Big Night In: Opportunities for the off-trade

23 September, 2016

As the nights draw in and consumers take to home entertaining, new opportunities arise, says Sonya Hook:

The summer may be over but drinks retailers need not despair – it’s a great time of year to cash in on the rise of people socialising at home.

“Thoughts are turning to preparing and saving for Christmas, which means customers are even more likely to consume at home,” says Amy Ledger, marketing manager at Continental Wine & Food. “At this time of year holidays are over and people are starting to cosy up.”

People are also gearing up to swap barbecues for dinner parties, while party time occasions, including more up-tempo nights in and celebrations, are 11% in growth, according to Diageo, with spirits holding the biggest share of this occasion.


Anyone who is legally allowed to drink can be the target consumer for this occasion, but the millennial generation is one retailers should consider appealing to.

 Chris Ellis, commercial director at Pernod Ricard UK, says: “Millennials are the big exponents of the big night in and they are looking for something different. Jacob’s Creek Sun Craft is aiming for that sweet spot.” He adds: “The big night in is a long-term trend and it has been getting bigger ever since I joined the drinks industry.

“When drinking at home with other people we want decent brands and slightly more premium offerings. There’s an element of showing off. You want to be able to offer the latest innovations such as Absolut Special Edition because they allow people to impress their friends.”

Diageo agrees that when it comes to the big night in for spirits, premium options are increasingly in demand. “Consumers are seeking a richer value of experience from what they consume,” says Paul Isherwood, head of off -trade category development at Diageo GB. “They are interested in the stories, ingredients and provenance of products and this is a trend we are seeing across food and drink as a whole, and it is influencing purchasing decisions.”

Alongside this, cocktails at home is a “huge trend”, he adds, and one which retailers can cash in on by grouping cocktail ingredients and suggesting simple serve ideas. He also notes that flavoured spirits are an ideal proposition for this occasion as they can be used with mixed drinks and cocktails: “For example, Espresso Smirnoff with cola.”

And Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners, confirms that mixers are growing in popularity “whether consumed with or without alcohol”. She adds: “This is partly due to the popularity of cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails, as consumers look to enjoy an indulgent drink during a night in that differs from what they would enjoy day to day.”

CCEP has recently reintroduced the Schweppes Russchian variant, previously known as Citrus Blend, to help people experiment with new and exciting drinks, she says. And its Appletiser brand is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. To mark this the brand has teamed up with mixologist Richard Woods, who has developed a number of cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks using Appletiser and Appletiser Apple & Pomegranate


Staying in for the evening, particularly when it involves a gathering of friends or family, will most likely include food as well as alcohol. Treasury Wine Estates launched its Rosemount Meal Matchers in July this year to tap into the wine and food occasion. The range of wines, which are considered to be “perfect for the meal for tonight/big night in occasion”, includes a Cabernet Merlot blend matched with pasta, a Shiraz with steak, Sauvignon Blanc with seafood and Chardonnay with chicken.

Shaun Heyes, channel controller, wholesale and convenience at TWE, says: “Recent shopper research undertaken by HIM! (in May 2016) demonstrated that there are three key trends for the wine convenience shopper. One of these is meal for tonight/big night in.

“The data shows that 30% of shoppers do not know what they are going to have for their meal this evening and will purchase on their way home. This gives retailers a huge opportunity to influence shopper behaviour in terms of what they are going to eat and drink that night.

“So retailers should always look to range wines that complement food and should look at putting wines on secondary sitings adjacent to everyday meals.”

Meanwhile Andrew Turner, director of wines for Halewood Wines & Spirits, also points to food matching as a way retailers can encourage shoppers to make more of a night in. “Food matching has been a key part of the lifestyle in wine producing countries for a long time, but it is still a relatively misunderstood concept with the majority of UK wine consumers, mostly because people associate it with an old-fashioned or upper-class concept.

“We want people to understand that food pairing is subjective. A glass of your favourite wine with your normal Tuesday evening sausage and mash is still a foodpairing.

“Matching food and drink, whether it’s the traditional port and cheese or the equally established lager and crisps, will still enhance the experience of consuming both.” Turner adds: “Although attitudes have definitely relaxed over recent years, I believe we will see this emerging trend grow further, certainly as part of the big night in trend, so retailers need to not only make the most of the opportunity but also take it one step further and communicate and interact with consumers in their language, not the industry’s.”

He notes that Halewood recently introduced its Surprisingly Good range to offer a “clear and approachable brand” that focuses on grape varieties. The range also includes tasting notes and food pairing suggestions.


