A truly scary 2020 Hallowe’en but a warming feeling at the bonfire

The first big occasion of the autumn – the dual celebration of Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes’ night – will be a subdued public event this year. But that doesn’t mean the traditional and much-loved get-togethers will not happen, and there is much to be sold to revellers gathering in gardens and living rooms rather than parks and plazas

Photo: iStock

This year has been full of more tricks than anyone could have anticipated –but now it seems at least that Hallowe’en will provide many treats for consumers to indulge in – even with the latest Covid-19 guidelines restricting gatherings no bigger than six people until further notice, although it will certainly impact the biggest, most-anticipated major party event since lockdown.

But all is not doom and gloom, and the annual spooky season has been growing in trend with shoppers over the past few years, so there is great hope that retailers will have a fang-tastic sales opportunity.

Last year, Hallowe’en generated £431 million in sales (Kantar 2 w/e 3 November 2010) making it Great Britain’s fourth-largest retail event of the year – and that’s not just down to sugary sweets and pumpkins.

Long associated with the thoughts of youngsters knocking on doors in fancy dress (there won’t be too much of that this year),Hallowe’en is rapidly remodelling itself from a cheap to chic event.

A third of Brits in a YouGov survey last year said they expected to celebrate, with 43 per cent aged between 18 to 24 having planned to attend a party.

Offers on exclusive flavoured tipples and snacks catered towards the adult market have resulted in this seasonal event becoming an increasingly popular annual get together.

Jaegermeister, for example, has a new ‘Feel the Chill’ campaign to promote what it calls “the perfect serve” which is an ice cold shot, chilled to -18C, and is tied to the extension of its Deliveroo partnership, which is relevant for the big night in occasion, with a £5 voucher off of a food order of £20 or more when using the Deliveroo app. The voucher is found on specialty bottles of Jagermeister.

So which other wickedly good must-stocks should retailers consider to enchant shoppers in, during the Hallowe’en season?

Hallowe’en with a drink is like a vampire without a coffin

As we have seen, Hallowe’en has proven with each passing year that it’s not just for kids – the annual event has been growing as an adult occasion as well.

With several areas across the nation in local lockdown and bars and nightclubs showing no signs of reopening anytime soon, that means alcohol purchases continue their uplift across the convenience sector.

Back in May between the two bank holiday weekends, Kantar reported that the fastest growing categories were beer and lager, with sales jumping to 71 per cent.

Younger shoppers are known for making spontaneous visits into stores to stock-up ahead of meeting with friends and Heineken UK plans on maximising this stay-home opportunity once again.

Toby Lancaster, category and shopper marketing director at Heineken UK, said c-store store owners must ensure their chillers are fully stocked with a good range of small and mid-packs.

He said: “Mid-packs are now worth £375m in the Impulse channel (+£75m in the past year,), and with shoppers increasing their average weight of purchase in this channel, we expect this trend to continue into the autumn season.

“Offering premium options such as Amstel, Birra Moretti and Old Mout is a great way to capitalise on the popular premiumisation trend. As such, they’re a must-stock for Hallowe’en, helping to cater for the group occasion.”

Offering customers broader ranges on alternative and no-and-low premium beer brands is also key for retailers to home in on people’s drinking preferences.

Sol and Desperados will appeal to fans of the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, which closely related to Hallowe’en,while Heineken 0.0 has an impressive growth of 87 per cent(Nielsen), making it an ideal choice for teetotal drinkers or those just wanting to cut down.

With Hallowe’en particularly popular amongst 18-25-year olds, the cider category also tends to receive an uplift in sales during this period.

Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit – currently the number one and two cider line extensions in the category – are absolute must-stocks for retailers.

Youngsters, particularly Millennials and Gen Z-ers, are often keen on trying new flavours of popular brands so Strongbow Rosé, which launched back in March, will meet this demand perfectly.

The new cider, with its signature refreshing taste, is currently the number-one rosé cider in the category, guaranteeing to deliver on sales within the world of convenience.

