Diwali 2021: A reunion with family and friends

It’s time to get ready now for a Diwali celebration that promises to be a classic and a bigger-than-ever occasion after 2020’s was hampered by lockdown

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Diwali or Deepavali is a festival of light celebrated across the world. In the UK, it is becoming one of the biggest and is observed by the Hindu community. Hindus celebrate  this day marking the return of Lord Ram with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile; in Jainism, Diwali marks the spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavir; Sikhs celebrate this day as the Sixth Sikh Guru – Guru Hargobind Ji – was freed from imprisonment. Every Hindu community has its own story for celebrating this festival, but with a common theme of illuminating the victory of good over evil.

This year, the festival has an extra significant reason for special celebration. After 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic that forced everyone to stay indoors, people will be able to meet and greet their family, friends, and loved ones on the occasion of Diwali. Last year due to lockdown restrictions, people were compelled to participate in this festival virtually, to maintain social distancing. With restrictions no longer this year, the festival of light is expected to be the brightest and happiest ever.

Shape of the festival

Diwali falls in October or November depending on the lunar cycle. This year the five-day festival will begin on Tuesday, 2 November. The main event is the Lakshmi Puja that falls on the third day (Thursday, 4 November) the darkest night of the holiest month – Kartik – in the Hindu lunar calendar.
• First Day: known as “Dhanteras” it celebrates prosperity and the arrival of the goddess Lakshmi. “Dhan” means wealth and “teras” refers to the 13th day of a lunar fortnight on the Hindu calendar.
• Second Day: known as “Naraka Chaturdasi” or “Chhoti Diwali”. On this day, the demon Narakasura was destroyed by Lord Krishna.
• Third-Day: known as “Diwali” or “Lakshmi Puja”, it is dedicated to the celebration of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, prosperity, and beauty.
• Fourth day: known as “Govardhan Puja”, is celebrated as the day when Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the god of thunder and rain, and is also the start of a new year.
• Fifth or Last day: known as “Bhai Dooj” celebrates the bond between siblings, with sisters praying for long and happy lives for their brothers and sharing food and gifts.

Festivals are a big opportunity for the retailers to stock up new and varieties of products. Celebration of Diwali in the UK depends on the locality, such as Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leicester, London and those towns and cities where the Asian community is largest.

“We live in a very multicultural city, Leicester. So, we celebrate everything. My heritage is Muslim but we do offer Diwali goods in our store,” said Shakil Dharas of Shak’s News Ltd, who is a newsagent but also sells other products like milk, bread, greetings, gift packs, and fresh foods. “Our baker, who bakes fresh cookies and cakes for us, did a batch for the last Diwali. We also celebrate Eid, Christmas and now we’ve got a Hallowe’en section in place. In terms of food, we have fresh samosas, onion bhajis, fresh baguettes, and we also bring in Indian sweets for festivals like Diwali and Raksha Bandhan. We’ve got Indians coming from the Sikh background, Hindu background, and English people, so we need to cater to all needs and requirements.”

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He added, “For Diwali, we stock Indian sweets from our local suppliers and we also offer free tasters just for everybody whether Indian Hindu or an English person so at least they can try new flavors and new food.”

Another retailer, Bobby Singh, owns a convenience store in Pontefract. He explained that although there is not much of an Asian community living near his shop, still Diwali has become one of the most-known festivals. “I’ve been here for nearly 40 years now,” said Bobby, “so, I can say that the awareness of Diwali is a lot more now in comparison to when I was a child here,” he said. “We celebrate Diwali by decorating our stores will lights and diyas. We offer a few sweets and chocolates as complementary to our customers.”

Boxed Chocolate- A perfect gift

Diwali is a time for families and communities to come together and show gratitude to those they love and care for. This year more than ever, families and friends will be keen to get together and celebrate Diwali. Confectionery is a perfect gift for the season. It is suitable as a main gift or to complement monetary gifts or gold ornaments.

“With gifting and sharing confectionery sales growing +22% in Independent and Symbol stores as more shoppers shop local, there has never been a better time to review your range and pricing, from affordable gifts to premium offers,” said Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelēz International.

