BNI is the retailers’ new BFF

With changing consumer habits due to coronavirus, entertaining at home means the Big Night In is a big profit opportunity for Convenience

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Photo: iStock

If the lockdown badly damaged one element of the Convenience trade that was previously booming – namely food to go – then enforced staying at home compensated for this loss by bigging-up BNI and changing habits quickly and dramatically.

BNI is now the new Big Thing. People have been forced to accustom themselves to having a good time at home, originally with relatives, and now with added friends. It was already a growing sales category in the impulse channel, but the pandemic has given BNI a massive boost.

People have discovered BNI can be fun, and they appreciate that it’s a lot cheaper (when, as now, finances are stretched) than going out to visit a commercial establishment. As the range of targeted BNI products expands, retailers have a great opportunity to cash in on this significant change in consumer habits.

“Big Night In has continued to be a key occasion for consumers, and even more so since COVID-19,” says Florence Brain, Director of Channel Operations, Out Of Home at Britvic. “The landscape to how consumers celebrate occasions and socialise has changed over the past couple of months, due to the limitations of lockdown, but as shoppers continue to cut back and re-prioritise their spend, the future of staying in more often looks set to stay for some time, not just seasonally.”

The feeling that the growth of BNI signals at least a semi- permanent change in consumer behaviour is widespread.

“We expect the growth of entertaining at home to only continue to rise as the Big Night In has become an increasingly popular occasion amongst both families and friends in recent months,” says Becky Unwin, Senior Brand Manager at Vimto.

“Many consumers will continue to err on the side of caution by staying indoors and socialising in their own homes,” commented Jon Wood, commercial director of Calbee UK.“Retailers and brands can continue to drive sales during this time by stocking up on snacking products to enjoy at home.”

Photo: iStock

Jess Markowski at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I notes that even after the easing of lockdown restrictions, “Only 45 per cent of consumers have returned to pubs and bars since reopening. Therefore, we expect the rise of in-home occasions to have a lasting effect and the Big Night In occasion particularly to provide independents with continued opportunity to drive footfall and revenue.”

It is the local element that is proving vital in the surge of BNI-related sales, as Matt Collins, Trading Director at KP Snacks, explains: “Convenience has now become the No.1 channel for top-up missions. Stocking a key range with themes such as Big Night in can be a great way to increase basket spend as 51 per cent of shoppers say they are more likely to visit from their local store if they offer these.”

Suppliers in turn are recognising the potential of the convenience sector in growing their sales – “Brands are increasingly capitalising on delivering ‘the restaurant experience at home,’” as Aviko’s Shah Khan, Senior Marketing Manager, UK & Ireland, points out, and consumer emphasis is on convenience of cooking as part of the BNI experience, instead of the full dinner-party prep. Hence Aviko, for example, is “offering shoppers frozen products which are notoriously challenging to recreate at home.”

Grab a drink

There has been an uplift in C-channel drinks sales over the summer while the pubs have been shut.

However, recently released figures from the Portland Group show that although lockdown was predicted to cause a rise in drinking (especially binge-drinking), 65 per cent of UK adults actually drank evenly, less, or even stopped altogether.

It means this is the time to promote both beer and soft drinks. At Budweiser Brewing Group, Markowski notes, “Retailers must consider their no and low options. We’ve recently launched Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois Alcohol Free, both of which enable retailers to tap into this market.”

She highlights Budweiser Zero, at zero alcohol, zero sugar and just 46 calories in a 330ml can, while the launch of Stella Artois Alcohol Free “allows retailers to tap into the success of a growing brand – consumers spent an extra £19.7 million on Stella Artois last year.”

Becky Unwin also sees opportunity in a sector of consumers opting out of alcohol. “As more and more people opt to avoid alcohol, (one in four 18-24-year olds are now teetotal and choose not to drink alcohol) interesting soft drinks with exciting flavours or formats, like Vimto Orange, Strawberry and Lime are must-stocks.”

At the same time, with an incremental rise of 181 million alcohol occasions across the off-trade throughout April and May, it is wise not to neglect the premium, high quality options of regular beers.

