Nikki Allen on the trends, must-stock products and ideas that can help you grow your Big Night In sales.

Top-quality home entertainment and the need to save cash mean evenings in are more popular than ever – 66% of young people now say they prefer nights at home to nights on the town, The Guardian reports, with streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Spotify making staying in ever-more appealing.

PepsiCo believes that spend on nights in is worth £8.9bn, and according to Nielsen data, one of the two categories that drove the most grocery growth last year was the Big Night In.

Consumer research from Wrigley also finds that 50% of people have cut what they spend on eating out. “Consumers are more conscious of spending, so nights in are a key sales opportunity,” says Dan Newell, the company’s confections marketing manager.

Christian Sarginson, brand controller at Global Brands, adds: “The average cost of a night out for the average man is currently £126.42, according to Voucher Codes Pro research. Although people do not want to spend that much on nights in, they will spend money on creating the effects of going out, in the comfort of their own homes.”

It is therefore imperative that you work to grab a bigger slice of this pie.

On-trend snacks

Savoury snacks are big news for nights in – especially ever-popular sharing bags. “Savoury snacks were consumed more than 3.5bn times last year, with sharing bags making up more than 20% of these occasions,” says Pierre Jackson, category insights controller at PepsiCo. Within convenience, sharing snacks are driving growth and are up 12.7% year-on-year; meanwhile, single-serve and multi-packs are declining, IRI data shows.

According to Jackson, consumers tend to buy sharing snacks for three reasons: get-togethers for fun evenings with friends; family movie nights; or ‘enjoy a treat’ evenings when they indulge at home with a box set.

A different type of snack suits each occasion, Jackson suggests: popcorn for movie nights, chips and dips for social get-togethers, and potato crisps for treat evenings.

To make the most of the opportunity, stocking the 20 bestselling sharing lines is the ideal place to start. If space allows, you should also stock premium products and world snacks.

“There is a growing trend for premium food and drink,” says Alex Albone, founder of Pipers Crisps. “Customers are more discerning, seeking great-tasting snacks, and they are willing to pay for it. That is excellent news for wholesalers.”

Kettle Foods’ channel manager Sarah Gibson agrees: “Consumers often look for extra-special products, such as premium snacks, to treat themselves and guests on nights in. As the top-selling hand-cooked crisps brand, Kettle Chips is a must-stock premium snack for wholesalers and their retail customers.”

Meanwhile, the recent success of world snacks suggests a trend for shoppers trying out bolder tastes at home: “The world snacks sector, worth £62m, is growing at 22.4% annually, opening up huge opportunities for wholesalers,” says Debbie King, director of commercial sales and marketing at Indian snack brand Cofresh.

The numbers back up her claim: Cofresh’s core range of Asian mixes has grown by 40% in the past 12 months. “These figures suggest a move away from traditional snacking as people are now sharing taste adventures at home,” adds King.

The sweet spot

The sharing format is also where the sales are in sweet snacks, says Lauren George, brand and trade PR manager at Mars Chocolate and Wrigley UK.

“The rise in popularity of the Big Night In means sharing packs play a key role in the confectionery market – with our sharing bags up 2.2% in sales,” she adds.

Mars’ bitesize brands, including Maltesers, M&Ms, Galaxy and Milky Way, are all must-stocks, she adds.

The trend for sharing is apparent in ice cream, too, says New Forest Ice Cream director Christina Veal. “It works as a dessert or an indulgent snack. Many customers are choosing a cosy night in with a tub, so wholesalers must stay on top of the latest flavours,” she says.

As well as offering variety, sweet treats are well placed to meet shoppers’ need for indulgence at good value, says Swizzels Matlow’s sales director Mark Walker. “The focus on discounting means it is now easier to find a deal – people are more adept at recognising value for money.”

This is shown, he says, by the popularity of pricemarked packs (PMPs), including Swizzels’ £1 Squashies PMP, which has grown 80% year-on-year in the channel, and £1 PMP Drumstick Squashies, which Swizzels claims is now the UK’s bestselling sugar confectionery PMP.

“Stocking a varied selection of sweet treats from popcorn to chocolates is important – and PMPs make customers feel they are getting the best value for money,” agrees Russell Goldman, buying director at wholesaler Rayburn Trading.