“Shoppers are more interested in the look and feel of a product than its price, so encourage them to trade up to more premium products. Boxed chocolates are the most common format bought during the festival, so stock up on products such as Cadbury Milk Tray to help meet shoppers’ needs.”

Make your Diwali Snacky

With Diwali being one of the most celebrated occasions in the Hindu calendar, it’s a great time for retailers to maximise sales in the run-up to, and during, this important festival. Food plays a big part in traditional Diwali celebrations so it’s a great opportunity for indies to steal a march on the multiples by making the most of this relatively short but intense selling period. Stocking up on popular lines during the run-up to Diwali ensures you’re ready for when the festival starts!

“After lockdown put a stop to so many celebrations last year, Diwali looks set to be huge this time round and will potentially be a real bonanza time for retailers. Whole communities will be keen to meet up with family and friends again now that restrictions have eased, so it’s important that during this key selling time, retailers know and understand what their customers are looking for,” said Jon Roberts, Brand Manager at Cofresh.

He added, “Its focus on celebrating and sharing makes Diwali a natural opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the season of traditional get-togethers – and by stocking up on sharing packs of popular snacks, you can ensure you offer plenty of choice for those vital last minute or top-up purchases!

“We can often learn from abroad. Retailers in Canada, for example, have enjoyed great success from using special signage for Diwali items, whilst mixing traditional and non-traditional items to ensure maximum basket-spend. After all, most shoppers don’t shop just for Diwali! Capture more of their spend by providing as many of their essentials as possible.”

Talking about the rumours of another possible lockdown, Roberts said, “With  current rumours on the timing this could happen around Diwali, so learn from previous lockdowns – during which snacking consumption increased significantly and which saw a marked shift in consumer shopping patterns. People stayed local and shopped little and often. Make sure they are aware you have a great range and tailor it, and your hours, to their needs so that you can maximise your benefit from any disruption.”

He further emphasised that local provenance has been a key purchase driver for consumers for a long time – as far back as 2016, six out of ten Brits told Nielsen they would prefer a locally manufactured product. He said, “Now with increased awareness of food miles due to Scotland hosting COP26 next month, combined with international supply chain issues due to Brexit and a government pushing ‘buy British’, retailers can expect to benefit by putting British brands on their shelves.”

Conversely, consumers are also seeking authenticity – especially around Diwali when they’ll be looking for great flavours and familiar products which they can serve and share with confidence. “As the UK’s no 1 Indian snack brand, Cofresh is perfectly placed to deliver,” said Rooberts. “Almost all our products are manufactured in our Leicester factory, which combined with our heritage and expertise in the sector, means we’re able to satisfy consumer demand for quality British products from an authentic supplier.”

 

Great flavours and authentic products are two of the main purchase motivators around Diwali and as the UK’s no 1 Indian snack brand, Cofresh is perfectly placed to deliver. Traditional snacks and share-pack formats are a tried and tested way to increase customers’ basket spend and therefore maximise sales, so stock up with plenty of choice and be prepared for those valuable and last minute, spontaneous purchases.

Perennial best-sellers include Cofresh’s classic Bombay Mix and the potato-based Chilli & Lemon Grills, both available in share packs so perfect for get-togethers. “Our £1 PMPs also perform incredibly well at Diwali – these are currently available across both our popular Grills and Mixes ranges and also include our 300g packs of Monkey Nuts. We’ve also recently launched a raft of new snacks and flavours to give independent retailers the perfect opportunity to offer something different this Diwali.”

 

While many people will cook from scratch, some just don’t have the time and need the little cheats to make life easier for them. Frozen finger-food is therefore another huge opportunity for independent retailers, so if you have a freezer section, stock up on Vibrant Foods’ cook and serve range such as vegetable and Punjabi samosas. Quickly and easily cooked at home, they work really well as a sharing food and are an amazing complement to their other snacks when served as part of a Diwali spread.

“Also, ensure you are well stocked with all the essentials. Our wider Vibrant Foods family of brands can help you with this, from Paneer from Everest through to rice and flours from East End Foods, spices and lentils from TRS and nuts from Fudco,” Roberts suggested retailers.

