Christmas is all about nostalgia, cheer, hope and laughter – all this with a generous helping of great food and good tipsy drinks.
Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and every day in between, the festive period is a time for celebration. Be it inventive cocktails to tried-and-tested favourites like scotch, rum or mulled wine, there exist some or the other traditional tipple for every shopper.
When it comes to last minute party plans and gatherings at home, local convenience stores can be the answer to every need. License holders need to be aware and stay in tune with what’s in and what’s not to make the best of this time.
Last year, the beer market saw uplift in share (+0.2 per cent) from December 2022 to February 2023. Over the same period, data shows that more households were buying into beer, with an increase in shoppers switching from wine and spirits to beer.
Alexander Wilson, Category and Commercial Strategy Director at HEINEKEN, attributes this shift to cost of living crisis.
“We feel this was linked to cost-of-living pressures for consumers, as beer’s more accessible price points became important for shoppers versus wine and spirits, and this is something we’re expecting to see again this year,” says Wilson.
This year, Christmas will present a huge opportunity for retailers to drive sales. As cost-of-living crisis continues to haunt the country, consumer research from CGA by NIQ has revealed that 35 per cents of UK & Ireland consumers are opting to go out less frequently. Consequently, more shoppers are expected to off trades to treat themselves at home with family and friends.
As explained by John Price, Head of Marketingat KBE Drinks, the continuing cost-of-living crisis and consumers having less disposable income in their pockets may well mean fewer visits to pubs and restaurants, which should present an opportunity for convenience retailers to exploit.
It is imperative to understand what customer wants and offer products accordingly.
Like cider which is also typically enjoyed by consumers and proves to fare extremely well during the Christmas period. As a result, Aston Manor expects this strong performance to continue throughout the next 12 months.
Calli O’Brien, Head of Marketing at Aston Manor Cider, states that drinkers are moving away from flavoured ciders in favour of more traditional recipes. A prime example of this is Crumpton Oaks, which is the number one value apple cider brand in impulse.
Brits are engaging in more ‘mindful drinking’ and looking for ways to incorporate alcohol into healthier lifestyles, something which should not be expected to slow down over the festive period. It becomes crucial for store owners to have a good and wide range of no and low alcohol options as well.
When it comes to alcohol, brand name rules the customer mindset. So, make sure your store is well-stocked with all the bestselling brands in each sub-category.
The World Beer and Craft & Specialties category has been on a huge growth trajectory in recent years and isn’t set to slow down. In fact, Budweiser Brewing Group (BBG) is expecting it to represent 40 per cent of total volume consumption by 2030.
“Since 2019, consumers have purchased 5 per cent more World Beer in comparison to standard lager and we forecast a further 8 per cent increase in sales by 2030. For retailers, this is a category that presents a huge opportunity. Not only is it clearly not going away any time soon, but it also presents the ability to encourage beer drinkers to trade up and discover premium options during the Christmas period,” says a BBG spokesperson.
Last year the Stella Artois family welcomed its newest member, Stella Artois Unfiltered. The new launch responded directly to the growth of the World Beer and Craft category and aimed to fuse the accessibility and refreshment of World Beer with the flavour discovery of Craft.
Since its launch, Stella Artois Unfiltered has proven a hit with consumers gaining a 1.5 per cent market share of the super-premium segment in 12 months and becoming the ninth biggest super premium beer by volume.
Another name to bank upon in alcohol aisle is Jägermeister. Its price-marked pack range is currently performing very well, as consumers are looking for reassurance they are paying a fair price for their alcohol. Jägermeister offers price-marked packs in its 50cl, 35cl, and 20cl sizes.
One of its standout offerings is the 2cl Jägermeister miniatures, which have consistently performed exceptionally well during the festive season.
“These miniatures are a hit because consumers are looking for a fun and convenient way to recreate their best on-trade nights at their various gatherings over the holiday period. They also make for perfect countertop merchandising as they are regularly bought on impulse.
“Tapping into the popularity of the Espresso Martini, Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee eliminates the need for consumers to buy both vodka and a traditional coffee liqueur separately, effectively simplifying the cocktail-making process and offering a twist on a classic favourite,” the spokesperson tells Asian Trader.