Looking out for key calendar dates can also be a way retailers can prepare for this occasion. Molson Coors’s 60 Second Shop campaign aims to advise convenience store retailers help their shoppers find what they need. One of the three consumer-focused pillars defined by this campaign is a focus on key occasions.

Alpesh Mistry, UK customer marketing director, says: “Creating this sense of occasion is key.

“As part of its 60 Second Shop research, Molson Coors found that 43% of shoppers and 67% of retailers think convenience stores should support key national events through displays in store. “With the UK’s golden performance at the Olympics and the exciting start we’ve seen to the new Premier League season, sport is an obvious theme to base your big night in offering around.

“Snacks such as crisps form a big part of the big night in and when retailers pair activations with an important occasion such as a sporting event they can really maximise sales.”

Heineken also notes that occasion-specific SKUs provide a big opportunity for convenience. Craig Clarkson, category trade and marketing director, off-trade, says: “It is important that retailers stock fridge packs in the chiller and run cross-category promotions on snacks, for example, to remind and disrupt shoppers on their way home to watch a game.”

Outside of beer and cider, it’s also worth noting that, as consumers increasingly choose to celebrate big occasions at home, having a good sparkling wine range – particularly Prosecco – makes a lot of sense.

Heyes at TWE says: “Interest in sparkling wine has increased over the past few years thanks to the increasing number of affordable sparkling wines being launched, such as Prosecco and cava, making it a must-stock for any wine retailer.”


Another way retailers can tap into the big night in is to ensure they have a strong gifting range, according to suppliers.

“Research shows 73% of shoppers would buy a gift from a convenience store [HIM!, 2014],” says Louise McKerrow, marketing director for gins at Diageo GB. “Consider the variety offered within your range. Consumers say they are more likely to buy a cheaper brand for a party, and spend more on a premium brand for a gift.”

Other formats are also selling well. Isherwood at Diageo explains: “Fractionals, which are driving growth in spirits, are ideal for the big night in opportunity, as shoppers are increasingly looking to buy on a budget and are looking for ways to save on spend during each shopping trip.”

And CWF says it recently added two new formats to its range of wine to help tap into different at-home occasions. Its 2.25-litre bag-in-box format is available for each variety in its Straw Hat range and is “perfect for parties and get-togethers”.

The wine stays fresh for up to six weeks after opening and represents good value for money, according to CWF. The company also has bag-in-box formats for its lower-abv Silver Bay Point British wine brand. Meanwhile, its new 18.7cl single serve options are good for consumers who want to keep an eye on their unit consumption. CWF suggests retailers create “pick and mix” purchases for these.


“Big night in offers up a great opportunity for retailers to drive incremental spend and wine shoppers spend more than double the average convenience shopper spends.” Shaun Heyes CHANNEL CONTROLLER, WHOLESALE AND CONVENIENCE AT TWE

“Vertical pricing hierarchies, where products are displayed above and below each other, can help to draw the customer’s eye and decrease the chances of brands being missed.” Andrew Turner DIRECTOR OF WINES FOR HALEWOOD WINES & SPIRITS

“Whether it’s a night in with friends and family, or a larger-scale at-home celebration, there is so much talk of moderation and abstinence around alcohol at the moment that non-alcoholic alternatives for guests are a must.” Dan Harwood HEAD OF WINE EDUCATION FOR EISBERG ALCOHOL-FREE WINE

“Holding tasting evenings featuring brands and products that perhaps are not listed by the multiples will encourage customers to try and then buy.” Amy Ledger MARKETING MANAGER AT CWF

“Despite the economic downturn, premium spirits, such as Johnnie Walker, are selling well in the UK off-trade and showing an increase of 10% in value sales year on year. This shows that cash-strapped consumers are willing to trade up for certain big night in occasions, such as birthday celebrations.” Paul Isherwood HEAD OF OFF-TRADE CATEGORY DEVELOPMENT AT DIAGEO GB

“With the increased focus on health leading some consumers to change their drink choice to reduce their sugar intake, retailers should look to stock lower or no-sugar variants of well-known brands. Schweppes offers a selection of Slimline products that will appeal to those looking to enjoy a lighter option.” Amy Burgess TRADE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER AT CCEP

“One in four cider and beer shoppers are looking to consume their purchase now so it is crucial for retailers to keep their chiller fully stocked. Heineken’s Star Retailer scheme offers retailers advice to maximise their beer and cider offering in the chiller with three simple steps: range, category and space.” Craig Clarkson CATEGORY TRADE AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, OFFTRADE, HEINEKEN UK

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