In this two-part feature exploring what Christmas means as a business opportunity for wholesalers we look first at retail, then foodservice. Given that this is traditionally the season for indulgence, intriguingly, in both retail and foodservice the growing trends include vegan and low/no alcohol.

The retail section of this feature presents the pick of the suppliers’ guidelines for fantastic festive sales and a selection of the offerings this time around. Our growing passion for shopping online for Christmas gifts and other consumer items has been driving consumer purchases in November and early December to ever greater heights, peaking on Black Friday. But when it comes to purchases of food, drink and other products for the festive season, including treats for sharing in the run up to the holiday season, consumers remain largely loyal to traditional retail outlets. It adds up to a huge opportunity for convenience stores served by cash & carries and delivered wholesalers.

As Christmas approaches, consumers become more open to trading up and enjoying a little indulgence, making this the perfect time of year for wholesalers to help retailers capitalise on the mood and increase basket spend.

Across the categories, theatre and engagement is key in the lead up to the season both in depots and in store as it encourages retailers and the shoppers they serve to purchase freely, increasing penetration and creating excitement about the festive season. Displaying novelty items also brings joy to the stress of Christmas shopping.

Wholesalers should encourage retailers to create dedicated bays in store using POS and displays to maximise visibility and tap into the excitement of the season. Secondary siting’s shouldn’t be overlooked, retailers can use these throughout November and December to remind shoppers of the main event and what’s on offer in store. Driving footfall is key to maximising sales whilst offering range and choice helps bring people into the category and capture impulse and planned sales.

Christmas Chocolate

Charlotte Parkes, Brand Manager at Mondel?z International says seasonal chocolate and gifting present a fantastic opportunity from October through to December for wholesalers to drive independent retail customers’ sales of everything from advent calendars to selection boxes.

The Christmas season starts early, with shoppers self-treating with festive novelties to enjoy on the go, or take home for their family. Sharing occasions play a significant role as Christmas approaches, as families and friends come together to celebrate throughout the season. Sharing bags, bars and sharing novelties are ideal for this and add a sparkle of seasonal excitement to these moments. And gifting goes hand-in-hand with the festive season. Whether purchasing an advent calendar, gifting a selection box of favourites, or topping up the stockings, shoppers are looking for inspiration and excitement for their friends and family.

Sugar Confectionery

Andrew Ovens, Marketing Manager at Big Bear Confectionery, says with ‘kidulting’ – as in treats and sweets geared towards adult consumers looking for ways to relive their childhood – a growing trend, wholesalers should cash in over the run up to Christmas by stocking selection boxes.

A classic example of a Christmas selection box is Werther’s Original Christmas Caramel Shop Box, with its Christmas inspired design linked to the iconic caramel shop advert, which has on TV before Christmas for the last seven years and is back on air at the end of November.

Family spend on seasonal confectionery is increasing by 6% annually, says Russell Tanner, Marketing and Category Director at Tangerine Confectionery. Nostalgia for favourite brands is a key sales driver at Christmas, with sentimental consumers eager to indulge in the sweets they loved when they were young and introduce them to their children.

People are more aware than ever before about what they are feeding their families, says Mark Roberts, Trade Marketing Manager at Perfetti Van Melle, led by the government’s plans to cut sugar by 20% in the coming years. PVM offer a range of sugar free and reduced sugar products to ensure choice as well as portionable candies for parties.

Biscuits and Small Cakes

Savoury or sweet, biscuits and small cakes come into their own at Christmas as people relax and snacking habits hits overdrive. Seasonal biscuits present a major profit opportunity for convenience retailers and the retailers that supply them, worth £13m last year and growing ahead of the market at 3.8%, says Mandy Bobrowski, UK and Ireland Marketing Director at Burton’s Biscuit Company.

Giftable tins of biscuits are another great Christmas tradition and Burton’s is bringing out seasonal pack formats for its Maryland Cookies and Cathedral City Baked Bites products, baked under licence from Dairy Crest. Pladis’ giftable tins for this Christmas tap into the tradition, including the first ever McVitie’s Jaffa Cake tin: in the savoury category, an all-new Jacob’s tin with a Jacob’s cracker ‘heritage’ design and the McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives Post Box Tin.

Salty Snacks

Russ Goldman, Buying Director at Rayburn Trading, the wholesalers, says savoury snacks are an integral part of the independent retailer’s Christmas catalogue, and sharing packs of these do exceptionally well at this time of year. From firm Christmas favourites such as sharing packs of crisps and snacks to cracker selections, savoury party mixes and even dips, the opportunity to generate large basket sales is high.

“It’s always good to offer a range of options and, with increasing consumer focus on sugar and salt content, it would be wise to offer some healthier alternatives.”

Food gifting

Food gifting is a mainstay of the festive period, and a Christmas ‘gift’ for wholesalers at Christmas. Here’s a brief selection of some new food gift packs for this Christmas:

• PLAYin CHOC have a luxury Advent calendar, SMOOTH + CREAMY BOXES and new Woodland character chocolate cubes

• Duerr’s preserves’ Advent calendar features miniature traditional and spirit infused jams and marmalades.