Moving on, BrewDog Mixed 330ml-can 8-pack is another Brits-favourite and is a particularly important SKU over the Christmas season.
Miriam Thompson, Off-Trade Category Development Manager at BrewDog PLC, also recommends stocking BrewDog Punk IPA 330ml can 12-pack which remained the leading best-selling craft beer SKU during the Christmas weeks in 2022, as well as all year round.
BrewDog Lost Lager is also a core brand to include, as it acts as a gateway to the wider craft beer category.
Stout was also a star performer of Christmas 2022 with category sales +15.4 per cent with rising name like Black Heart draught stout (4.1 per cent ABV). Available in single 440ml, 4 x 440ml and 10 x 440ml can multi-packs Black Heart is a no-nonsense dry-Irish style stout, brewed in and for this century.
“As the leading Craft Beer brand, BrewDog is well placed to invigorate this category, opening it up to a younger and more premium shopper, driving penetration and additional sales. Black Heart also features an in-can widget, providing shoppers with that much-loved draught experience to enjoy at home, in a convenient packaged format,” Thompson tells Asian Trader.
While beer is crucial, it is equally imperative to have a full and interesting range of wines too, keeping in mind both the bestselling range as well as new launches.
Looking back to the 12 weeks of Christmas 2022, in red wine, Malbec has been a prominent name in convenience, growing value at 4.7 per cent. The other top three varietals, Merlot and Shiraz, actually saw decline in the same period. Malbec continues to be both well-recognised and growing in popularity.
Trivento, the leading Argentinean wine brand, also has the number one selling Malbec in the country. In the words ofJack Cole, Category and Insights Manager at CyT UK, Trivento Reserve Malbec is the country’s bestselling wine.
Consumers like to trade up during the Christmas period, and Trivento’s more premium Private Reserve Malbec is already growing at an incredible +33 per cent in the total market over the most recent 52 weeks.
Cole advises retailers to make sure they have plenty of space for more premium purchases over the Christmas period as it’s very important to have a clear pricing structure, so that shoppers can navigate the shelves easily.
Shoppers typically revert to known brands in times of stress, and so it’s important to stock the best-known wines and grape varieties, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, and so on.
“We have also seen a huge uptick in the so-called ‘Statement Brands’ which attract a different, younger adult demographic. Our brand Diablo is very much targeted at this group of shoppers, with its standout packaging and high-quality presentation, along with a strong marketing campaign supporting it on screen,” Cole tells Asian Trader.
Diablo has seen astounding sales over the most recent 52 weeks, and is now worth more than £15m in retail sales value and growing fast – triple digit growth in convenience in the past year alone.
Cider is another sub-category here that needs to be well-stocked in the convenience stores.
Drinkers are moving away from flavoured ciders in favour of more traditional recipes. A prime example of this is Crumpton Oaks, which is the number one value apple cider brand in GB impulse, with our can format up 67 per cent year-on-year.
Knights Cider brand is also noteworthy here as it is outperforming all other segments in the category. While the strong amber market is down by 4 per cent, Knights Cider has seen a sharp upwards trajectory in sales, up by 54 per cent.
Acknowledging the impact of cost-of-living crisis on Brits, O’Brien from Aston Manor states that the maker’s ethos is all around affordability.
“We are here for shoppers, helping them to save with our affordable cider, allowing them to focus their spend on what really matters. Our range provides shoppers with an affordable solution, without trading down on quality, so they can be assured they are not compromising when needing to spend a little less cash on cider.”
Aston Manor Cider has introduced a new range of Frosty Jack’s pack formats, looking to offer more affordability to customers as shoppers look to tighten their belts.
Further strengthening Frosty Jack’s reputation as the market leader in high strength cider, the new range of cider sizes has been designed to help provide shoppers with reassurance as the cost-of-living crisis continues.
Frosty Jack’s RRSP range will include a 2.5L bottle price marked at £5.99, and a new 1L bullet bottle price marked at £2.99. Non priced marked options will also be available.