Other drinks, notably liquors such as Jaegermeister, are also performing outstandingly, especially as a PMP. Brand Manager Giles Mountford says that they are performing better than the standard bottles in the Convenience channel. “In particular,” he says, “our recently launched 20cl PMP (£6.79) of Jägermeister is a key incremental product for shoppers looking for to add something extra to their basket.”

In fact, Jägermeister’s 20cl PMP outperformed the standard 70cl size in impulse, growing at 40 per cent compared with last year.

Soft carbonates, such as those supplied by CCEP, are perfect for BNI, says Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager: “Colas, flavoured sparkling drinks, mixers and energy drinks have a particularly important part to play in Big Nights In, and while price is increasingly important to shoppers, recognisable, trusted brands can help to make these occasions as special as possible.”

The notable thing is also that because of in-home entertaining, the pack sizes are altering in terms of popularity: “As an example, our Coca-Cola large PET bottles and multipack cans enjoyed double digit growth during the core lockdown period,” says Burgess, “a trend we expect to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Burgess stresses the importance of PMPs in growing BNI sales. In terms of larger formats, 1.75l bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including the popular cherry and vanilla-flavoured variants – and Diet Coke are now available in a £1.75 PMP, and 1.5l bottles of Coca-Cola Original Taste and Coca-Cola Original Taste Cherry are now available in a £1.95 PMP.

Meanwhile, 2l bottles of Fanta and Dr Pepper are available in a £1.89 PMP, with 2l Sprite PMP available at £1.69.

Matt Gouldsmith – Channel Director, Wholesale, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, concurs that BNI sharing has stimulated sales of variant and larger pack sizes. “In recent months we’ve seen an increase in drink-later formats, which are growing by 8.0 per cent , with multi-packs driving growth +9.4 per cent,” he says. “Our portfolio replicates this, as we’ve seen strong growth of 20 per cent in Lucozade Energy’s drink-later range, including 1L bottles and multipacks.”

LRS has tapped into the trend with its stevia-sweetened Lucozade Revive, and has added Lucozade Energy Citrus Chill, in a new lemon & lime flavour, available in 380ml PMP and standard packs. This follows up on the stablemates, Lucozade Energy Apple Blast and Lucozade Energy Watermelon & Strawberry Cooler, the latter of which delivered sales of more than £2.1 million  in its first six months on shelf. LRS’s innovation is reflected again in its Raspberry Rays Ribena, which scored as Ribena’s best tasting liquid ever in taste tests.

“The number one reason for choosing a soft drink is taste,” agrees Britvic’s Florence Brain, “so stocking up on flavoured carbonates such as Pepsi MAX Cherry, which is delivering 22.6 per cent YOY growth , will appeal to consumers. All Pepsi MAX flavours are available in a range of formats such as multipack cans or 2l bottles, to suit all shopper needs,” she says, again evidencing the BNI effect on bigger-volume SKUs.

Britvic is seeing big lockdown and BNI-associated growth in squash as well: “As the biggest brand in the squash category,” she says, “Robinsons has seen 27 per cent value sales growth during lockdown, and with the Robinson Fruit Creations and Robinson Fruit Cordials range, there is an offering for all the family’s needs.” It is important to bear in mind that BNI – unlike a trip to the pub, is not solely a grown-ups’ occasion but often a family (and friends) event.

Sophisticated squashes with adults in mind are also outperforming, as Brain explains: “Consumers are continually looking for new and novel soft drinks, with 42 per cent of the UK more likely to try new brands than they were five years ago,” she says. “New J2O Spritz Apple & Elderflower, the first Spritz flavour to feature a botanical ingredient, offers a more adult variant with the flavour performing strongly in consumer research.”

And of course PMPs which will, she says, “encourage shoppers to make purchases while they are more cost-conscious. Posting clear POS, and pairing with snacks and food, will help increase basket spend. Larger packs such as 2l Pepsi MAX, 7UP and Tango, have seen +10.2 per cent uplift in volume growth, and will be ideal for BNI events.”

To the popularity of cold squash and carbonates at BNI events must be added the crisp and refreshing effects of milk drinks.

Wayne Thompson, Business Unit Controller for Out of Home at FrieslandCampina explains that YAZOO is a big lockdown winner. “Even before the pandemic hit, people’s perception of YAZOO was widening,” he says. “It is a welcome addition to a big night in and our one litre milk drinks are currently growing ahead of the market rate at +31 per cent YOY.”