• Booja-Booja, the chocolate and ice cream producer, has two new chocolate truffle gifting ranges, The Wonderbox and Twelve Truffle Boxes

• The Teapigs premium tea company has an Advent calendar

• The Bay Tree offers three gift packs, Cheese Lover’s Set, Chilli Survival Kit and Mustard Survival Gift Pack Sandwiches

Festive sandwiches are popular sellers from November onwards, with more seasonal sandwiches sold in the second week of December than any other time. The UK’s favourite sandwich brand, URBAN eat, is bringing back Christmas cheer to sandwich shelves this year with its new festive collection. New to the range is the vegan ‘Veggie Feast’ sandwich, catering for the growing demand for free-from, and the ‘Turkey, Bacon and Stuffing Sourdough Toastie.’ Drinks

You can have Sober October and Dry January if you must, but never a Dry Christmas! Though you mustn’t forget the designated drinkers and people who prefer to celebrate in moderation. Pernod Ricard UK are calling on wholesalers and convenience retailers to plan an eight-week Christmas sales campaign from November and promote premium spirits right through to January 1st. Chris Shead, Off-Trade Channel Director for Pernod Ricard UK, comments:

“If every store took an extra £557 – equivalent to an extra three bottles per week – in spirits sales in the eight weeks before Christmas, the channel would command the same market share as grocery.“

Faith Holland, Head of Category Development at Diageo GB, has specific advice for Christmas for convenience retailers and the wholesalers who supply them:

“In store activity is crucial close to Christmas, with 38% of shoppers doing their main shop in the three days up to Christmas and 38% of December alcohol sales occurring in the week leading up to Christmas.

Premiumisation is key, with 69% of shoppers planning to trade up in alcohol over the Christmas period.


The average retailer stocks over 50 spirits lines, but only sells 19 a week, so needs a clearly signposted and neat spirits section to prevent confusion and increase spend. – The top 20 spirits make up 69% of total spirit sales.

When laying their shelves this Christmas retailers should consider grouping their soft drinking offering alongside their bestselling spirits as 9% of spirits baskets also contain soft drinks.

Spirits and liqueurs for Christmas Cocktails are an important part of the Christmas drinks repertoire, says Alistair Pummery, Off Trade Brand Manager – UK, Tia Maria: “More and more people are entertaining friends and family at home, with cocktails high on the agenda. Shoppers are on the hunt for ingredients to experiment at home with different cocktails.”

Wine wisdom

Dan Harwood, Head of Wine Education at Halewood Wines & Spirits, says the UK’s favourite party drink is Prosecco, which only gets more popular at Christmas, with sales worth £617m annually in the UK off-trade and growing 4.5% year on year.

Christmas is a fantastic time to gift wine to a loved one or to take to last minute festivities. 51% of people plan to buy Christmas gifts with their grocery shop and still (not sparkling) wine plays a key role.

Christmas offers wholesalers an opportunity to encourage retailers to stock premium or ‘trade up’ wine options, says Andrew Nunney, Category, Shopper and Insight Director at Accolade Wines: “Christmas is the biggest occasion in the wine retail calendar, with consumers on the lookout for premium wines for events such as Christmas lunch and Boxing Day lunch.

Traditional convenience retail loses share of wine sales the closer we get to Christmas, but even so last year sales grew overall and there are opportunities throughout the 12 weeks, particularly the week before Christmas. Retailers should offer trade up options of the most loved brands.

“During the Christmas period it is important that retailers offer a range of wines across the price points to target last minute buyers, people shopping for special occasions, stocking up for drop in visits and celebrations.

“Convenience retailers shouldn’t try to play the Mults at their own game – focus instead on party time before and after, and shout about their wine offer to drive footfall.”

Keep It Low

Low alcohol drinks are an important area for wholesalers to address at Christmas. Wholesalers and retailers need to include a selection of interesting low strength alcohol. A classic Sheppy’s Low Alcohol Classic Cider is a beautifully light and crisp low alcohol cider with all the flavour of traditional cider but less alcohol, perfect for the designated driver this Christmas.

Batteries not included Clare Rix, Trade Marketing Manager at VARTA consumer batteries: “To help create a stress-free festive period, retailers need to stock batteries. To make the most of this peak trading period, wholesalers should ensure batteries are in prominent, easy-toaccess areas, ideally by the tills to capture the impulse purchases or by any electronic devices for sale. Additionally, stocking batteries that are easy to select will also be hugely beneficial. Batteries are usually impulse purchases or purchased under stress, so making the selection process as straightforward as possible can help secure sales.

Varta are once again running a comprehensive advertising campaign throughout the festive period, including their hugely popular ‘Powering Your Christmas Moments’ advert, which will feature across Primetime TV.

