The Big Night In – an all year round trend

big nights in

The Big Night In remains the perfect opportunity for sharing throughout the year, says Helena Drakakis


Growth in value sales in the past year of the sharing snacks sector in convenience

As the great British public dig in for the winter, the relevance of the Big Night In grows, with consumers socialising with friends at home or vegging out in front of the TV with their families. It is therefore a trend that wholesalers should be tuned into. However, entertaining at home is not just for when the weather turns cold: summer sporting events and all-year-round occasions provide perfect sales opportunities, given the often spontaneous nature of a get-together.

Whether it is sharing bags of crisps, snacks, sweet treats or drinks, convenience, range and price are all important factors in whether consumers choose a supermarket or a convenience store for their purchases. According to research consultant Him!, 30% of shoppers preparing for a Big Night In typically buy soft drinks, with 34% buying wine and 46% buying crisps and snacks.

However, as the better-for-you market gathers pace, alternatives to traditional snacks are increasing in popularity alongside family favourite brands.

Snack attack

With advanced home entertainment systems in many living rooms, it has never been easier to bring people together. Cue crisps and snacks to set the scene. According to Nielsen, sharing is the only snacking sector within convenience that is growing – up 10.3% in value sales over the past year.

“Despite an improving economic climate, consumers are continuing to entertain at home, and on such occasions, they still want to treat themselves,” says Kettle Foods PR manager Louisa Grant. She notes that across independents, there is a shift towards smaller pack sizes and pricemarked packs (PMPs). She adds: “PMPs should be considered by wholesalers and cash & carries to help retailers attract customers and drive a higher rate of sale. Kettle Foods offers a range of smaller price-marked sharing bags, which allow more price-sensitive retailers to tap into the sharing category.”

Backing this up is Matt Goddard, head of field sales at PepsiCo, who says that Walkers PMP crisps sell 20% quicker on average in impulse than non-PMP variants do. “Walkers’ standard PMPs are growing at 7%, and all sit within the top 30 single serve best-sellers,” he notes.

Big Nights In
Catering for the Big Night In is no longer about stocking a small selection of fizzy drinks and potato-based snacks

Better for you

As well as traditional snacks and sweet treats, the market for healthier options is growing. For the sofa-settlers embracing the better-for-you ideal, there is a range of alternatives. Sarah Brown, senior brand manager for Yushoi Snapea rice sticks, says: “Catering for the Big Night In is no longer about stocking a small selection of fizzy drinks and potato-based snacks. As better-for-you products continue to rise in popularity, consumers are looking for a variety of unusual flavours and ingredients. Wholesalers need to capitalise on this.”

The popcorn market also continues to grow, with sales up 170% over the past five years. PepsiCo recently entered the market with its Pop Works & Company brand, which boasts four variants, while Walkers’ Sunbites range taps into wholegrain popcorn.

Meanwhile, Kettle Foods’ portfolio includes the Metcalfe’s Skinny popcorn range, which contains between 93 and 121 calories per single serve, the latest flavour being Maple Bacon.

“Year-on-year sales continue to grow at an impressive rate of 23%, more than double the performance of the total popcorn market which grew by 10.5%,” says Kettle’s Grant. She advises wholesalers to improve their in-depot layouts by being category-specific, with snacks displayed by standard, premium and healthy, and divided into sharing, single-serve and multipacks.

Yushoi’s Brown advises wholesalers to create in-depot displays that demonstrate to retailers how their Big Night In fixtures could look. She adds: “Coupling complementary products such as drinks, snacks and dips makes it easier for shoppers to complete their missions.” 

Sweet treats

Sweet sharing bags have come under scrutiny recently, with concerns about sugar content. However, the market has remained buoyant, with sharing formats taking centre stage. Treat bags and pouches, as well as boxed chocolates, have seen growth rates of 6.3% and 2.3%, respectively.

“The rise in popularity of the Big Night In has resulted in sharing packs playing an increasingly key role in the confectionery market,” says Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager for Mars Chocolate UK.