New Products and Campaigns

Everything points to Diwali being big this year, particularly in view of the fact that last year’s celebrations were somewhat muted by the Covid restrictions. Cofresh’s TTL (through the line) marketing campaign will run from September to November, and will give retailers the opportunity to take advantage of all the Diwali deals and special offers that will be available.

They’ll also be supporting the brand with an extensive TV, radio, sponsorship, OOH and in- store campaign to increase brand awareness amongst shoppers and drive footfall to the fixture at this key selling time. Cofresh’s latest snack releases include Mango Chutney Grills and Onion Bhaji Corn Crackers, based on two of the UK’s most popular Anglo-Indian flavours, while for those seeking a little extra heat from their snacks, their new Masala Chips and Chilli Chips are crisp, crunchy and bursting with warm and spicy Indian flavours. In 70g packs, they’re a great addition to the Diwali line-up and are delicious either on their own or with dips such as chutneys and raita.

Also new – and reflecting Cofresh’s Indian heritage – is Thin Sev Mamra in generous 325g packs. These thin and crispy fried noodles are authentically seasoned with turmeric and eaten either straight from the pack or sprinkled on to “chaat” savoury snacks. Finally, following their success as a limited edition snack for Eid earlier this year, their three popular Party Mixes are now available all year round. In three mouth-watering flavours – Jalapeno & Cheese, Sour Cream & Chive and Sweet Chilli – these 70g packs of assorted potato-based Grills, Spirals and Hoops are the perfect addition to any get together!

Drinks for Diwali

Celebrated by more than 1.2m people in the UK, Diwali traditionally brings together family and friends to celebrate the festival of lights. For drinks, too, after more than 18 months of restrictions on gatherings and events, Diwali 2021 is set to be an even bigger celebration, so pay special attention to the most popular kinds of liquid refreshment – with many fruity flavours as favourites. Barr Soft Drinks is encouraging retailers to stock up on Rubicon ahead of Diwali celebrations this year, as the top sales driver of soft drinks during this key seasonal occasion.

“With around 35 per cent of shoppers spending more during an event, bold, bright and fruity Rubicon is perfectly placed to help retailers maximise the sales opportunity around this occasion,” said Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks.

“Traditional shoppers will be looking for brands that they know and trust and our research shows us that Rubicon is perfectly paired with many popular Diwali food dishes. New shoppers use events and celebrations as inspiration to try something new, so Rubicon’s wide range of flavours and formats, available in still and sparkling variants, has broad  appeal for every shopper.”

Diwali is getting bigger and more profitable for retailers each year, with soft drinks sales up 16 per cent last year vs. 2019. Spend per shopper more than doubled for Rubicon Still alone, with the Deluxe range accounting for 35 per cent of total sales, highlighting a clear opportunity for incremental sales.

Barr Soft Drinks recommend that retailers stock a wide range of Rubicon flavours in 2L packs, with a variety of sparkling and still SKUs. Having a range of flavours is important, as shoppers will be catering for a number of different tastes amongst family and friends, but so too is ensuring availability of larger pack formats. “Retailers should also utilise impactful POS where possible, to create in-store theatre and attract shoppers to fixture,” said Troy.

Lighting Diyas and Candles

Seasonality continues to be a key sales driver for convenience retailers, which can be boosted by an increased focus on matches and lighters. “Virtually every household in the country has a use for matches or lighters at this time of year, as families enjoy key celebrations such as Diwali, providing a major opportunity for sales uplift,” says Gavin Anderson, Head of Sales at Republic Technologies UK.

“As there were restrictions in place for many over the seasonal period last year, people will be preparing to celebrate with family and friends, and the celebrations will be bigger than ever. We are recommending that retailers use these key sales periods to promote lighters and matches as part of a strong seasonal offer.”

Republic Technologies has boosted interest in the household lighters category by launching a range of high-quality Utility, Kitchen and Candle Lighters from iconic brand, Zig-Zag. Each range comes in five vibrant colours and is available in shelf ready packaging to increase visibility with a standout display.