“As the pressure on pricing remains, consumers expect to see a continued focus on price cuts and multi-buys for sweet snacks,” agrees Hena Chandarana, Pladis’ head of trade communications. Its McVitie’s Digestives Nibbles are available in 80g £1 PMP pouches, she adds.

Something to drink

Whatever the reason for a night in, most consumers will be after a drink or two. For alcohol drinkers, beer, wine, cider and spirits all remain popular choices.

The must-stocks are: sparkling wine, which has grown 76% in the past five years according to accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young; and wine from Australia, the biggest country of origin for the UK market according to Nielsen.

There is also an emerging trend for cocktails, as consumers look to recreate at home the tipples they drink when out on the town, says Global Brands’ Sarginson.

“Cocktails have become one of the hottest at-home trends, but with their demanding, busy lives, many home- drinkers are seeing the appeal of pre-mixed cocktail cans,” he says.

As a result, these cans have increased in popularity over the past year, growing by 11% in the impulse channel.

“There is definitely a trend for recreating bar-quality drinks at home,” agrees Amy Burgess, external communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners. “Products such as Appletiser and Schweppes Sparkling Juices are popular on their own or as cocktail ingredients.”

With 21% of adults now choosing not to consume alcohol at all, soft drinks on their own also provide a major opportunity for nights in.

Low sugar and health are important in soft drinks, so wholesalers must take them into account when choosing what to stock, Burgess adds: “Consumers are changing their usual drink to reduce their sugar or calorie intake, so wholesalers should focus on lower- or no-sugar variants, such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.”

Sharing formats like multipack cans of Fanta and Sprite are popular, too, and should form part of your range.

Boost your core range sales

Keeping up with trends and stocking bestselling lines will go a long way to helping you cash in on nights at home. But there is more you can do in-depot to boost sales, by focusing on merchandising and display.

To begin with, says Mars’ George, focus on getting your confectionery display merchandised well: “Multi-face key lines to attract retailers and merchandise bestsellers at eye level on a wall display,” she says.

“Wholesalers can boost sales by changing the layout in-depot to be category-specific, making it easier for retailers to shop for crisps, snacks and popcorn,” suggests Kettle’s Gibson.

“We also recommend off-shelf displays, siting complementary products together that target the Big Night In – for example, putting sharing bags of chips and popcorn alongside alcohol or soft drinks can drive a rise in retailers taking on the product.”

Rayburn’s Goldman agrees: “An appealing display that groups together products in a Big Night In package can also help drive spontaneous purchases.”

Cofresh’s King further advises wholesalers to plan a calendar of Big Night In events – such as major sporting fixtures, popular Saturday night TV programmes and box-set launches – to anticipate demand in advance.

“The snacks category has lots of products, sizes and variants, which can be confusing,” she says. “So, strong promotions and high profile displays will help. Make sure you use point-of-sale material, off-shelf displays and rack-end promotions, and drive awareness of events with ‘wow’ displays at the front-of-depot display.”

Retailer Viewpoints

“Major events like sports drive Big Night In sales. Around those times, we do especially well on crates of beer, Kettle Chips and Doritos. We look for products that are on promotion from our wholesaler, and it rotates these products every three weeks. Its own-label snacks are a good seller for us, too.”

Phil Hickson, Spar, Lincoln

“Big Night In fixtures are hugely important for our stores. They fulfil many different functions and help to increase basket spend with shoppers purchasing on impulse. Wholesalers should make sure they are creating ideas for their customers and use the opportunity to cross-category merchandise around the depot.”

Kay Patel, Best-One, Stratford

“Nights in are important to our store as all kinds of customers shop for these products. I have noticed that even though some shoppers are going out a bit more now, many still prefer to drink at home. I would like more ideas for creating Big Night In displays, so perhaps this is something wholesalers could help with.”

Perry Sanu, Costcutter, E London

“For the Big Night In, we have an ice cream fridge next to our beer and wine, and we stock £1 bags of crisps next to it to boost sales. Friday and Saturday nights are the times people want to spend money and will buy luxury snacks and treats, so we need to make sure we can always stock up ready for the weekend.”

Sam Coldbeck, Wharfedale Convenience Store, Hull


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