Yazoo has been thriving under BNI conditions: “We can see from the data available to us that sharing sizes saw growth last month, up 12 per cent as consumers shop less frequently and find themselves stocking up on larger formats,” says Thompson..

“During times like these, shoppers looking for comfort food are more likely to choose a brand already firmly in their repertoire,” he says. “Our reputation as a tasty, trusted brand speaks for itself, so the fact we can provide a solution and cater to current purchase behaviour, is just a bonus.”

His theory is that lockdown has meant the days are likely to be the most repetitive they’ve ever been so if people can’t change what they’re doing, they’re going to change what they’re consuming.

Put out more snacks!

Andy Brown of Envis, who make the increasingly popular Crunchips WOW, Lorenz Pomsticks and Curlys, points out that “We are seeing annual YOY growth across convenience of over 30 per cent over the last few years, and this has increased massively over the last few months as a result of Coronavirus with Junes sales being almost double last year.”

Personal experience would validate this (!) and it is also true that as BNI has come to dominate the social calendar, the variety and quality of crisps and snacks has become an ever-more important element of domestic planning.

Brown, like his peers, notices the uplift in sharing and PMP sales. “We have continued to see massive growth in sharing bags, particularly those with £1 RSP across the country, although having said that there is also a growing trend within London for even larger bags with a higher price point which has increased dramatically during lockdown given a change some changes in the usual shoppers with more ‘large grocery shoppers’ looking for top up/main shop in Convenience, with this in turn adding great incremental category value.”

He points to the stand-out summer success of ‘Terrifying Jalapeno & Cream Cheese’ and ‘Incredible Paprika and Sour Cream’ Crunchips WOW £1 PMPs – hitting the new taste and world flavour buttons simultaneously. (“Taste is a critical element of ‘Together Time’, with 51 per cent of shoppers saying ‘flavour’ is the No.1 purchase driver when buying crisps or snacks,” agrees KP’s Matt Collins.)

“Our PMPs offer exceptional value for money and continue to grow in the wholesale channel, which demonstrates demand in the convenience sector,” adds Calbee’s Jon Wood, who make Seabrooks crisp. The offerings include a £1 PMP 6 x 25g pack which is available in a variety pack containing two Sea Salted, Salt and Vinegar and Cheese and Onion. The £1 six pack is listed nationally in Booker depots and in all Parfett’s depots. It has also recently launched nationally with Bestway through their Van Sales operation

“Families within the same household are spending more time together, with customers keen to unwind of an evening and escape the disruption,” says PepsiCo Wholesale Trading Director, Matt Goddard. “Crisps and snacks therefore play an important role in people’s food cupboards.”

He notes the lockdown trend to shop more locally and more frequently, and says that  certain products appear perfect for BNI, and that the most surprising lockdown trend to have emerged is the demand for traditional pub snacks, particularly within the convenience channel.

“Doritos brings bold flavours to the big night in. We’ve recently given shoppers the chance to try something a little less ordinary with our biggest launch to date for Doritos: Doritos Stax,” he adds, while also pointing out the importance of great flavours in jazzing up a boring lockdown existence:

“New flavours continue to attract interest from families, with our new WotsitsFlamin’ Hot flavour and Sizzling Steak flavour ideal to enjoy as part of a night at home. Both of these new flavours have driven £4.1 million RSV growth since their launch at the start of the year.”

To those can be added The Walkers Taste Icons Limited Edition range which launched coincidentally with the lockdown in March. “Families have jumped at the chance to enjoy a restaurant worthy experience as they snack at home,” says Goddard.

Matt Collins is also firm on the sharing surge and the part BNI has played in sales uplift. “The Sharing segment is strong and growing,” he says. “Worth £1.2 billion, the largest within CSN, it is currently experiencing growth of +9.8 per cent.” The UK is now at the point where 38 per cent of all Convenience bagged snack sales are sharing.

KP nuts are the quintessential more-ish BNI finger food, worth £71.1 million RSV and now growing in value +11.6 per cent. Collins also stresses the premium sharing end of sales, with Tyrrells as the perfect BNI brand, offering a range of premium crisps, nuts and popcorn perfect for summer occasions.

