Smiling friends enjoying drinks on a picnic adventure.

Spring is officially here and it’s time to merchandise the beer, wine and spirits category to capture those seasonal sales.

With spring around the corner, retailers will be able to tap into key calendar moments over the next couple of months, including Mother’s Day and Easter – as well as two bank holidays.
With family and friends coming together to celebrate these occasions, retailers have a real opportunity to drive sales, so it’s important to ensure they’re stocking the products that consumers are demanding right now.
“One key area to consider maximising here is the continued trend for moderation – it’s vital that retailers shouldn’t miss out on embracing this trend throughout the year,” says Sharon Palmer, Head of Trade Marketing, AB InBev UK & Ireland. “UK adults are increasingly looking to reduce alcohol and calorie consumption and as a result, are choosing low and no alcohol drinks – we are now a moderation nation.”
In the low-alcohol space, Michelob ULTRA is AB InBev’s latest beer to land in the UK.
Brewed to 3.5% ABV and with 79 calories per 355ml can, it responds directly to the trend for Brits leading an active lifestyle and wanting a light beer to complement this.
This comes around a year after the launch of no-alcohol option, Bud Prohibition.
Bud Light has also been a star performer within the AB InBev portfolio since its launch, already becoming the second biggest contributor to category growth in the core lager category, with 8.5% of Bud Light buyers being new to beer.
“For consumers following different diets or with lifestyle preferences, retailers must ensure their stock reflects these tastes,” adds Palmer. “Last year, we introduced a new gluten-free variant of Stella Artois.”
Certified by Coeliac UK, Stella Artois Gluten Free maintains the high quality and exacting standards of the original Stella Artois recipe, using four high-quality, natural ingredients – just with the gluten removed.
Making existing products like beer accessible to people who follow lifestyles such as gluten-free is a huge opportunity for retailers to embrace.
Another prominent trend for retailers at the moment is the rise of veganism and flexitarianism, as well an as increased desire from consumers to know exactly what ingredients are in their food and drink.
“It’s important for retailers to have a good understanding of these different consumption behaviours, so that they can cater to all shoppers and effectively advise them on what options they have available,” Palmer continues. “Our global brands Stella Artois, Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona, Beck’s and Michelob ULTRA can all be enjoyed as part of a vegan lifestyle.”
Overall the beer and cider category is in a very healthy state and currently in growth at +4.8% MAT (value) in the impulse channel. Beer (5.4%) and Cider (3.1%) are both in MAT value growth (Nielsen).
Birra Moretti, from Heineken, is now one of the fastest growing alcohol brands in the UK off trade with a growth of +135% in the past year (Neilsen). “The growth of Birra Moretti is testament to consumers’ growing expectation of a strong food and drink offering in stores, as they look for a more quality experience when at home,” says Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director for Heineken UK.
Mainstream apple and flavoured cider accounts for +49% of the cider category (Nielsen) so stocking a core range such as Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit, the UK’s no.1 and no.2 top selling ciders, will almost certainly drive sales.
“80% of beer and cider sales are sold in single or small packs and customers are twice as likely to purchase for consumption from the chilled range ensuring that the chiller is fully stocked with customer favourites in the right range and in the right pack size, such as a four packs and large single bottles, is essential,” adds Lancaster.
In doing so, shoppers can find exactly what they need quickly and easily, reducing the chance of them going to search for beer and cider elsewhere.
“Premiumisation is a continuing trend, with shoppers increasingly looking to trade up for a treat at home,” comments Lancaster. “Brands like Heineken and Old Mout are perfect for these more rewarding moments that consumers are seeking.”
With 28% of shoppers looking to trade up and secure a better quality experience, the trend has really accelerated over the last year driven by a broader range of quality premium beers and ciders emerging on the market.
With the low and no alcohol category in huge growth (51% Impulse Channel MAT), and worth +£76.7M to the off-trade (Nielsen), retailers should consider those health conscious shoppers who are keen to moderate their alcohol consumption without compromising on taste. This is a trend that continues to grow post ‘dry January’ and well into the spring and summer as the opportunity for more drinking occasions arise.
Alcohol free, Heineken 0.0, provides the perfect alternative for this type of health-conscious shopper who is looking for a great tasting low-calorie alcohol-free beer. Since its launch the low and no alcohol category has seen phenomenal growth, partly driven by Heineken 0.0 adding +221k shoppers to the category with 47% of 0.0 growth being incremental to it (Nielsen).
“As spring approaches, the warmer weather and longer, lighter evenings naturally create more occasions for people to spend time at home with friends and family, including evening socials, dining occasions like BBQs and get togethers during the Easter bank holiday weekend,” comments Lancaster. “As soon as spring has arrived, retailers should be prepared for an increase in demand for beer and cider, as shoppers begin to look for refreshing drink options.”
