One result of the pandemic has been an increased incentive to make more use of our gardens and local outside spaces, whatever the weather. When restrictions have allowed, small outdoor gatherings have been one of the only way to get together with other households, and this may continue for some time to come.

Our traditional BBQ summer has stretched to become a three, or even a four season way to come together safely. Outdoor heaters have become more popular, making cold weather entertaining more convivial, and awnings, tents and gazebos utilised to provide shelter.

Outdoor entertaining has traditionally been based around a barbecue, but increasingly consumers are buying into pizza ovens, fire pits and grills. The range of foods cooked on these appliances is more varied, with fish, whole vegetables, and complete foods such as whole chickens and racks of ribs becoming popular, as well as the more traditional sausages and burgers.

“Whatever is being cooked on the fire, a bread offering is always required,” says Charlotte Hulbert, Sales Manager, Brioche Pasquier. “Brioche makes a slightly sweet accompaniment to barbecued food, complementing the charred and smoky flavours. Our soft Brioche Rolls can be split open to make simple hot dogs, but they are also delicious served individually alongside any dish, to be torn, stuffed and dipped as liked.”

BBQ brunch is becoming an increasingly popular outside occasion, and makes an easy, quick way to serve up tasty bacon or sausage sandwiches. A Brioche Pasquier Croissant makes a great alternative to bread or a roll – just split and serve in the usual way with some charred avocado or tomato as an accompaniment.

PITCH chocolate snack brioche were Brioche Pasquier’s most popular products before the pandemic, and have continued to gain traction over the last year. In the 52 weeks until 6 September 2020 buyer frequency rose 12% and the number of PITCH packs each buyer bought went up by 12.2% (Kantar).

“Children love them and a sharing pack makes a perfect end to an outdoor meal, making a quick and easy sweet treat,” comments Hulbert.

Viennoiserie as a whole is doing well in the pandemic with a 12.9% increase in sales overall (Kantar). Brioche Pasquier remains the leading brioche brand in the UK and sales of the brand’s Brioche Rolls grew by 5.1% year on year.

With Covid restrictions in place, more retailers are turning to online deliveries. However, online ordering is a lengthy process as products are usually arranged into broad categories such food cupboard, household, fresh meat etc.

“The more user friendly a website is, the more likely those users are to make additional purchases,” adds Hulbert. “It can be a great help to retailers if wholesalers make some of the initial choices for them by organising relevant items into additional specialist categories. “ A BBQ category might include all the different aspects of a barbecue offering, including sauces, dips, Brioche Rolls, meats, vegetables, paper napkins, marinades etc etc. This puts all the ingredients in one place, allowing retailers to quickly select their choices. This idea works well for other product groups too, for example, seasonal goods, back to school goods and items for a big night in.”

Restrictions have confined us to our homes, and advised us to stay local. This has meant that many of us are adapting our shopping methods, and small local stores are benefitting. Home delivery and click and collect have boomed, and consumers are visiting large supermarkets less frequently, choosing to top up in local stores between visits. Localism is a trend which is likely to continue once the pandemic has faded into the background.

This has been both rewarding and challenging for convenience stores and the wholesalers who supply them. Adapting to the varying trends and demands of lockdowns has meant that they have had to move swiftly to meet demand. After the initial toilet paper crisis, trends like home baking, healthy foods and outdoor eating have swept quickly into fashion, with certain products selling out or being short of availability.

“From the very beginning of the pandemic there was a high demand for our products with their longevity being an important part of their appeal,” continues Hulbert. “Our brioche contains ‘levain’ which is entirely natural, so the products last for up to 21 days without preservatives. This is obviously ideal for retailers and consumers wanting to stock shelves and store cupboards with a long lasting, wholesome bakery product and to minimise waste.”

During the first lockdown Brioche Pasquier’s bakery in Milton Keynes operated at full capacity in order to meet demand and to keep shelves stocked. There is still high demand for Brioche Pasquier’s products and the firm continues to bake at an increased rate to ensure that there is enough to meet the demand of its retail and wholesale clients and their customers.

Jessica Markowski, Convenience Sales Director at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, comments: “The BBQ was the UK’s number one summer at-home leisure activity in 2020. Ongoing lockdown restrictions are set to limit summer socialising this year, so at-home occasions such as the BBQ will likely continue to prove popular. There is, therefore, huge opportunity for wholesalers and their customers to drive sales, particularly through BBQ staples such as beer.”