But it’s not all about the booze that makes Hallowe’en a memorable occasion, Barr Soft Drinks marketing director Adrian Troy notes that non-alcoholic beverages equally have a strong audience in the lead up to October 31.

“Soft drinks and confectionery are the biggest profit drivers (IGD)” he explains. “with shoppers stocking up on take-home packs of soft drinks for parties and smaller packs to hand out to trick-or-treaters.”

Serving as a great affordable option for those still wanting to enjoy the frightful festivities (and that obviously includes children),a third of shoppers buy soft drinks at Hallowe’en (Platypus Research).

Accordingly, Barr Soft Drinks’ bestsellers during this period include IRN-BRU, available in regular and XTRA variants, and The Barr Family Range, containing the UK’s biggest selection of flavours (IRI Marketplace).

For other premium soft drinks options, Australian family-owned brew Bundaberg is another ideal option for store owners wanting a stand-out brand.

Offering up Ginger and Root Beer flavours, this brand will sit nicely within a kooky Hallowe’en-themed aisle, from the “stubby” glass bottle design to the eye-catching rip cap.

Over at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the company reported that flavoured carbonated soft drinks perform especially well at Hallowe’en, with both grocery and impulse sales rising over the past two years in October [Total GB Soft Drinks].

Fanta, the numbe-one flavoured carbonates brand, is planning to drive key growth with their “Release the Stupid Side of Hallowe’en” digital campaign for 2020.

Instagram users will be encouraged to share creative prank videos that “scare their friends stupid”, providing a fun social-distancing activity that engages with young adults.

Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at CCEP, said that their focus is about highlighting the funny, positive side of what Hallowe’en has to offer during ongoing uncertain times.

She said: “This year’s marketing campaign will focus on digital and added-value entertainment, designed to engage consumers in their homes whilst putting experiential elements of the campaign on hold while social distancing measures are in place.”

C-stores should also continue attracting younger shoppers through the medium of social media by promoting Hallowe’en deals and offers online encouraging them to stock up in time.

Not only will this encourage people to look forward to the day but will promote all the must-stock products to a huge digitally savvy audience.

Sweet treats are made of these

Whether you are a rookie or a veteran in the retail industry, confectionery and Hallowe’en is an absolute must know to boost footfall in the lead up to October 31.

Sweets and chocolate remain number one when it comes to the best-selling items for this event, and both categories grew by almost £60 million in sales alone last year [Kantar].

Even more promising, the big day falls on a Saturday this year, so c-stores should still expect sales to perform very well ahead of the weekend.

Confectionery giant Mondelēz International says their top tricks for convenience owners to maximise sales is to get into the spirit of things by decorating stores.

Research shows more shoppers buy Hallowe’en-themed confectionery than standard packs as the excitement for the thrilling themed event gets under way.

More than half (51 per cent) of incremental sales at Hallowe’en come from the chocolate confectionery category [Worldpanel Plus Survey], so anything sweet is sure to sell.

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelēz International, says their company’s range of self-eat and sharing covers chocolate and candy SKUs, offering products for consumers the chance to share or self-indulge.

She said: “Confectionery sales over the Hallowe’en period in 2019 reached £48 million, with candy being a key contributor of sales growth [Snackchat].

“Within the segment, chew products, which grew by 7.2 per cent during last Hallowe’en, and is the third biggest format after mixes and jellies [Neilsen Value Sales data]”

Returning again following successful sales last year is Maynards Bassetts Dead Chewy (162g, RRP: £1) each bag containing individually wrapped sweets in a variety of fruity flavours.

Fans of Cadbury Creme Eggs will receive a hair-raising surprise in the form of Cadbury Goo Heads (RRP, 55p, case size: 48) which contains the same white fondant as that within its famous  but non-scary cousin.

“This year sees the returnof the popular Cadbury Goo Heads, available in Creepy Skeleton, Pumpkin, Frankenstein, Dracula or Werewolf variants,” says Nash.“The strikingly-packaged Cadbury Goo Heads are available individually or in a pack of five, offering value and convenience to customers. Previously named Goo Heads, the revamped product now has five Hallowe’en themed characters for customers to choose from, guaranteeing repeat purchases among shoppers who enjoy collecting.”

