Streaming movies and TV shows are contributing to a surge in Big Nights In, Joseph Lee discovers.

Big Night In is booming as a category right now. So much so, that stocking up on snacks and drinks to enjoy at home is now worth £8.9bn a year in the UK, according to data from PepsiCo.

All that adds up to an opportunity for wholesalers to help their customers boost sales by offering cost-conscious shoppers the elements of a night in to remember. So what do wholesalers need to do to help retailers make the most of the Big Night In?

The opportunity

Christian Sarginson, brand controller at Global Brands, says that two-thirds of young adults now say they prefer to stay in: “With streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime bringing jaw-dropping films and TV shows to the small screen, and Spotify making it easy to recreate a party atmosphere at the touch of a button, staying in is the new going out,” he notes.

According to Pierre Jackson, category insights controller at PepsiCo, there are three types of Big Night In: social get-togethers, the family movie night in and the ‘enjoy a treat’ night in. Social get-togethers are gatherings of friends, either catching up or celebrating a special occasion. “The shopper tends to be spontaneous in store, looking for a treat,” says Jackson. “Tortilla chips and dips are popular as they allow people to share and connect easily.”

Cosy nights in, meanwhile, offer an opportunity for families to spend time together over a favourite movie or an unmissable TV show that everyone enjoys. Jackson says: “The shopper is typically a parent looking for the security of favourite brands that the whole family can enjoy together. Popcorn resonates well here – it has a nostalgia factor and it is great for sharing.”

Indulgent shoppers

Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says there is also a growing trend for couples to spend ‘date night’ at home and enjoy it with treats.

“For many couples, spending a night in together is being treated as more of an occasion. As such, these date nights are a growing opportunity for wholesalers as retailers look to cater to these occasions,” she says.

Shoppers may be looking for something more substantial to eat than bagged snacks. Angela Daulby, channel director of Kepak Convenience Foods, says foods such as its Rustlers burgers are no longer just a lunchtime bite, with 30% of sales taking place in the evening: “Retailers know that people don’t want to interrupt a night in with family or friends by having to spend time away from them preparing food,” she says. “When shoppers are planning a night in, they’re looking to buy food and drink together. This enables retailers to link Rustlers with soft or alcoholic drinks and savoury sides in a meal deal, thereby offering shoppers complete meal solutions and the value they’re seeking in convenience.”

Wine can also be used to boost food sales, says Shaun Heyes, channel director for convenience and impulse at Treasury Wine Estates (TWE).

“Merchandise food near the wine section and you can also list and prominently merchandise wines that are clearly labelled to go with food,” he advises.

It’s something that the company has already adopted with its Rosemount Meal Matchers, which are designed to pair a grape varietal with a favourite meal such as chicken or steak.

The rise of the sharing pack

For many of us, a night in means a big bag of snacks that family and friends can all dig into.

“When targeting the Big Night In trend, large sharing bags and multipack products are most popular with shoppers,” says Hena Chandarana, trade communications controller at Pladis. “We would advise spotlighting these to customers by positioning them close to the point of sale, and also by placing them alongside complementary categories such as dips and drinks.”

Evening snacking is now worth more than £5.2bn and growing by 2.8% a year, she says, with biscuits the number-two snack after crisps.

According to PepsiCo’s Jackson, savoury snacks were consumed 3.5bn times last year, with sharing bags making up nearly a quarter of those consumptions. The number of shoppers buying sharing bags in convenience stores has risen by 5% and the frequency of purchases has risen by 12%.

Indeed, according to Kettle Chips, the sharing category is the only growth sector within convenience, underlining the importance of the Big Night In. The company says there is evidence that consumers will spend more to trade up to products that feel more special.

But other suppliers say that value, promotions and pricemarked packs are important for customers who are using the Big Night In as a low-cost alternative to going out.

“As the pressure on pricing remains, consumers’ savvy shopping behaviour means they will expect to see a continued focus on price cuts and multi-buys for snacking products, allowing them to manage their weekly shop and still purchase their household favourites,” says Pladis’ Chandarana.

Offering variety can be one way to get customers more excited about sharing bags. Andrew Ovens, marketing manager at Big Bear Confectionery, says: “Products that provide variety are key for the Big Night In. The ‘mix up’ options in the sharing bags category are a big hit as customers get a range of flavours and textures in a single purchase.”

Big Bear has created a Poppets Movie Mix product for this reason, with Orange Fondant, Dairy Fudge, Chocolate Shortcake and Raisin flavours all in the same bag.

It’s a trend that has appeared in savoury categories, too, with Walkers offering products such as Doritos Roulette, which is mainly tangy cheese flavoured chips, but with one chip in every handful having a spicy chilli kick.