Christmas is incomplete without whiskeys and liquers so make sure to stock the various ranges of all the top brands.
Just like Shanky’s Whip that is perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between Irish whiskey and liqueur- the two prominent categories throughout winter and into Christmas.
Tim Dunlop, European commercial director for Shanky’s Whip, supplied by Biggar and Leith, says, “We are expecting the trend for at-home cocktails to continue and peak over the festive season, therefore retailers should refresh drinks fixtures as early as November as alcoholic drinks to position themselves as a destination for drinks and to prepare for the uplift in sales.”
Consumers branch out at Christmas, supercharging the opportunity, as they buy into new brands and flavour experiences. Shanky’s Whip fills a gap in the market for flavoured dark spirits, an area that shoppers gravitate to in the colder months.
In-store, it is ideally positioned alongside whiskey and bourbon, and makes a great addition to the Christmas drinks cabinet. It’s instantly recognisable with its vintage style label reflective of a box of matches, and the distinctive visual of a man, bearing a whip, mounted on an ostrich.
Christmas and cocktails go hand in hand. So it is best for retailers to ramp up their alcohol section accordingly.
VIVIR Café VS, The English Whisky Company’s Norfolk Nog and Giffard’s Cinnamon Syrup are some of the must-stock festive spirits to cater to customer demand.
Nick Gillett, Managing Director at Mangrove Global, vouches heavily on spritz.
“The spritz is a perfect celebratory drink – liqueur-filled, lengthy, and topped off with fizz; it’s a great one to serve up throughout the festive season. And they’re even better for home-entertaining, given that they’re so easy to make.”
Gillett advices retailers to explore new spirits and flavours, use it as an opportunity to educate the customer.
Traditional festive flavours are available across spirits and liqueurs, like orange, quince, toffee, spices like ginger, and even the Christmas favourite – Egg Nog apart from new flavours like Portobello Road Sloeberry and Blackcurrant Gin.
World whiskies are booming and it is a perfect time to introduce new labels to your customers.
As Alec Morgan, Head of Luxury & Independent Retail at Mangrove, says, there’s a lot of potential in new world whiskies from the likes of Milk & Honey in Israel to The English Whisky Co to Denmark’s Stauning.
Vodka remains largely driven by price point in the off-trade, and there is a slowdown in sales of flavoured gins. The growth seen in the rum and tequila categories are partially due to people appreciating these spirits in a more sophisticated manner.
“A bottle of premium whisky can set you back a good bit of money – especially if you’re buying Scotch. And whilst they’re worth every penny, they might not fit into your gifting price bracket. But there are some terrific premium rums and tequilas out there which are equally as enjoyable neat.
“My recommendations for the rum category would be Don Q Gold for a premium sipping rum that lends itself well to longer drinks too, or Aluna Coconut Rum for a sophisticated take on subtle flavour – equally as delicious sipped.”
Morgan recommends retailers to have quality Caribbean rum on the shelf for its provenance, as well as a spiced variety for a bit of fun. When it comes to tequila, VIVIR’s range provides various spectacular options, great for gifting or just for stocking up the home bar.
Pandemic and then inflation have brought out mixologist in everyone. So, now instead of craving for their favourite cocktail, Brits now have discovered the art of making them at home. Therefore, it becomes even more important that the store has everything that they would need.
Chris Pollard, Head of Sales at Mangrove, says that summer saw a bit of a renaissance of classic cocktails, and winter is expected to be no different.
Classic cocktails made with cream liqueurs, spiced rum, and festively flavoured spirits will be popular, at home, Pollard adds, saying that there are some high-quality RTD cocktails in the market.
Time is precious, particularly during the festive season, when the priority is creating memorable moments with loved ones, not being stuck in the kitchen.
Since Christmas cocktails are a key part of seasonal celebrations, shoppers would be on the lookout for classic ready to drink mixes like FUNKIN COCKTAILS.
Ben Anderson, Marketing Director at FUNKIN COCKTAILS, says, “There’s a perception that cocktails are too much effort to make, which is a barrier for some shoppers, but it doesn’t have to be that way, which is where FUNKIN comes in.