Another big recent KP success has been Hula Hoops Flavarings (worth £4.5 million RSV and growing in value at +37.4 per cent under lockdown), and Hula Hoops Big Hoops, available in three flavours, and regularly featuring in the KP Snacks £1 PMP portfolio . “The Hula Hoops Big Hoops range grew +25.4 per cent YoY to £45.6m, with Big Hoops Grab Bags being top sellers in meal deal ranges.”

Collins adds that no gathering should ignore the popularity of  popcorn – KP’s Butterkist brand is growing at +8.9 per cent and importantly enjoys a dominant market share of 35.8 per cent.

The well-established McCoys portfolio is fighting the flavour wars with Mccoy’s Muchos, “which has been incredibly well received,” says Collins, and is already worth £12.1 million RSV. Recently McCoy’s Fiery Steak was launched, and is available in both Grab Bag and PMP formats.

The great cook-in

Under the pandemic, with nowhere to go, friends, relations and stomachs have moved centre-stage.

“With lockdown growing the number of in-home eating occasions,” says Heloise Le Norcy-Trott, Group Marketing & Category Director for Lactalis UK & Ireland, “consumers have been placing a greater value on food, and enjoying more evenings at home. Despite restrictions easing, many will still be looking to spend more nights at home, which means there are even more opportunities for independent retailers to capitalise on the Big Night In.”

“The Out-of-Home dining occasion likely to be the slowest to recover, getting round the dinner table to enjoy a meal and connect as a family or group of housemates is more important than ever,” adds Maeve Judge, Marketing Manager, Meals and Baking, General Mills.

Consumers have been experimenting with flavours and NPDs, expanding on the World Food trend and welcoming novel dishes and tastes, some based on restaurant staples that used to be thought too tricky to bother with at home.

“In fact,” says Judge, who supplies Old El Paso Mexican meal-kits, “33 per cent of households have said mealtimes have become more of an occasion during lockdown. People are being a lot more adventurous in the kitchen, experimenting with different flavours and cooking styles to recreate their favourite restaurant dish.”

Fast(er) meals and oven-to-table products are very popular for BNI. “Since COVID-19 and the lockdown, we have seen an increase in the popularity of the BNI and growth of products within the frozen category that cater to this occasion have seen an increase in performance. Frozen Pizza being one of them,” says Paula Wyatt, Head of Marketing – Pizza, at Dr Oetker UK.

Enhancement is also in the air – Paul Baker of St Pierre Groupe notes that the baker’s record sales involve upscaling of staples such as burgers, which are a perfect BNI offering, with fancier, special occasion elements. “For example, you can elevate your everyday by transforming a simple burger with a brioche bun and a few additional accompaniments,” he says:

“Until confidence is completely restored, consumers are likely to be treating themselves to big nights in at home more often than eating out. Convenience retailers therefore need to make sure they stock a range of products that offer quick, easy and indulgent wins for these occasions.”

Aviko’s Senior Marketing Manager for the UK & Ireland, Shah Khan, recommends that C-stores offer “a range that differs slightly to the multiples”, which will prevent the price comparisons that shoppers may make whilst giving the retailer a USP.  “It’s important for c-store retailers to consider offering PMPs as well as it gives shoppers clarity on pricing in addition to the perception of better value for money,” he says.

He says Aviko’s line-up of Gratins are the perfect accompaniment to make meal-times special. There are two Gastro Gratins made with award-winning Godminster cheese and also a Cream & Cheese Potato Gratin.

The key-word is convenience, says Shah, adding that Aviko’s Thick Cut Super Crunch Oven Chips feature an innovative coating for a crispier, crunchy texture. Its Rib Cut Sweet Potato Fries tap into the consumer demand for more premium options and both products can be loaded up with a variety of toppings to feast on during the Big Night In at home.

“Big Night In shoppers will be looking to dash in and out for a quick purchase so they’re unlikely to wander round the entire store. Encourage increased basket spend by tempting them with impulse options at the till point – this can either be physical product or POS reminding them not to forget a staple freezer item!” says Khan.

Chips, of course, are the natural accompaniment for another great BNI favourite main course – pizza. Dr Oetker’s Head of Marketing, Paula Wyatt,  says that the value of frozen pizza has increased rapidly by +18.6 per cent in the past 12 weeks, making it a BNI favourite.