“The Big Night In category has been a huge catalyst for sales of sharing formats and the autumn months bring further opportunity for stores to benefit,” says Big Bear’s Ovens. “September and October mark the start of nights drawing in, which sees many Brits staying in and enjoying a box set with friends and family.”

Doing drinks

Drinkers have much more spending power when it comes to spending a Big Night In rather than going out on the town.

Therefore, that means alcohol on nights in represents a significant opportunity for the convenience channel. “The average cost of a night out currently sits at £126, and although at-home drinkers don’t want to spend the same figure on a night in, they will spend money on recreating the effects of going out,” says Global Brands’ Sarginson.

Cocktails and pre-mixed drinks are a great way to appeal to younger consumers who are looking to hang out at home. Pre-mixed drinks are now worth £225m to the off-trade and have grown by 11% in convenience, Sarginson says.

In wines, among the key trends are the popularity of sparkling wines such as Prosecco and more premium wines with a price tag of £8 or more.

“Sales of premium wines in the convenience sector are growing. Shoppers are increasingly trading up and buying more high-end wines, both for themselves and as gifts,” says TWE’s Heyes.

Wine drinkers are also looking for lower-alcohol options as a lighter alternative for nights in. TWE offers drinks such as the 5.5% ABV Blossom Hill Spritz to cater for this demand.

Meanwhile, younger male drinkers are a largely untapped market for wine, Heyes says. A Kantar survey found that only a third of male millennials drank wine purchased in the off-trade each month – the lowest of any demographic.

However, TWE’s wines aimed at this market, 19 Crimes and Gentleman’s Collection, have seen 95% value growth, suggesting demand is under-served.

The cocktail trend is giving soft drinks a boost, too, as shoppers pick up more tonic water and other classic mixers. But CCEP’s Burgess suggests that adults are also increasingly looking to soft drinks on their own for a Big Night In. “With 21% of adults now choosing not to consume alcohol at all, it’s clear that soft drinks provide a major opportunity for these occasions,” she says. “Adult soft drinks is also a growing sector ideal for home entertaining. Products such as Appletiser and Schweppes Sparkling Juices drinks are popular, whether served on their own or as an ingredient for making cocktails.”

With the soft-drinks market continuing to be shaped by shoppers’ concerns about sugar, Burgess says it’s important to feature low-calorie drinks prominently, too: “With the increased focus on health leading some consumers to change their usual drink choice to reduce their intake of sugar or calories, wholesalers should focus on lower-sugar or no-sugar variants, as retailers look to meet growing consumer demand on this front.”

Displays

Shoppers getting ready for a Big Night In are often buying a range of products on impulse, so wholesalers can help retailers drive additional purchases by encouraging them to create a display and offering them manufacturers’ point-of-sale (PoS) material.

“A clear display that communicates the ‘Big Night In’ occasion draws shoppers into the fixture; cross-category promotions will certainly encourage incremental purchases,” says Dan Newell, confections marketing manager at Wrigley.

Manufacturers such as Kepak offer advice on using displays to boost sales on major occasions that might call for a Big Night In. “The company also provides free shelf trays and PoS material to wholesalers’ customers to improve visibility at fixture and increase sales,” says Kepak’s Daulby. “Rustlers also works very closely with wholesalers to offer advice to retailers to boost sales for important occasions linked to the Big Night In, such as Halloween or major sporting events.”

Pladis’ Chandarana says that wholesalers should advise retailers to place their displays at the front of their stores in high footfall areas: “The appearance of a display is often underestimated in terms of the influence it has on shoppers’ purchasing decisions,” she says. “Making Big Night In features attractive and easy to spot will have a positive impact not only on the sales of products included, but potentially on other categories, because shoppers are shown to spend more time in-store as a result.”

Displays can also help to cross-merchandise categories – especially when it comes to teaming wine with food, says TWE’s Heyes. “Wine is absolutely vital as wine shoppers drive incremental spend; they spend more than double the average shopper, buying more items per visit and spending longer in-store.

“This behaviour presents convenience retailers with an absolutely fantastic sales opportunity for Big Nights In, by encouraging cross-shopping between wine and other categories such as everyday foods.”

Viewpoints

We’ve got Echo Falls at £4.99 and multipack crisps at £1. But if you buy the wine, you get the crisps free. The margin is a bit tight, but it’s about creating that great multibuy deal for a Big Night In.

“It would be helpful if wholesalers could do some point-of-sale material.”

Bay Bashir, Belle Vue Convenience Store,
Middlesbrough, N Yorkshire

Wholesalers could really help this category by being a bit more proactive by offering deals and promotions that would entice shoppers. The sorts of things we look at are grab bags and bigger packets – the tortillas, hummus, all that kind of stuff – and Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s tubs.”

Abdul Arain, Al Amin Stores, Cambridge, Cambs

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