“FUNKIN is committed to simplifying the cocktail experience, convincing even the most sceptical cocktail connoisseurs to give the RTD category a go – whether that’s in a handy single serve Nitro Can or a share-friendly Bartender Edition bottle.”
There is a huge opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the opportunity.
“We know that even cocktail-shy shoppers trade up during the festive period, meaning retailers can get in on the action by stocking up throughout the key festive sales periods of November and December.
“But don’t just take our word for it – in the last year, the cocktail segment grew 15 per cent to a total of £121 million in total retail, far surpassing the 4 per cent growth associated with RTDs as a whole. What’s more, FUNKIN is the third best-selling RTD brand across the total grocery category, presenting an un-missable opportunity for retailers,” Anderson tells Asian Trader.
FUNKIN’s Salted Caramel Espresso Martini Bartender Edition bottle, launched last autumn, is a must stock.
“Nearly 40 bottles flew off the shelves every hour in the week before Christmas, and we have no doubt it will be a smash hit again this year. In fact, we’ve continued to see strong sales throughout the year, with an average of 12,000 bottles sold every week,” Anderson points out.
“On top of this, offering multipacks is a must during busy periods so hosts can cater for all tastes and give guests variety, so retailers should stock up on FUNKIN’s multipacks including our Mixed Cocktail Party Pack.”
In addition to seasonal SKUs, retailers should also remember to keep the shelves stocked with the classics. With consumers looking to treat themselves with their favourite tipples it’s important to prioritise flavours with mass appeal like 200ml FUNKIN Nitro Cans in Passion Fruit Martini, Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri.
Christmas time is cocktail time.
Price from KBE Drinks too wants retailers to capitalize on cocktail recipes to push spirits.
“We’re all aware of the current trend for consumers to enjoy mixing their own cocktails at home and it’s only likely that this will increase over the Christmas period with people hosting parties and family occasions.
Earlier this year, KBE Drinks launched a couple of spirit brands into the off trade, both of which make exciting and versatile cocktail ingredients or can be simply enjoyed neat or with ice.
Makai is a modern, premium rum brand, inspired by the rich heritage of Polynesia. Another launch is 5 Walla Chai Liqueur which is a rum-based chai tea cream liqueur and will appeal to those consumers who already enjoy chai lattes and even chai cocktails.
Watch out for new trends
Be it to swerve the crippling hangover, to drop a few calories or simply to maintain an abstemious lifestyle into the new year, the nation’s drinking habits are changing and more Brits than ever are expected to go alcohol-free.
Those of us who haven’t given up completely are cutting down. HEINIEKEN’s research showed that 41 per cent would be looking for lower alcohol or alcohol-free options to drink at Christmas (55 per cent of Gen-Z).
Popular brands such as Heineken 0.0 and Old Mout Alcohol-Free Cider are leading the way in offering consumers high-quality and flavourful non-alcoholic alternatives and the Strongbow ULTRA portfolio meets consumer demand for lower calorie and lower alcohol drinks.
Wilson from HEINEKEN says that as of 2020, the maker has over 130 non-alcoholic line extensions globally, bringing a huge portfolio of choice to suit different shoppers’ drinking preferences. Heineken 0.0 continues to lead the UK’s now & no category, with a 19.2 per cent share of non-alcoholic beer, and growing by 6.7 per cent year on year.
“We will continue to invest in our No & Low alcohol portfolio to make it even easier for consumers to reach for such options, depending on their preference and the occasion. Whenever a consumer encounters one of our beers or ciders, we want to make sure there is an alcohol-free option proudly sitting alongside,” Wilson tells Asian Trader.
Wilson from HEINEKEN also believes that this Christmas, shoppers will look for brands they know like Fosters.
“This year the brand is benefitting from a £3.5m investment campaign, which includes TV and digital advertising, strategic partnerships and an on-pack promotion.”
Both beer and cider will see a healthy demand in convenience channel.
“Research we conducted last year also showed that convenience will drive three-quarters of beer drinkers and over two-thirds of cider drinkers into C-stores over the festive season. As the category leader in cider, with brands including Strongbow, Old Mout and Inch’s, there’s a cider to suit a variety of drinkers’ preferences,” says Wilson.