Covid-19 has seen a distinct shift towards premiumisation – two thirds of shoppers claimed to be treating themselves at home during the first lockdown (Kantar). Alcohol is one area where consumers are keen to upgrade, with 52% agreeing they would pay extra for quality drinks to enjoy at home (Kantar). We can expect this trend to continue into summer, and to see consumers looking to ‘upgrade’ their summer BBQs.

“Wholesalers and their customers should prepare accordingly by stocking up on much loved premium brands,” suggests Markowski.

Stella Artois sold 527m pints in the UK off-trade last year and Budweiser grew 29.8% in volume ahead of the total beer category by December 2020 (Nielsen). These brands are still the number one and two most valuable beer brands in the off-trade, so a lucrative proposition for retailers. Meanwhile, Corona grew at nearly double the rate of the total grocery market in 2020 (Nielsen), maintaining its position as the most valuable world beer brand in the off-trade. World beer was the fastest growing segment within total beer and cider (Nielsen) last year, and as a much-loved summer option, is a smart choice for retailers in the months ahead.

We all know that burgers are a BBQ staple, and best when accompanied by an ice-cold beer – there were 60.3m off-trade packaged beers served at BBQs and picnics in the UK in 2019 (Kantar).

“Wholesalers can boost customer sales by advising cross-merchandising in store,” adds Markowski. “The smooth taste of Budweiser compliments the classic hot dog or more contemporary slider, for example. Positioning these products together will help inspire shoppers in store, and ultimately increase spend.”

Almost two thirds of UK adults are now looking to follow a healthier lifestyle all or most of the time (Mintel), and accordingly the no and low alcohol market is booming as consumers choose to moderate their intake. A quarter of British drinkers have cut down on their alcohol consumption (YouGov) – driving the category’s value to £77.4m a year in the off-trade (Nielsen).

“While some consumers may see it as an indulgent occasion, the clean grilling nature of a BBQ can lend itself well to the healthy lifestyle trend,” says Markowski. “Wholesalers should advise customers accordingly, offering a range of no and low alcohol options to cater for those consumers who are shopping for a healthier BBQ experience.”

Drawing on the familiarity of parent brands can help drive sales for new variants by setting quality and taste expectations. In fact, brand is the most important factor for consumers when deciding which no or low product to buy, ahead of calories, ingredients, taste claim, and ABV (NAB). Budweiser Brewing Group’s two most recent alcohol-free launches, Stella Artois Alcohol-Free and Budweiser Zero, have built on the success of their parent brands to deliver double digit growth last year (Nielsen).

With zero alcohol, zero sugar and only 46 calories, Budweiser Zero offers the same taste of Budweiser with zero compromise on taste or quality. Available in 4x330ml format – the best-selling small pack bottle SKU in convenience channel (Nielsen) – this is a valuable format for wholesalers to help their customers cater to changing consumption preferences. Stella Artois remains the UK’s favourite alcohol brand and continues to see strong performance in the premium category, selling 524m pints in the UK Off-Trade during 2020 (Nielsen). Stella Artois Alcohol-Free taps into this popularity, allowing retailers to provide alcohol-free variants of shoppers’ favourite beers.

Pint cans are a must-stock for retailers preparing for the summer socialising season – sales of the format grew +29.2% during the summer months last year (Nielsen). Total sales of pint cans grew by £36m in 2020 and the format’s popularity is set to continue as 60% of consumers now only buy 4x568ml cans (Nielsen), presenting a real opportunity for retailers to drive spend.

Jez Manterfield, Senior Category Manager, Asahi UK, comments: “Moderation has become more important to consumers, with 35% of consumers looking to reduce their alcohol intake in 2021 (KAM Media).

Consumers are still looking for premium quality products, with the super premium beer category the fastest growing quality segment at +49.6% yoy, well ahead of total beer at +28.7% (Nielsen).”

The at-home occasion has become ever more important to consumers in light of the Covid pandemic. 57% of drinkers were more interested in unique beers after the first lockdown began (KAM).

The dynamism of the craft category caters to this desire for unique beers and continues to see strong growth at +46.3% yoy, primarily driven by small to mid-pack cans (Nielsen).

Online beer sales have grown in value significantly this year, up +63.3% yoy, over twice that of the total trade. This has increased across all age groups as the population has had to adapt to a new norm.

Manterfield suggests wholesalers “Consider using different pack formats when looking at secondary positioning of brands and to avoid too much duplication e.g. 4 pack within chiller, 12 pack at front of store.

Consider cross-category offers – premium beers and food work well together. Consider the region a beer is from and match appropriately. Alternatively consider the occasion such as multipack beers with party foods and desserts.”