“The UK’s booming candle sector shows no sign of slowing down, particularly during seasonal occasions in the autumn and winter months, presenting retailers with a key sales opportunity for candle lighters which can be boosted by the right range and cross category display,” adds Anderson.

Shoppers have been offered even more choice by Republic Technologies’ introduction of two stylish candle lighter ranges, By candlelight and lumière, backed by a national consumer marketing campaign which has already reached over 4.5 million consumers.

“With strong levels of consumer awareness, and a growing appetite amongst people to make up for lost time by celebrating in style this autumn and winter, we’re confident that we’re giving consumers the choice and performance they’re looking for with our lighters which are stylish, top quality and affordable,” adds Anderson.

As sales of matches increase significantly from September through to December, Republic Technologies continues to invest in its core matches brands. This includes a brand partnership for Cook’s Matches with celebrity chef, Tom Kerridge, now in its fourth year. The extensive consumer campaign, including on-pack recipes and a strong programme of social media campaigning, has heightened brand awareness.

Republic Technologies’ portfolio of matches also includes iconic household name, Bryant & May Extra Long, ideal for lighting candles, indoor fires and also for outdoor usage, which come in shelf-ready dispenser. These are complemented by Swan Vestas and Ship, each tailored for a range of different usage occasions, indoors and outdoors.

Cook Asian, cook happy

With last year’s celebrations impacted by COVID-19, consumers are more comfortable with using this opportunity to bring together larger groups of family and friends together. East End Foods are catering to these occasions with bulk purchases, such as the East End Foods Royal Basmati Rice 10kg or East End Foods Extra Chilli Powder 1kg, whilst consumers can opt for the TRS Chana Dall 5kg or the TRS Turmeric Powder 5kg.

Kelly Wyld, Brand Lead at Vibrant Foods said, “Diwali is a time of celebration and reunions, and with the pandemic affecting so many important moments in the last 18 months, we’re expecting this year’s festivities to be a great reunion for many. Food is such an important part of this time so it’s a great opportunity for food brands like East End Foods and TRS to be involved in the preparations and main event.”

Independents will have more flexibility in bringing to life the Diwali spirit through decoration and showcasing particular products in-store, in comparison to multiples who cater a wider demographic and are less likely to put as large of an emphasis on the festival.

“It’s a key time to ensure that logistics are not neglected. Independents will need to remain well-stocked, so consumers will perceive them to be a reliable shopping option. The layout of the shop should also be considered carefully. Products must be visible and easy to access for busy shoppers, suggested Kelly. “Independents take up a larger portion of East End and TRS’ customer base and so the brands will be focusing on promoting their products in these key areas.”

On-the-go and impulse products are the most popular items among consumers who do not plan to spend much time browsing. Both East End Foods and TRS offer smaller formats better suited to convenience buying. These include products like TRS Golden Sultanas, TRS Almonds, East End Foods Luxury Fruit & Nut mixes and East End Foods Alphonso Mango Sliced. That being said, the vast majority of East End Foods and TRS’ business comes from convenience and independents with many of them falling in the Asian store category.

Both East End and TRS offer a wide range of core products in convenience including Ghee, Atta, Gram Flour and key spices, to cater to varying consumer needs. Whether consumers are looking for the smaller top-up pack formats or to load up the car for a big family celebration with bulk options, they’ll be able to choose from East End Foods and TRS’ large variety of pack formats.

This Diwali, East End Foods partnered with Sunrise Radio to launch Spice Factor, a competition to identify the best South Asian cook in the UK. Consumers nationwide were encouraged to nominate a friend, family member or themselves for a chance to win a dinner for 6 at Café Spice Namaste, a full day recipe photoshoot, and a year’s supply of pantry products. To enter, consumers were encouraged to submit two South Asian-inspired savoury recipes and a few lines about why they mattered.

Happy Diwali

Asian Trader wishes everyone a very Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous Diwali. Let’s hope with the beginning of the festival of light all our darkness of sorrow and pain disappears from our lives.