“This growth has been the strongest it has been in the last three years,” she says, “and we expect the BNI will remain particularly relevant for the remainder of the year, as consumers continue to entertain at home despite easing lockdown measures.”

Wyatt says that one way convenience stores can take advantage of the continued demand for BNI staples and pizza is by stocking Chicago Town’s Takeaway Stuffed Crust range, available in both Tomato Stuffed Crust and Cheesy Stuffed Crust varieties. Over the last quarter Takeaway has seen its value double, “with YOY growth of 109.4 per cent, demonstrating that the range’s unique rising dough is undeniably providing an authentic takeaway taste perfect for the Big Night In.”

BNI is also a fabulous opportunity for cheese sales, and specialists Lactalis have been developing SKUs that take cheese from the restaurant delicacy menu to the home in easy to prepare fashion. As well as a delicious cheese-board, “stocked with well-supported and recognisable brands, such as Seriously, Président and Galbani, in a variety of formats that appeal to sharing,” says Le Norcy-Trott, new SKUs can add interest as well.

“A must-stock for retailers is the new innovative continental cheese product from Président called Président Goats Cheese Cubes, which launched in April.  With a mild and creamy taste, Président Goats Cheese Cubes are packed for convenience and versatility of usage and are designed to make goat’s cheese more accessible to consumers” she says.

Other restaurant-inspired delicacies include Seriously Cheese Nuggets and Président A La Carte Crispy Bakes with Brie. “As Président’s first entry into the hot cheese category, Président A La Carte Crispy Bakes with Brie gives consumers another way to enjoy Brie.”

This “upscaling” of cuisine, of adding a layer of sophistication and luxury to products so that the domestic BNI experience is enhanced goes across the board. Burgers, another delicious staple, can be transformed by the addition of luxury breads and other ingredients. Baker St Pierre Groupe, as well as being famous for the longevity of its products,. Trades on the exquisite tastes and textures it brings to the home-cooking experience. In terms of fast-ish home food, the brioche innovation has proved a great success.

“As the UK’s number one brioche burger bun brand, the St Pierre brioche range includes light and buttery Brioche Burger Buns, Seeded Brioche Burger Buns and Brioche Hot Dog Rolls, all pre-sliced for convenient use,” says Paul Baker. “The range, which is made in France, delivers a classic, authentic brioche, with a soft golden texture and subtle sweet flavour. The buns and rolls can be filled with traditional burgers and hot dogs or the increasingly popular healthier alternatives like chicken, fish or plant-based fillings.”

This widening of taste and expectation is reflected in the popularity of World Food options being bought in the Convenience channel. Maeve Judge of General Mills says, “We’re seeing an increased appetite for cooking with exotic flavours, spices and pastes inspired by World Food – from Japanese to Mexican.” And since convenience is still key with shoppers looking for easy, quick yet tasty solutions to enliven a lockdown BNI, meal kits are proving more popular than ever.

“Mexican meal kits, like our range from Old El Paso, are ideal for creating the ‘big night in’ feeling with minimum effort but maximum flavour and fun. In just a few simple steps, households can create a super social and vibrant occasion, with everyone sharing different fajita or taco fillings, sides such as nachos topped with guacamole, and a variety of salsas.”

These kits also play into the huge trend for meal customisation, offered by an increasing number of quick service restaurants and out of home operators. People can experiment with a variety of fresh accompaniments, flavours, and textures to create the perfect personalised fajita or taco and feel like they are eating out at their favourite Mexican restaurant. Old El Paso has seen sales of meal kits, sides, and sauces grow +40 per cent growth over the past 12 months .

An endless dessert

“Many of us have been looking for small ways to treat ourselves over the past couple of months, throw into the mix the great weather we’ve experienced and the result is a significant rise in ice cream sales,” says Andre Burger, Vice President Foods and Refreshments, Unilever UK&I, which supplies many iced brands, including Magnum, Carte D’Or, Ben & Jerry’s, Twister, Cornetto, Wall’s, Solero and Calippo.

“In fact,” he says, “ice cream is now the fastest-growing frozen category in the UK and more than half a million more shoppers are buying into it when compared to this time last year.”