Interestingly, market research discovered that 82 per centof consumers claim they look out for Cadbury when shopping for confectionery [Nielsen ], so making sure shelves contain consumer prime choices during October is vital.

Crowd favourite Cadbury Oreoooo (RRP: £1) will also return for Hallowe’en 2020 in the form of 82g bag of Oreo Mini Filled Eggs, designed specially to further drive impulse purchases on themed sharing products.

Those looking to liven up their seasonal range this year should add Mondelēz International’s new treatsize bag – Cadbury Family and Freddo & Friends, (both with an RRP of £2.79) an excellent option that will appeal to young families.

They join the existing Treatsize portfolio, which includes Cadbury Crunchie, Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons and Cadbury Fudge.

Over at HARIBO,  trade marketing manager Claire James said that this year’s range from the UK’s top sweets brand at Hallowe’en, [IRI] plans to focus on variety, volume and value.

 “While Halloween may be different [this year], we certainly believe that it will still be a celebratory occasion and a driver of sales volume for confectionery,” Claire observed. “Whether this is season-neutral products that are fit for purpose, yet minimise the risk for retailers; or themed and fun treats to deliver that sprinkling of ‘spooktacular’ that we believe people will welcome after what has been a challenging year!

Again, while the lockdown doesn’t help, the fortunate timing of this year’s hallowe’en certainly does: “What we do know is that Halloween falls on a weekend this year, so we expect an appetite for parties and trick or treating – albeit in a safe and responsible way. Whether these are smaller bubbles of celebrations, managed larger gatherings, or online parties – sweets will continue to be an essential feature,” says Claire.

Returning for a second year is the HARIBO and MAOAM Duo Pack. Delivering a mix of treats, the big value sharing bag combines top-selling gums and jellies with the category’s leading fruity chews, bringing HARIBO and MAOAM together in one bag for the very first time.

Commenting on the newest edition to the range, Claire adds: “Building on its runaway popularity last year our Duo Pack delivers just what retailers and shoppers are looking for in a format that’s safe, hygienic and convenient.”

Containing 32 treats, the Duo Pack is made up of mini bags and individually wrapped chews, including HARIBO Starmix, Tangfastics, Supermix and Giant Strawbs Gone Mini, alongside MAOAM Stripes, Pinballs and Joystixx.

Also offering high volume on pre-packaged items is the HARIBO Trick or Treat multipacks containing either 10 or 32 Hallowe’en themed bags of seasonal twists on Starmix and Tangfastics, known as Scaremix and TangfasTricks.

Retailers keen on focusing on minimalizing leftover themed products post-Hallowe’en should also stock HARIBO Tangfastics Minis, which contain 11 mini bags and Starmix Minis, available in either 11 or 22 mini bags.

“All year-round treats are a popular choice, but 2020 will not be the end of novelty. Let’s face it, this is definitely the year for some much-needed fun!” explains Claire. “Products that feature up to one month in advance support planned purchases, which we expect to see more of this year, with fewer last-minute gatherings in favour of highly planned activities.”

Food manufacturer Premier Foods has also taken into account that Hallowe’en will likely be a smaller affair across UK households this year.

However, retailers will likely know that tiny meet-ups don’t always equal smaller helpings when trying out seasonal treats.

Several Big Night In promotions over the past few months have encouraged sales on shareable, exclusive products and been proven a huge hit among shoppers keen to recreate the joys of eating out from home.

Kantar figures also reflect this, with a 42.1 per cent increase in the number of special evening meals eaten at home during the eight weeks to 17 May 2020.

Expecting this trend to continue, Mathew Bird, brand director for Sweet Treats at Premier Foods, says consumers will continue looking for ways to produce positive experiences during the winter months.

“Prior to the circumstances we now find ourselves in, the Hallowe’en occasion was seeing a steady growth with related spend up +6 per cent since 2017.” he said. “We were seeing more shoppers buying into the season, seeking out themed products that give the seasonal event more depth and excitement.

