customers, accompanied by clear pricing and effective POS and signposts,” suggests Dawson. “Mainstream beer and cider should be placed on lower shelves, with more premium world and craft beer, fruit ciders and RTDs on higher shelves. It is also useful to cross-merchandise spirits with quality mixers and also with snacks and crisps to encourage cross purchases for the Big Night In occasion.”

Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), comments: “The Big Night In is perhaps the biggest it has ever been, as for many weeks there’s simply been no alternative. And even as the hospitality sector gradually reopens, it’s likely that the Big Night In, or Big Night In The Garden, will remain popular, providing a key sales opportunity for wholesalers.”

People are eating and drinking more in the home, which has resulted in an increase of sales of large PET bottles and multipack cans of soft drinks – a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future. As an example, our Coca-Cola large PET bottles and multipack cans enjoyed double digit growth during the core lockdown period (Nielsen).

Research shows shoppers are planning to focus more on saving money in the next 12 months, which is understandable considering 75% of households report that their income has reduced since the coronavirus outbreak started (IGD). More than one in four consumers say they are more likely to shop in a convenience store that stocks PMPs (HIM), and PMPs account for over 60% of total soft drink sales in independent and symbol convenience stores (Nielsen).

To help wholesalers tap into this opportunity, CCEP offers large bottles of some of its most popular drinks in a PMP as well as in plain pack formats. In May 2020, CCEP reduced the recommended price point of PMPs across its colas portfolio.

In terms of larger formats to enjoy in the home, 1.75l bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including the popular cherry and vanilla-flavoured variants – and Diet Coke are now available in a £1.75 PMP, and 1.5l bottles of Coca-Cola Original Taste and Coca-Cola Original Taste Cherry are now available in a £1.95 PMP.

Jo Sinisgalli, Senior Brand Manager for Gifting at Mars Wrigley, comments: “Confectionery is a consumer staple for moments like Big Night In and we’re seeing it play an ever-important role in providing little moments of joy and pleasure for consumers across the world. With this in mind, retailers can tap into this moment and unlock cross category opportunities for retailers to boost sales during essential shops in line with government advice.”

One way Mars Wrigley UK is supporting retailers during this difficult time is by providing promotions which not only excite consumers but give back to the community. Running throughout Summer 2020, Mars Wrigley UK’s successful promotion, Sweetstake, returns and will run across the following of popular brands: Mars, Revels, M&M’s, Galaxy Minstrels, Maltesers, Twix, Galaxy Ripple, Snickers, Starburst, Skittles and Extra.

With top prizes of £20,000 and a new charitable partnership with National Emergencies Trust (NET) for its

Coronavirus Appeal, the promotion has been adapted but still with the aim to give shoppers and retailers alike a fun and exciting promotion to engage with.

Promotional codes can be found inside a range of brand formats which consumers can register at www.thesweetstake.com for their chance to win, until the closing date of 11th January 2021.

Rather than the prize outcome being dependent on scenarios associated with live football matches, as was the case in previous promotion, which was in partnership with the England men’s football team, consumers will now be given two virtual football scenarios and an associated prize that can be won if the outcome of the virtual game matches the scenario given. The prize pool consists of £20,000, £1,000, £500, £20 and £5 cash prizes plus millions of free pack coupons which can be claimed when making an essential shopping trip.

“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,” suggests Sinisgalli.

“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.”

Mark Walker, Sales Director at Swizzels, said: ‘‘The Big Night In is now a firmly established trend that shows no signs of slowing down, with the ongoing pandemic ensuring consumers continue to shop for a night indoors. Sugar confectionery is key for the Big Night In category with sales of sharing treats on the increase.”

Hanging bags are very important for the occasion and are performing extremely well in the sugar confectionery category, having grown by nearly £100m in the past 2 years and now accounting for 50% of total sugar confectionery sales (IRI), so it’s important to stock a variety of such products from best-selling brands in order to attract retailers that are keen to capitalise on those consumers that are choosing to shop locally.

Perfect for the big night in occasion is Swizzels’ newest addition to its hanging bag range, Great British Puds, invented by an avid Swizzels fan who won the chance to have her very own sweet brought to life through the company’s 90th anniversary Sweetest Invention competition. Great British Puds includes four individually wrapped chew bars in classic British dessert flavours; Sticky Toffee Pudding, Rhubarb Crumble, Apple Pie & Custard and Lemon Meringue. These nostalgic, popular flavours are sure to be a hit with retailers looking to add something new and unique to their big night in displays. Swizzels will be raising awareness of Great British Puds with a TV advertising campaign running in July and August.

Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director at Ferrero, comments: “We have seen a number of significant changes in shopper behaviour over the last few months, as lifestyles, priorities and accessibility have varied much more than is traditionally the case.

“The pressure to keep time in store to a minimum is drawing people towards established brands as they provide a guarantee of quality, certainty and reassurance. Even though they are happening more often now than ever, Big Nights In are still a special occasion within a household, so shoppers want to be confident that the products they are buying specifically to mark that occasion are going to please family members and make those shared moments more special.”

This has been reflected in the performance of a number of Ferrero’s core lines of boxed chocolates, which are ideal for sharing and are recognised as delivering high-quality, tasty products. For example, the Ferrero Rocher range has grown +4.2 in the last four weeks, with new-look Thorntons Classic range – which was revitalised last September – growing +11.4% over the same period and +18.1% year on year (Nielsen).

Even though Thorntons as a brand is synonymous with gifting around key annual occasions, its premium boxed chocolates are most commonly purchased for immediate family members and those within the same household.

While this has certainly become more prominent in the last few months, the stable growth of the Thorntons portfolio pre-dates the UK lockdown, helping to demonstrate that the Big Night In is expanding to have a more premium feel. While small blocks and sharing bags of confectionery products still play a significant role in the occasion, and will continue to do so, this move towards premium boxed chocolates is showing us that many households are looking to alternative products to give their celebrations at home greater impact.

Matt Smith, Marketing Director for Tayto UK, says: “During lockdown, consumers have found a ‘new normal’ as they look to re-create the social experiences that they are missing and by buying treats they would usually associate with going out. Lockdown has accelerated the Big Night In long-term trend we were already seeing as people embrace the concept of taking that pub taste home.”

Pork scratchings – the ultimate pub snack – have seen a resurgence and are growing faster than the snacks market. Although sometimes overlooked, they offer an exceptional opportunity for incremental sales as consumers love them and tend to buy them on impulse which means retailers can benefit from strong margins as they are VAT-free. Tayto’s research highlighted that consumers see pork scratchings as the ‘uber-snack’ as they really crave the unique flavour and texture of pork scratchings that just isn’t delivered by other snacks.

Pork snacks have been outperforming the market recently with some of that growth undoubtedly due to people consuming, what is the ultimate pub snack, at home during lockdown as they try and create the ‘pub at home’. Mr Porky is No. 1 brand, with a 45% share and is going from strength to strength, attracting more buyers to the category than any other brand (Kantar). Tayto also boasts another Great Taste award winning brand – Midland Snacks – which is the epitome of a traditional scratching and scored the highest for taste with consumers (Norstat).

“For those looking for a lighter pork snack, the market-leading pork crunch from Tayto’s Real Pork Crackling Co offers retailers the opportunity to widen their meat snacks offering to include a product that has all the high protein benefits of a pork scratching but with a light, airy texture,” adds Smith.

Lockdown has also seen increased demand in the core crisps and snacks segment with a shift from impulse packs towards sharing and multi-packs. Sales in retail have surged, with Multiple Grocers +14% and Convenience +18%.

“This behaviour is likely to continue, so convenience retailers have a golden opportunity to re-engage with their communities and show the benefits of shopping locally,” Smith comments. “By ensuring that they have the right range, in the right place, with the right deal, convenience retailers can compete with larger stores and demonstrate competitive offers to build on loyalty with their local customers.”

As well as changing what to buy, shoppers are changing where they buy. With many larger supermarkets still experiencing queues in order to enforce social distancing, many shoppers are turning to neighbourhood convenience stores to beat the crowds and support their communities, as well as minimising their travel. This offers a unique opportunity for smaller stores to re-engage with nearby shoppers and demonstrate a more local, personal experience backed up with a great range and competitive pricing. If local stores get this right, they may benefit hugely in the long run.

Extensive research into how people shop for, and consume, pork snacks highlighted that scratchings are less of a ‘store cupboard’ item than other snacks and scratchings are usually bought on impulse as a treat. Interestingly consumers referred to buying their pork scratchings “at the offie” which, in many cases means their local convenience store, as a destination when stocking up on drinks and snacks. This leads into an opportunity for convenience retailers to take advantage of this short-term opportunity of pub closures to capture incremental sales and retain them as people now know they can get scratchings in their local store.

“By merchandising pork snacks on a clip-strip, pubcard or on the shelf alongside nuts or drinks, retailers can capture these impulse sales,” adds Smith. Also, by being VAT-free, pork snacks can deliver some great margins!” ‘

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