Henry Craven, Customer Marketing Controller at Froneri, agrees: “It’s been a record year for ice cream driven by a phenomenal summer. With the long, hot spell of sunny weather throughout April to June, coupled with the effect of lockdown due to Covid19, ice cream sales have soared. With parents working from home and children off school, it was estimated there were an incredible 12 million incremental ice cream consumption occasions per week at the height of lockdown!”

Double-digit sales increases for cool comfort foods appear to be across the board. Kat Jones, who is Marketing Manager, Ice Cream & Snacking at General Mills – makers of Häagen-Dazs – says that brand has seen “has seen a +27.8 per cent uplift in sales, with our tubs performing ahead of the category at +32.2 per cent.”

Confectionery also makes sense because it fits perfectly with that other social element of the BNI occasion: sharing.

On that front, HARIBO is one of the top choices when it comes to stocking up on the big night in treats, says Jon Hughes, Managing Director of HARIBO UK. “Confectionery does play an important role here. It helps to add an element of fun in an affordable way, especially in instances when we are entertaining on a budget. During these evenings, consumers who are buying for the family’s enjoyment, look for products that are liked by the majority and suitable for sharing.”

The Netflix generations (plural!) have developed the new tradition of opening the bag of sweets as the show begins, and BNI only amplifies this welcome moment when the chews go round.

“This is one of the reasons why HARIBO is a staple big night in treat. We offer something for everyone, including our family favourites Tangfastics and Starmix, which are the category’s top selling products, growing 10 per cent and 8 per cent in value sales respectively,” says Hughes.

Jo Sinisgalli, Senior Brand Manager for Gifting, Mars Wrigley, emphasises the suitability of the “tear and share” format for BNI, and explains the best way to sell it as “Creating a clear display that communicates the ‘Big Night In’ occasion,” that “draws shoppers into the fixture – and cross category promotions will certainly encourage incremental purchases. Positioning products alongside salty snacks, soft drinks and other complementary items will also raise awareness.”

It is the “treat” concept of rounding off the BNI meal occasion that Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelēz International, sees a crucial – and treats means brands, loved, trusted and always a welcome sight.

“With consumers continuing to spend more nights in at home, we have seen an increase in shoppers looking for the perfect treat to share with others in their households,” she says. “In particular, consumers are looking for products from trusted brands, such as Cadbury and Maynards Bassetts, which deliver on both quality and taste, in a range of formats. At Mondelēz we offer a wide portfolio to tap into this occasion, with a large range of exciting products across chocolate and sugar confectionery.”

Evening snacking is worth over £6.5 billion and is still growing, boosted by the change in conditions down to the virus. Chocolate is still the number one choice for those settling down for a night in with friends and loved ones, followed by sugar confectionery, biscuits and crisps. Nash says there are plenty of opportunities for cross-category selling to create the perfect BNI offer with chocolate at the centre, with 52 per cent of all confectionery occasions take place with other people present – making it the ideal opportunity to trade up: Mondelēz’s popular sharing bags are growing by four per cent, driven by Cadbury and premium brand Green & Black’s.

The launch of Cadbury Darkmilk in 2019 was a huge success, with a repeat purchase rate of 27.5 per cent, and the confectioner is building on that momentum with two new products designed to help support the core range and help the brand innovate into new occasions: Cadbury Darkmilk Giant Buttons and Cadbury Darkmilk with Crunchy Cocoa Pieces. The imminent arrival of Dairy Milk Orange giant buttons should make the situation even more interesting.

Speaking of giants, earlier this year, Mars Wrigley launched the brand-new Skittles Giants. The sweet, available in four pack sizes ranging from 45g to 170g, is three times the size of a standard Skittle and will offer “a more mouth-watering fruity flavour in one sweet”.

Sinisgalli says that Skittles isn’t the only brand seeing change, as the company is continuing to drive huge innovation across the entire portfolio. Last year, Mars Wrigley announced it was bringing four M&M’S Block variants to the UK market: Chocolate, Crispy, Hazelnut and Peanut.

“There is a long-time association between M&M’S and entertainment,” says Sinisgalli, “and this connection to a ‘Big Night In’ has helped the brand grow by 6.6 per cent. Mars Wrigley UK is supporting M&M’S with a £1.1m Watch with M campaign which will feature across digital and social media throughout 2020, and has also been exploring further sharing formats for the MALTESERS brand, such as the launch of MALTESERS Buttons .