Dhaliwal notes that growth has come from blocks of chocolate, such as Galaxy’s Smooth Milk and Smooth Caramel, and sharing bags of Minstrels and Maltesers. Mondelez has a range of £1 PMPs, including Cadbury Dairy Milk and a sharing bag of Boost Bites, which was launched last year. Ferrero got in on the action last year with its £1 price-marked Kinder sharing bags and this year, Ferrero Pralines and Thorntons Boxed Chocolates are being promoted as treats perfect for sharing.

Worth £701m, the sugar confectionery category is also playing its part. This year, Mondelez merged Maynards and Bassetts into one brand, Maynards Bassetts, which it says has a projected value of £127.9m. Wrigley also brought Skittles Tropical to the market last year.

However, while sweet confectionery has seen growth overall, the adult candy sector is experiencing decline, according to Nielsen.

Soft options

With more people choosing to alternate between alcohol and soft drinks and more months of the year now dedicated to abstaining from alcohol, the market for premium soft drinks is growing alongside standard brands.

“Shoppers are likely to spend more on impulse purchases for the Big Night In, making it essential that retailers prepare for semi-planned and last-minute trips across a variety of categories, especially soft drinks,” says Britvic’s GB commercial director for out of home, Nigel Paine.

£701m –  Current value of the sugar confectionery category

Britvic’s own portfolio includes multipack cans of Pepsi, 7Up and Tango, with 7Up and Pepsi Max also available in 1.5l and 2l bottles. According to Paine, the bottles are often bought as alternatives to alcohol, while multipacks lend themselves to family occasions.

The company has recently relaunched its historic R White’s lemonade brand with a new design and three new variants: Traditional Cloudy Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade and Pear & Elderflower. These will be supported by a £2m media campaign in March. Specific to the meal-pairing trend is Britvic’s J2O Spritz, which comes in 250ml and 750ml bottles.

Amy Burgess, the trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners, also points to the rising demand for adult soft drinks. “With one in five adults now choosing not to consume alcohol, it is clear that soft drinks provide a major opportunity for independent retailers – and, in turn, for wholesalers – to increase their sales as people enjoy nights at home. With popular TV series and sporting events offering reasons to stay in, retailers will be looking to keep stocks high to meet demand,” she says. Sharing formats, such as 1.75l PET bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and multipack cans of Fanta and Sprite, are proving popular choices, Burgess adds.

Party time

Spontaneous weekday Big Nights In or weekend parties often see the wine and beer flow. Last year, the popularity in fruit wines gathered pace, and that trend is set to continue: “Over the past year, fruit wines, such as Blossom Hill Spritz, have been in 49% growth in convenience and impulse. Now there are key new players in the market that will drive volumes and profitability even harder,” says Shaun Heyes, channel controller for wholesale and convenience at Treasury Wine Estates.

The updated Lambrini Fruits range also taps into greater consumer demand for lighter and fruitier wines. Parent company Halewood Wines and Spirits is putting advertising spend behind the brand with a campaign focused on the stay-at-home market. Brand manager Michelle Chadwick says: “Lambrini’s current consumer campaign focuses on the Big Night In under the strapline of ‘Bring the Brini’, to attract new consumers, and to encourage current Lambrini drinkers to enjoy the range with their friends.”

She adds that sharing products are proving particularly successful: “Wholesalers should merchandise drinks brands by positioning PoS materials to promote a Big Night In.”

Upcoming sporting events will also generate accompanying promotions. Heineken will sponsor football’s UEFA Champions League until the end of the 2017-18 season, while Carlsberg remains the official sponsor of the England team. Meanwhile, Guinness is continuing its sponsorship of the RBS Six Nations rugby tournament, which kicks off in February.

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Helena Drakakis is a journalist for betterWholesaling. Liaising with some of the leading suppliers and industry experts, she aims to bring wholesalers the best advice, latest news and inspiration.


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