“This is evident from 44 per cent of all shoppers having planned to do something for Hallowe’en in 2019, and 25 per cent looking to buy more items than they have previously.”

Known for their dessert-based options, Premier Foods expects the cake category to perform well this month, too, thanks to its versatility that can be adapted to almost any occasion.

Cakes added +£12.4 million of incremental spend to Hallowe’en products last year, helping deliver an overall uplift of +£77 million to retailers over the two-week period.

Although Mr Bird describes the business as being “cautiously optimistic” regarding Hallowe’en 2020, two new products are joining the seasonal line-up alongside eight classic favourites among their Mr Kipling and Cadbury ranges.

Available from 16 September will be Mr Kipling Grand High Witches Chocolate & Vanilla Slices and Mr Kipling Formula 86 Chocolate Tarts, both with an RRP of £1.50.

Both limited-edition cakes build on the popular Roald Dahl range which has been on sale over the last four years only during the summer season.

This also marks for the first time ever the partnership between Mr Kipling and the beloved children’s novels expanding their partnership and limited range into another season.

Each cake features the iconic Roald Dahl illustrations from The Witches book on-pack, that will be sure to grab the attention of shoppers young and old.

Also making a return for 2020 are Mr Kipling Fiendish Fancies (£1.50), Terrifying Toffee Whirls (£1.00), Cadbury Pumpkin Patch Cakes (£2.00) Cadbury Mini Bonfire Logs (£1.00) plus many more.

“It is therefore important for convenience retailers to take an agile approach, offering shoppers the products they need to enhance their Hallowe’en, however they decide to mark it.” says Mr Bird.

Store owners planning on sweetening their customers through the cake category throughout Hallowe’en should also look into pladis’ exciting new range of five brand-options by McVitie’s.

A new take on a classic snack from the nation’s leading supplier of cake bars, The Jaffa Cakes Zesty Orangey, Fruity Blackcurrant and Funny Bones Chocolate Cake flavours will all be at an RRP of £1.

Cake Bars continue to drive growth in the prepacked Cake category (+24% in the past two years) and this tasty treat is a must-stock for retailers looking to get the most out of seasonal sales.

The McVitie’s Cakes Hallowe’en range will be available at various UK grocery retailers and to the wholesale and convenience channels.

Chocolate producers in particular will be hoping for a happy holiday season following the timing of the national lockdown in late March severing sales during Easter.

In 2019, 72 per cent of households bought Hallowe’en confectionery, with chocolate crowned as the best performing category, growing by £40.3 million.

The dark horse currently amongst the big names is Toffifee, coming in as the number two best-selling brand in the casual boxed chocolate category.

Something for everyone to enjoy and try, a new £1.8 million TV and video on demand campaign is currently running until 1 November to uplift brand awareness during the upcoming festive seasons.

Andy Mutton, managing director of Storck UK, comments: “Despite the boxed chocolate category being in decline (-4 per cent), Toffifee has shown impressive growth of +28 per cent and has a growing loyal fan base.

“The new TV ad means we will be front of shoppers’ minds with 78 per cent of our target audience seeing the ad.”

Available in a 100g box (containing 12 pieces, RRP £1.43), or the larger 400g box (containing 48 pieces, RRP £5.72), Toffifee is ideal for sharing amongst groups planning a night-in for Hallowe’en.

Kenton Burchell, trading director at Bestway Wholesale, plans to meet consumer demand by stocking treat size and sharing products to satisfy expected impulse purchases on last-minute party favors and pay day celebrations.

“Hallowe’en is a great occasion to drive basket spend and incremental sales for retailers,” he explained. “For retailers this can be done by building some great in-store displays that will excite shoppers and drive impulse sales.”

For a successful seasonal sale, Bestway have added sought-after sharing products to their £1 price bracket range including Cadbury Dairy Milk Miniature Oreo Chocolate Egg Bag.

This will appeal to retailers and customers looking for an affordable option that can be enjoyed instantly by several people.

