With people looking like they’ll be staying in more than ever during the winter months, Toby Hill examines what wholesalers can do to make the most of thus big night in opportunity
Winter is closing in and, with the end of the pandemic still nowhere in sight, buying habits are set to differ dramatically from previous years. Yet while these are tough times for everyone, it’s not all bad news for independent wholesalers. With many Britons avoiding non-essential travel, more people are shopping at local convenience stores than ever before. Furthermore, with restrictions hovering over pubs and restaurants, people are set to spend a far higher proportion of their income in these stores, too.
As a result, 2020 is set to be the winter of the big night in. “Everyone agrees that the big night in is a big opportunity for wholesalers, but during the current climate, consumers are relying on them more than ever before,” says Frances Booth, UK category development manager at Lotus Bakeries.
With Covid-19 keeping many people indoors, consumers will be looking for sweet treats to brighten the winter evenings, so it’s worth wholesalers considering what they can offer to meet this demand. One top choice is ice cream, and in particular new and innovative products such as Lotus Biscoff, which combines vanilla ice cream with the famous Biscoff coffee biscuit – bringing a taste of European sophistication to British living rooms.
Alternatively, sharing bags of sweets are another great way to meet anticipated demand for treats to get through the difficult winter months ahead. In particular, manufacturers are focusing on individually wrapped packaging formats, such as Barratt’s new Shrimps & Bananas Mini Bags, as Perfetti Van Melle’s trade marketing manager Mark Roberts explains.
“The popularity of wrapped bags is only likely to grow as shoppers move away from ‘naked candy’ to wrapped confectionery, as hygiene is more important,” Roberts says. He points wholesalers towards Chupa Chups lollipops as one hygienic sweet option to keep children and adults occupied through long evenings in front of the TV.
With consumers spending less money out and about, they’ll be looking to indulge at home. As a result, offering more premium options is a good bet for boosting sales through this winter. For example, alongside stocks of McCoy’s and Hula Hoops, wholesalers should bring in more premium brands such as Tyrrells, also from KP Snacks, which has seen strong growth in recent years and comes in a range of premium flavours. Similar trading up should be considered in soft drinks, for example by stocking NPD such as J2O Spritz Apple & Elderflower from Britvic, available in glass bottles that add a premium feel.
Alongside more premium options, amid the restrictions of lockdown, consumers will be keener than ever to seek out new and adventurous flavours. Consequently, wholesalers should also prioritise bringing in new innovations, such as McCoy’s Fiery Steak crisps or soft drinks like Pepsi Max Raspberry.
Humans are rarely consistent creatures, and even as people indulge themselves at home this winter, sales of healthier products are likely to stay strong, too.
“Shoppers are increasingly conscious of their health, particularly when enjoy-ing a big night in, with 65% of people agreeing that they are proactively trying to lead a healthy lifestyle,” notes Severine Hemms, shopping marketing manager
at Nestlé Waters.
To meet this soaring demand for healthier products, KP Snacks has developed a range of low-fat savoury alternatives, such as Popchips, containing fewer than 100 calories, and Hula Hoops Puft, with just 72 calories.
Alternatively, for those with a sweet tooth, Perfetti Van Melle has developed a range of products that can satisfy cravings without risking the negative health consequences of contemporary high-sugar diets. These range from Fruittella Summer Fruits 30% less sugar to Sugarfree Fruittella Fruit Foams.
Demand for healthier products extends to soft drinks, too, and a number of brands have sought to meet it with new product launches. Nestle recently launched a Tastefully Light range with 30% less sugar under its premium Sanpellegrino brand. Similarly, Britvic’s Fruit Creations range has no added sugar, a fact that is promoted on the product’s packaging to boost its appeal to health-conscious shoppers.
Finally, if you were to bet on off-trade sales of any product category this winter, you’d surely push your chips towards alcohol. Hopefully not just people drowning their sorrows, but rather making the most of the situation by having a few drinks with their household during a big night in.
In line with this, wholesalers should consider how they might harness people’s desire to make the most of nights in this winter. One option is to offer a range of ingredients for making your own cocktails at home, as Nick Williamson, marketing director at Campari UK, suggests.
“Cocktails which look great but don’t require you to be an expert mixologist are a way to create an air of luxury for at-home moments this winter,” Williamson says. He suggests wholesalers prioritise simple ‘build in the glass’ cocktails such as Aperol Spritz and Campari G&T, offering something different that is still simple to put together at home.
Wholesalers can’t forget beer, either, sales of which soared during the spring lockdown. Again, consumers are likely to be seeking something a little more premium as they spend more time drinking at home – making world beers such as Birra Moretti or Staropramen an ideal bet for independent wholesalers and their convenience retail customers, as they gear up for one of the busiest winters in years.