The UK’s favourite cider brand, Strongbow, unveiled its Masterbrand redesign earlier this year, alongside the launch of Strongbow Topical Cider.
Shoppers are looking for brands that bring fun and enjoyment to Christmas occasions, dinners, parties and gatherings in the home.
Since there’s a clear interest in higher strength, premium, premixed cocktail, colourful BuzzBallz Cocktails range is the perfect choice to catch shoppers’ attention. They are a great tasting, bar strength, no-mess solution with a strong visual appeal and a unique round shape that is a guaranteed conversation starter that is perfect for posting on social media – especially the red coloured Strawberry ‘Rita, alongside the green Tequila ‘Rita for festive colour coordination.
David Relph, country manager UK and Ireland, BuzzBallz Cocktails, states that there are huge opportunities for retailers to drive drinks sales in the months leading up to Christmas and over the holidays too.
“Stores should stock a range of contemporary, eye-catching premixed drinks options, highlighting ABVs, price points and quality, to demonstrate the breadth of options available. Permanent sitting in chillers is essential with secondary display in Christmas themed floor standing units or counter-top display units helping drive impulse purchase,” Relph says.
“We’ve created a real buzz in the USA and we know the UK has every potential to follow in its footsteps, the right brand proposition, the maker has launched new limited edition 1.75 litre large formats to help convenience retailers capitalise on the take-home market as the festive party season approaches.
Premixed cocktails are also booming and BuzzBallz Biggies will certainly liven up any party. The large format ballz are ready to pour and share, with each containing almost nine servings.
“We’re certain BuzzBallz Biggies will appeal to existing fans and attract new shoppers – they’re great value and fit into many group occasions in the home – think festive gatherings and house parties, console and board gaming nights, pre-drinks before heading out to hospitality venues, and as a planned purchased for weekend festivities,” says Relph.
Seven single-serve SKUs- – Pornstar Martini (limited edition), Choc Tease, Tequila ‘Rita, Strawberry ‘Rita, Lotta Colada, Chili Mango and Espresso Martini- are available to retailers via exclusive distributor, Hammonds of Knutsford.
All 200ml ballz are 13.5 per cent ABV with an RRP of £3.99 each. The three limited edition Biggies are available in Strawberry ‘Rita, Tequila ‘Rita and Choc Tease flavours. All are 13.5% abv and priced at £28 RRP.
Make it Merry
Make your store Christmas ready- sooner the better. Create a studio of assorted essentials and display them at a primary spot to instantly create curiosity.
Extensive branded Christmas themed POS materials are available from BuzzBallz to support stores including Christmas tree-shaped display units and filled stockings, as well as counter and chiller racks, and eye-catching signage to add appeal and create a buzz.
In the run-up to Christmas bottle packs see an increase in sales with medium and large packs being the preferred option of purchase, so retailers should ensure they are well-stocked.
In addition, retailers should stock up on price-marked packs (PMPs). 60 per cent of consumers consider these products as a special promotion, which will be especially important for consumers looking to reduce spend in light of the cost of living.
With prices increasing in every category and shoppers becoming more knowledgeable about the cost of their weekly groceries, retailers can leverage PMPs on well-known brands such as Stella Artois and Corona to shape price perceptions and ultimately boost sales, the BBG spokesperson tells Asian Trader.
Thompson from BrewDog PLC states that for socialising, larger 8+ can count packs are the key formats for craft beer, with 28.4 per cent of sales going through this format at Christmas vs an average of 19.0 per cent over the remainder of the year.
“Although 8+ count craft beer packs are an important pack format all year round, we recommend retailers open off-fixture space to accommodate additional large packs during the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year to ensure stock is available and maximise impulse sales,” says Thompson.
It’s the golden quarter after all, time to push the sales by introducing new products and up-selling.
Noteworthy here is that premium offerings are growing despite the cost-of-living crisis. While shoppers are attempting to make savings across large expenditures, such as household bills or eating out, purchases like alcohol are one area where consumers are happy to spend a little more. This includes premium beer brand Birra Moretti, a must-stock for shoppers looking to trade up this Christmas, which has grown an incredible 42 per cent since 2016, becoming the leading premium brand in both the on and off-trade.