Kevin Fawell, Off-Trade Sales Director at Molson Coors Beverage Company, comments: “Even though it’s unclear exactly what the summer season will look like, the time of year is still an important opportunity for wholesalers. People will want to enjoy the sun being out, even if the usual BBQs are on a slightly smaller scale than normal. Whatever happens, wholesalers should expect the drinks options normally associated with good weather and good times to be in high demand as retailers want to ensure they have shelves stocked with familiar favourites and new options for people to enjoy.

“Choice is important. Wholesalers should be offering a wide selection of core favourites, and a range of premium and new, distinctive options, such as Aspall Cyder and Blue Moon Mango Wheat, to enable their customers to cater for different tastes. Ready-to-drink cocktails and hard seltzers are growing in popularity and are an ideal addition to the cool box at a BBQ.”

Lager sales have remained robust, outperforming the total alcohol sector (Nielsen). In particular, Molson Coors has seen strong performance across its core range as consumers have opted for those known and loved brands to enjoy at home – for example, Carling saw 26% growth over the 26 weeks to 3 October (Nielsen).

Carling remains the number one lager brand in Great Britain (CGA), with its balance of sweetness and bitterness making it a staple choice that can be enjoyed by everyone across a host of different occasions.

“A strong core offering remains vital for wholesalers, which is why we continue to invest in our best-loved brands to ensure they remain front of mind among consumers,” adds Fawell.

Coors Light became the sixth best-selling lager brand in the UK in 2019 (Nielsen) and, to build on this momentum Molson Coors is rebranding Coors Light as ‘Coors’ this year as part of a multimillion-pound investment in the brand.

The rebrand will drive further growth in the premium 4% beer category and will be supported by a new ad campaign, packaging and point-of-sale material to help wholesalers deliver sales. It is also a platform to expand the Coors family in the UK and launch new products including Coors Original.

Chris Milton, Thatchers Cider, Off Trade Sales and Export Director, comments: “Cider comes into its own in Spring and Summer, with drinkers enjoying the refreshing nature of cider across many different social occasions. 2021 will be a year of outdoor eating, and with an early Easter the celebratory lunch could easily be around the BBQ. Cider lends itself perfectly to outdoor eating, so include Thatchers with your BBQ displays.”

Mid packs, such as Thatchers Gold, Thatchers Haze, Thatchers Rosé and Thatchers Cloudy Lemon are must stocks this spring and summer.

From Thatchers Gold, which has contributed more value to the category for two years in a row, to Thatchers Haze, the UK’s number one cloudy cider growing +80.3% (value), Milton believes 2020’s cider choices will stay with shoppers into 2021 with retailers recognising the opportunities that stocking Thatchers brings, benefitting from the loyal shoppers, bigger baskets, and repeat purchase that the brand attracts.

Throughout the pandemic and especially through lockdown restrictions, Thatchers Cider has ensured that its full range of ciders has been fully available to wholesalers and retailers across the UK, ensuring that as more shoppers turn to convenience stores for day to day shopping, they have been able to find their favourite cider brand.

Thatchers will continue to spread the word of its family of ciders in 2021, through an integrated TV, digital, social and PR campaign, as well as new consumer promotions building relationships and engaging with its consumers and customers.

“The convenience channel across the UK saw an 20.8% increase in cider and perry sales growth (by value) and by format a 28.3% rise in cans. So it’s about ensuring your range is right, and you have the brands that consumers want to purchase locally and easily,” adds Milton.

Amy Burgess, Senior External Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners GB, comments: “Consumers continue to make positive changes to their lifestyles, with 63% saying they are trying to be healthier. Since 2015, we have reduced the sugar in our portfolio in GB by 22% – surpassing our ‘20% by 2020’ target – and now two thirds of our volume in GB now come from low or zero sugar soft drinks.”

CCEP has seen continued growth across consumer favourites in its light colas range – including Coca-Cola zero sugar, which is growing ahead of the market at nearly 12% (Nielsen). The Fanta Zero range also remains in growth (Nielsen). In mixers, CCEP has seen increased popularity of its iconic Schweppes Slimline Tonic, growing by 20% year on year (Nielsen).

“At the same time, we remain firm in our belief that people want choice and don’t want their options edited for them,” adds Burgess. “For example, Coca-Cola remains the number one soft drink in GB, while Monster Energy Green is the third biggest soft drink SKU in symbols and independents, highlighting that a strong core offering is still a key driver of sales. This means there’s a balance for wholesalers to find, between stocking the classics that consumers know and love, while flexing their ranges to include the latest innovations.”


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