This type of must stock will fit well with store-owners keen on trying out innovative ways to attract younger shoppers into convenience with on-trend products.

Adapting to social distancing measures, Bestway’s digital team have additionally developed a Pre-Sell webpage, allowing retailers to view display recommendations and put in their Hallowe’en orders.

Monster-sized meals

 With the nights drawing in quicker each week, thoughts as quickly turn to heart-warming comfort foods to tide through the unprecedented  and now darkening times.

If there is one thing that lockdown has taught us all is that meet-ups with loved ones can still happen thanks to the power of technology, so expect more virtual dinner-date plans this month to overcome the “rule of six”.

Frozen food options have consistently remained popular among households since lockdown, with Nielsen reporting that shoppers began to prepare by buying more into this category, with sales jumping by 84 per cent as early as April.

With the recent spike in coronavirus cases across the UK, convenience stores should expect these shopping patterns to return, making the focus on boosting basket spends crucial.

Frozen potato manufacturer McCain says retailers should take this opportunity to educate customers about the benefits of frozen – from waste reduction to value for money and portion control.

Using simple and clear POS will prevent overcrowded aisles that may deter customers focused on a quick shop, and even boost last minute spends.

McCain currently has a value share of 53 per cent and a volume share of 42 per cent of the frozen potato category, now worth over £57 million in the last month[IRI].

Naomi Tinkler, category controller at McCain, said that Bonfire Night will be another seasonal event where c-stores can find innovative ways to get consumers inspired to celebrate indoors.

“This shift to celebrating at home creates a great opportunity for brands to tap into mealtimes and provide a range of delicious food options that are easy to prepare so as not to detract from the main event,” she explains.

“A key product for the Bonfire Night occasion is are our Ready Baked Jackets, which have seen both positive growth in value 7 per cent YOY and volume 9 per cent YOY over the past year, and now they are worth £38.5 million to the frozen potato category every year.”

Last month McCain launched a new product named Waffle Fries – lattice-cut potatoes inspired by trends in the casual dining sector, tapping into the market gap for branded, shaped fries.

Thanks to their versatility, McCain products can be enjoyed as side or sharing dish in and out of home for all meal occasions and seasonal events.

For hearty, dinner-time options to pair with McCain, Pukka Pies will be a hot choice and perfect partner to stock up on as temperatures begin to drop.

The Hot Pie category is currently worth £253 million across total retail outlets with strong year on year growth of +5.4 per cent, and over half of households (55 per cent)regularly buying into this British mealtime favourite.

Sales of Pukka’s All Steak variant (209g, RRP £1.89) will be a standout during Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night with their orange and black fireworks-themed packaging that’s 100 per cent recyclable.

The pie manufacturer has timed the return of their “The People’s Pie” TV advertising campaign this autumn – making them likely to be in the forefront of many shoppers’ minds.

“As The People’s Pie, we are always working hard to find ways to celebrate with the nation,” says Rachel Cranston, head of marketing at Pukka.

“Along with our individual All Steak, our Chicken & Mushroom variant is an absolute must stock from the Pukka range,” adds Cranston. “Cumulatively, both these SKUs account for 60 per cent of Pukka sales and are in value growth by +13 per cent and +12 per cent respectively.

“Similarly, our award-winning vegetarian individual pie option, the Veggie Cheese, Leek & Potato pie, has been the best-selling branded NPD in the Hot Pie category over the past year.”

Final Thoughts

 While Hallowe’en 2020 may not be the thrilling blow-out event everyone was hoping for, it fits in with the prevailing mood of the year – the bizarre and unexpected.

Yet retailers should still heed the advice to not overlook one of the most trending seasonal events and be the hostess with the moistest, with these boldly designed and entertaining must-stocks.

Hallowe’en will also mark the kick-start of the many party-orientated events marked out as the year draws to a close (just over 100 days to go).

Now is the time for the convenience sector to seize this exciting opportunity and get shoppers geared up for all things celebratory – but with caution and forethought.

Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night is the perfect place to start.