“We’re trend driven and we always have been,” says Mark Roberts, Trade Marketing Manager at Perfetti Van Melle. He knows how popular confectionery is at BNI occasions, and he knows what the consumer is currently searching for: “Today’s consumer is the most health conscious we’ve ever seen and there’s a responsibility for brands to keep up. The Better for You market is worth over £42 million and PVM is leading the way as the number one manufacturer in the UK with over 30 per cent market share.”

In fact, partly thanks to lockdown, bags are growing at +4.2 per cent, adding £29 million to the category. Roberts says that PVM sharing is growing ahead of the market at 6.1 per cent.

Fruitella for sharing, and Chupa Chups “are in a strong position to recruit new interest, as they are instantly recognisable on shelf, and appeal to or remind people of their favourite childhood treats,” says Roberts. “There are more at-home snacking occasions now, and sharing opportunities from family movie nights to grazing snacks options in the evenings.”

The largest British-owned sugar confectionery manufacturer in the UK, Swizzels, is also enjoying a lockdown-inspired, BNI-featured sales surge that comes on the back of already impressive performance, “growing faster than the category over the last two years,” according to Sales Director Mark Walker.

Again, sharing has come to the fore as the bestselling BNI format. “Hanging bags are very important for the occasion,” he explains, “having grown by nearly £100m in the past 2 years and now accounting for 50 per cent of total sugar confectionery sales, so it’s important to stock a variety of such products in order to attract shoppers that are choosing to shop locally.”

Perfect for BNI is Swizzels’ newest addition to its hanging bag range, Great British Puds, which includes four individually wrapped chew bars in classic British dessert flavours; Sticky Toffee Pudding, Rhubarb Crumble, Apple Pie & Custard and Lemon Meringue. “These nostalgic, popular flavours are sure to be a hit with consumers looking to try something new for the Big Night In occasion,” says Roberts.

Other hanging bag products from Swizzels are their Drumstick and Refresher Choos, developed to satisfy growing consumer demand for softer sugar confectionery products – the soft fruits segment has grown above market rate in the last 52 weeks.

Drumstick Choos provide five double flavour combinations, including Peaches & Cream and Strawberry & Banana, while Refreshers Choos offer five fizzy flavours with the unique sherbet centre, including Pineapple and Apple. Choos come in £1 PMPs, as does Squashies, another Swizzels product perfect for a big night in, and also the Loadsa hanging bags range – including individually wrapped Sweets, Lollies and Chews, making them the ideal to share on a Big Night In.

And to round off the BNI meal, ice cream is the perfect serving. Froneri’s Henry Craven says, “People are looking for ways to treat themselves, so we’ve seen the largest and most indulgent sectors of the market performing the best, with Chocolate Sticks, Super-premium tubs and Cones in strong growth. These sectors are commonly eaten on an evening, in front of the TV, a great accompaniment to the latest boxset as the darker nights draw in.”

BNI is great in the summer and even better in the autumn-winter. Luxury ice cream is performing exceptionally well and ahead of the category; Häagen-Dazs in particular has seen a +27.8 per cent uplift in sales, with tubs performing ahead of the category at +32.2 per cent.

“Ice cream is a convenient treat, it offers a lot of variety and is an affordable way to have a little enjoyment during this difficult time,” says Kat Jones at general Mills, adding that, “In addition, Häagen-Dazs mini cups has also experienced a boost in sales. Providing smaller formats (six case instead of a 12) to independent retailers has contributed to the uplift.”

Premium ice cream is a dependable and vital source of sales as part of the BNI basket – even as we exit the summer and enter economic uncertainty. As Craven points out, “In previous periods of economic downturn, we’ve seen the so-called ‘lipstick effect’, where consumers still tend to buy small luxury items and ice cream is an affordable alternative to many other feel good treats.”

He recommends Cadbury Super-premium tubs and Chocolate Sticks, which are popular with convenience shoppers looking to indulge as well as offering a compelling price point. “Rowntrees Fruit Pastille lollies are another must-stock product that appeal to families all year round. Cadbury Flake is the No.1 best-selling cone in the market and appeals to a broad range of consumers.”

With carefully chosen stock, your customers will be sure to have a great BNI.