And finally… don’t forget the pets Leading pet food brand, Webbox has revealed a number of additions to its much-loved festive range of food and treats. New for 2018 the Webbox Meaty Advent Calendar means dogs can now enjoy the run up to Christmas Day just as much as humans, with a variety of daily treats from Chicken Chips, Tuna Sticks and Chicken with Cod Sandwiches.

Dogs can also indulge in Festive Chocolate Yule Logs and Decorate Your Own Gingerbread Bones Kit. Cats can get into the festive spirit too, thanks to Webbox Festive Baubles with fishshaped biscuit treats and Festive Cat Crackers with 80g of poultry-flavoured pillows.

Christmas Part 2: FOODSERVICE With foodservice making up a growing part of many wholesalers’ business, this part of the feature presents the pick of the suppliers’ guidelines for fantastic festive sales and a selection of the offerings this time around.

In recent years wholesalers have increasingly targeted foodservice and catering customers and some wholesalers traditionally weighted towards retail are now placing more emphasis on foodservice to satisfy demand for out-of-home eating.

Dessert-inspired treats, iced drinks, premium ingredients and unexpected flavours will be prominent on beverage menus across Europe this Christmas, according to research from Kerry Taste & Nutrition.

With 41% of consumers looking to discover new products and a quarter sharing photos of their drinks on social media), offering a menu of greattasting, visually appealing and on-trend beverages will be key for coffee shops this Christmas.

First, Christmas is all about indulgence, right across the foodservice sector. 72% of UK consumers agree that Christmas is a time to treat yourself, and 66% say they seek products that help them unwind and relax.

Meanwhile, 70% of European consumers said they find authentic hot chocolate more appealing than healthier, low-calorie alternatives, Kerry predicts dessert-inspired concepts such as peppermint hot chocolate and gingerbread & caramel frappé will be in high demand.

Another emerging trend is alternative festive drinks. Iced drinks are expected to grow in popularity with 66% of 18-24 year olds saying chilled coffee is a good alternative to sugary drinks. In addition, growing preference for coffee alternatives will allow coffee shop owners to appeal to a wider consumer set with a menu of hot chocolates, cold brews, iced teas and more.

‘Premiumisation’ is another key trend to consider in foodservice, as much as in retail, with new taste experiences and high-quality ingredients creating a point of differentiation for 48% of European consumers. Hot chocolate, which was the most popular beverage platform last Christmas, will continue to drive purchases this year with growing interest in sophisticated flavour pairings and multi-layering techniques. Allowing consumers to experience the ‘craft behind the creation’ will make beverages more engaging and enhance the experience from preparation to consumption.

Looking at the major delivered wholesalers, the Christmas from Bidfood 2018 range includes the first festive selection of vegan dishes and desserts, in response to latest statistics suggesting there are now around 3.5million vegans in the UK.

Bidfood has focused on providing a wealth of plant-based buffet nibbles and mains, but the real stars of the show are the desserts, including a delicious selection of non-dairy ice creams. For mainstream diners this year’s Festive Flavours dessert range is set to dazzle with a new collection of cheesecakes. Bidfood’s Farmstead meat range has launched Farmstead Frozen, offering a number of raw, butchery-style frozen products including turkey, just in time for Christmas. The chilled Farmstead range also features new single serve festive joints.

Laura Mason, Campaign Manager at Bidfood comments: “We’ve worked hard to expand the variety of foods we offer to meet the demand from customers for more than just the traditional Christmas fare.

“Whilst the holiday season will always be about indulgence and fun festive flavours, there’s more of a call than ever for products that reflect wider market trends. From world flavour influences, to vegan and free-from options, this year’s collection is about catering for everyone. With the significant jump in the UK vegan population we are keen to ensure we have strong choices for this area of the market, particularly when it comes to desserts.”

Bidfood have also expanded their onthe- go range as the convenience sector continues to grow, with something for everyone on the move at the busiest time of the year.

With increasing numbers of UK diners looking to eat out over the Christmas period, and even Christmas Day, coming up with the right menu really helps create a point of difference. Brakes have pulled together a fantastic range of festive favourites, indulgent treats and some great new tableware lines to help make Christmas planning as easy as possible.

The free from market continues to grow with an astounding 40% growth year on year in 2017. Christmas is a time for tradition and comfort foods, so having the choice of a really tasty full gluten-free Christmas dinner or a heartwarming vegetarian option is crucial for a caterer’s Christmas menu. Brakes’ new gluten free pork, sage & onion stuffing is set to be a massive hit this Christmas.

Other new Brakes products for 2018 include whole Norfolk bronze turkeys, pumpkin & sage tortelloni, mince pie ice cream and a fabulous range of new British cheeses – the perfect selection for Christmas. Classic pates and terrines, savoury quiches and British charcuterie will get any festive menu off to a cracking start. Or how about some fish and seafood?

Whether you want a classic Christmas pud or a wickedly indulgent chocolate feast, Brakes’ dessert range has it all, including some great warming flavours like ginger & pumpkin slice, perfect for a snowy winter’s night. And no Christmas feast would be complete without a helping of cheese from Brakes’ new range of British cheeses.

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