To take advantage of this, retailers must ensure their chiller is fully stocked with a broad range of choice including shoppers’ favourites, in the right pack size. Many will be looking to consume drinks as soon as two hours after purchase, and so it’s essential that retailers keep stock sufficiently chilled to avoid losing sales to other stores. Keeping an eye on weather forecasts to predict the peaks and troughs in demand will enable retailers to stock chillers accordingly.
“Throughout the season, stocking a core range of beers and ciders, such as Foster’s, Kronenbourg and Strongbow, is fundamental to ensuring customers have a staple choice,” says Lancaster. “What’s more, with more people choosing healthier options, and to live better, it is also important to make the most of the no and low alcohol offering in stores. We therefore recommend merchandising beer and cider alcohol free alternatives next to their alcoholic counterparts to ensure all drinking occasions are catered for.
With many consumers the ‘designated driver’ at occasions such as BBQs and get-togethers, this will ensure retailers can unlock new revenue streams by meeting the increased growth and demand for alcohol free options.
To increase value, it is vital for retailers to offer customers the opportunity to trade up to more premium options too, such as Birra Moretti and Bulmers, Lancaster suggests. Birra Moretti is one of the fastest growing alcohol brands in the UK on and off trade, has been aligned with food since its inception in 1859, which is very much in keeping with its Italian heritage. This is reflected in the brand’s growth, +135% in the past year (Nielsen).
Finally, retailers can maximise basket spend by catering to shoppers’ typical demands during this period, which become increasingly focused on lighter and more refreshing, sessionable drinks. With the premium favoured cider category continuing its success at +11% growth (Nielsen), Old Mout Cider is a good example of how to cater for those seeking flavoured cider. Old Mout has been performing well in this area, with the brand outperforming the category significantly at +48% growth (Nielsen).
According to Mark Stammers, Sales Director for UK and Ireland at Gallo, the wine market has grown in value by 1% in the last 12 months, although volume is down 2.6%. Independents are growing ahead of the total market.
Speaking exclusively to Asian Trader, Stammers says Gallo is growing 12% in total market and 6% in the convenience channel. Barefoot is the number one contributor to the market and has added £57m to the wine category in the last 12 months. It is the most incremental brand to the still wine category, with Barefoot consumers buying more wine than previously.
“Cross-merchandising is a useful tool,” comments Stammers. “Many consumers don’t have the confidence to discuss wine with the retailer because they don’t feel they know enough about the category.”
Stammers suggests cross-merchandising wine with picnic food in the warm weather. In the colder weather, retailers can encourage take-home sales by cross-merchandising wine with chocolate.
“Make sure you keep wines in the chiller, overfaced with the big sellers like Barefoot Pinot Grigio to reach on-the-go consumers,” he adds. Retailers can target the smaller 175ml bottle sizes for the picnic in the park occasion.
“Make sure customers can see the category,” suggests Stammers. “Make sure you cater for the latest trends like Malbec. Barefoot Malbec is driving growth of the Malbec category and is a must-stock item for independents.”
Gallo is launching a 187ml White Zinfandel sku to pick up on picnic occasions, joining the existing 175ml sku.
Barefoot is being supported by a ‘compliments campaign’ in April which includes PR and social media influencers.
“It is very much a time of change for the wine market,” comments Dan Harwood, Head of Wine Education for Halewood Wines & Spirits. “While wine is currently slightly down in volume, it is up in value, with price per bottle demonstrating a rising trend of premiumisation.”
Perhaps most surprising of all is the decline in popularity of Champagne, Harwood muses. A stalwart for a long time, wine drinkers are favouring more cost effective fizz options, with 2017 figures from Mintel showing that 53 per cent of people won’t spend more than £10 on a bottle. In contrast, sparkling wines are booming. Figures from UHY Hacker Young show that the volume of sparkling wine on sale in the UK has increased 76 per cent in the last five years.
“Alcohol free drinks are no longer something that is stuck in a calendar month of charity abstinence, it’s firmly in the mainstream,” Harwood continues. People are seeking to live healthier lifestyles and a big part of that is cutting down on – or cutting out – alcohol. According to the Office of National Statistics, more than half of the population now do not drink regularly.
“This has opened up a massive opportunity for alcohol free alternatives,” says Harwood. “People aren’t stopping going out socially or celebrating special occasions, so they need to be catered for with options that will appeal to the sense of occasion.”
The alcohol free wine category in particular is worth just under £40 million (Nielsen), with Eisberg leading the way with a 60 per cent market share.