Big night in sales

Andrew Don on how political and economic uncertainty is driving many to save money by staying in – providing an ongoing opportunity for Big Night In product sales

A night in with friends and family is increasingly viewed as ‘an occasion’ where a good selection of drinks and snack products form an essential part of the stay-at-home social scene.

Wholesalers can help retailers reap the benefits of what drinks and snack companies regard as a major trend that requires servicing.

Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says nights in are often planned at the last minute, which can make convenience stores the go-to destination for shoppers making impulse buys for the evening ahead.

“The rise of streaming services, such as Netflix, has resulted in more than 80% of consumers spending nights in watching movies at home each month, compared with just over half who have visited a pub or a bar,” she says, referencing the Cardinal Pub Goers Report.

Dan Newell, confections marketing director at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, says the popularity of confectionery sharing bags, such as Skittles and Starburst tear-and-share pouches, continues to rise as consumers keep
a tight hold on their purse strings, spending less on evenings out and instead staying at home for a big night in.

Healthier options

Research from Nielsen, The Power of Snacking: Welcome to the Snacking Revolution, suggests that consumers are increasingly rejecting traditionally indulgent sweets and choosing healthier options.

Eat Real, the plant-based gluten-free and vegan snacks business, points out that confectionery, crisps and soft drinks have, for many years, been the staples of a big night in, but the general trend towards healthier lifestyles, coupled with a dramatic shift in shopping habits, now means consumers – especially millennials and Generation Z – are leading the charge towards healthier choices.

Paul Wheeldon, Eat Real’s wholesale and foodservice channel controller, adds: “Shoppers are now actively seeking out healthy snacks, with sugar and fat content among their top concerns.

“Changes in taste and lifestyle are heavily influencing how we shop today and although our tastes are diversifying, the demand for healthier snacks is as strong as ever.

“The booming demand for bolder, spicier flavours is being driven by adventurous consumers who are constantly seeking out new, authentic and exciting snacks and taste combinations.”

Wheeldon says that although this current demand for hot and strong flavours shows no sign of diminishing, there is an increasing appetite for healthier versions of traditional favourites, which means there are some great opportunities for wholesalers.

Propercorn’s co-founder, Cassandra Stavrou, agrees that ‘better-for-you’ snacking is the indisputable driver of the category’s growth.

The rise of the big night in means sharing formats are more popular than ever, accounting for 74% of all ready-to-eat popcorn sales in the 52 weeks to 2 December 2018.

Stavrou says IRI data for the same period shows Propercorn’s sharing bags are growing 37% year on year, and have become a staple of 18-to-35-year-old snackers, targeting both millennials and families who are seeking healthier alternatives to sugary treats.

Jason Beaumont, director at PWBrands, whose stable includes the Epic Snacks brand, says the popcorn market has moved away from traditional microwavable varieties as new flavours have proliferated and the resulting innovation has “bred excitement in
the category”.

He says the sharing aspect is why the business went ‘American’ with its sizing strategy – its popcorn buckets weigh in at 150g with a diameter of 170mm and height of 160mm.

“In a nutshell, what we wanted to achieve was a range of exciting, larger-than-life all-American flavours that help to create a cinema feel at home for a big night in,” says Beaumont.

Katy Hamblin, marketing manager of Pipers Crisps, says Mediterranean herb flavours are increasingly popular in both food and drink – pointing to Pipers’ Jalepeno & Dill, which is driven by the trend towards heat and more globally influenced flavours.


Wholesalers have the ability to keep their layouts fresh, and place linking SKUs together when it comes to merchandising, says Thomas Bennett, trade marketing controller at Global Brands, which supplies ready-to-drink (RTD) products, such as Hooch, All Shook Up and Flamingo Colada.

“To make the most of this, wholesalers should definitely dedicate an area to big night in products,” he says. “This influences more sales, as placing products such as Hooch next to popcorn creates the idea of a perfect movie night.”

Diageo advises wholesalers to maximise spirits purchases by stocking the right range, in an easy-to-shop layout, and offering retailers price-marked products.

Concha y Toro are one of the largest producers of wine from the Latin American region. Their sales manager for wholesale, Jenny Allaway, says wines such as Diablo, a new ‘dark red’, are designed to appeal much more strongly to the younger adult drinker who wants something out of the ordinary but still comes from reputable producers.

“Customers will be looking out for
these wines to accompany their big night in,” she says.

Eat Real optimises ranges through a combination of advertising, packaging and targeted formats.

It advises wholesalers to stock the right range by understanding both retailers’ and consumers’ needs and to support products with eye-catching merchandising and displays.

Mixing it up

Mixers, whether the premium Fever-Tree range, or household name Schweppes, are must-stocks for wholesalers.

CCEP’s Burgess says mixers are growing in popularity whether consumed with or without alcohol.

She partly attributes this to the popularity of cocktails and mocktails as people become more adventurous with home-made concoctions.

“Wholesalers should consider mixers to go alongside their alcohol ranges, so people can stock up on everything they need for the night in one go,” she says.

Sarah Beck, channel manager at Kettle Foods, believes a dedicated area for big night in in-depot would only be effective if the products in that area were dual-sited in both the event space and in their original position.

“The most important thing for any shopper, regardless of whether they are a wholesale customer or end consumer, is a reliable shop.

“In depot, this means finding items where they would expect to. Within snacks, this would be helped with a clear split in merchandising between sharing and single packs.”

She adds that when dual-siting isn’t possible for big nights in, wholesalers could enhance existing locations with event-related signage and PoS supported with print and digital activity around the occasion.

Retailer viewpoints

John Vine, Newsworld, Church Stretton, Shropshire

“We have an elderly population, but what is important to our shoppers is the ‘girls’ night in’ – they buy all the prosecco and everything that comes with that. We don’t get much support from wholesalers on opportunities like big night in. When prosecco and wine are on offer, we do a display.”

Harry Goraya, Nisa Local, Northfleet, Kent

“We’ve just invested in Chicago Town pizza to go which keeps piping-hot in our dedicated cabinet for 90 minutes – perfect for the big night in. The product is purchased through Nisa, but the equipment came from the brand’s owner, Dr Oetker.”

Jack Matthews, Bradley’s Supermarkets, Quorn, Leicestershire

“The big driver is popcorn. It goes alongside the ‘watch a movie’ kind of feel, which is what most do. We merchandise it as big night in. The top shelf will be alcohol, the next shelf has popcorn on it, then confectionery, and the bottom shelf includes our local baker’s snacks as well as local wines.”

Jimmy Tun, Bargain Booze, Poplar, East London

“We’re supplied by Bestway. We do frozen and fresh pizza, desserts like chocolate cake and a bottle of wine, which people buy for a big night in. We used to be supplied our fresh food by Nisa, but now it comes from Bestway.”

Big night in product news

Industry viewpoint

Amy Burgess,
senior trade communications manager, Coca-Cola European Partners

“Designating a space in-depot for big nights in can add a layer of convenience for retailers, while also encouraging impulse purchases that can lead to incremental growth.

“These displays could see soft drinks displayed alongside other snacking products that are popular for nights at home with friends and family, as well as non-food and drink items such as DVDs and games. It could also be effective to introduce promotions that offer discounts when these products are bought together.

“Another way to effectively cross-promote soft drinks alongside other products is an evening meal deal.”


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