Wilson says, “We expect premiumisation to continue to grow this Christmas. Premium lager has grown +10.6 per cent in the last quarter, with massive growth in penetration as consumers want better quality products. This trend has been consistent over the past two to three years and the key brand that is driving this growth is Birra Moretti, which has become the UK’s leading continental premium lager beer brand.”
Festive season not only bring extra sales, but also a varied demand.
This year, shoppers will be looking for value for money this Christmas and will choose quality over quantity. One key trend occurring since the cost-of-living crisis is the growth of smaller packs.
“We are seeing smaller multipacks – such as small and mid-packs growing their share of spend and expect this trend to continue over the coming months as many look to continue shopping but with a more restricted budget,” Wilson says.
Christmas always sees trading up to more premium lines. Last Christmas, red wine saw the most trade up with a jump of 40p in the average selling price of a 75cl bottle in the impulse channel during the 12 weeks to 31.12.2023.
Cole from CyT UK says, “There will be shoppers who are feeling the pinch this Christmas due to the cost-of-living, and they will cut down on spend. However, there are some shoppers whose means of managing the cost-of-living crisis will be to have fewer events in the on-trade, and do more in-home get-togethers. This offers an opportunity to retailers as more spend will shift into the convenience channel from the on-trade.”
“We have a major ‘out of home’ and digital campaign starting in November with our number one brand Trivento, inviting consumers to discover the Magic of Malbec. We are so impressed with Trivento’s continued great performance, and this campaign will encourage shoppers to try the more premium offerings from the brand, Private Reserve and Golden Reserve Malbec,” Cole tells Asian Trader.
Within the liquors and specialities category, the New Year’s Eve week has emerged as an even more significant period for volume sales, surpassing Christmas week. Retailers have an opportunity to capitalise on the festive spirit and consumer demand even after Christmas by allocating increased space and attention to the high-selling products.
“Traditionally, the holiday season is a period where Liqueurs & Specialties tend to over-trade as consumers become more experimental and seek unique festive flavours and experiences. Notably, the Tequila & Mezcal category continued to show significant potential and growth, indicating a continued trend towards exploring and enjoying these spirits,” Jägermeister’s spokesperson tells Asian Trader.
The Jägermeister’s spokesperson warns retailers to be mindful of the economic challenges consumers are facing, which poses the challenge of navigating the balance between premiumisation and affordability in the Christmas alcohol market.
“To overcome potential impacts on sales, retailers can consider offering a range of options, including both premium and more budget-friendly alternatives, to cater to a wide range of budgets. They can also emphasize the value and uniqueness of their premium selections to justify the additional cost, making customers feel that the investment is worthwhile for creating memorable holiday experiences.”
Gift packs are also a real sales driver for retailers in the run up to Christmas and giving an alcoholic drink really reflects the celebratory nature of the season. It’s a highly competitive time so consumers are on the lookout for products that offer something unique, out of the ordinary and bring the wow factor. Shanky’s Whip gift packs are great as impulse purchases, for taking to a gathering, as a stocking filler, or for a planned Christmas present.
Shanky’s Whip (700ml bottle/33% abv/RRP £25.00) bottle and gift packs are available to retailers now via UK distributor, Craftwork.
Season to sparkle
Looking more closely at the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, consumer confidence in the UK is currently at a record low, even lower than the 2008 global financial crisis. This paints a grim picture of the UK public’s mood and, as a result, decision making around expenditure is being heavily impacted.
However, around this time of year, many people are in celebratory mood and, if money allows, are increasingly willing to spend more to treat themselves and luckily for off-trades, consumers view alcohol as an affordable luxury which is worth paying for. That’s why premium world lagers like Kingsfisher, Sapporo and Sagres are a great option for convenience retailers to stock over the festive period, as they are bang on trend and can typically be charged at a minimum of 30 per cent more than other more mainstream options.
Mangrove team recommends off-trade retailers to connect with spirit producers and customers alike. Producers will likely have initiatives and materials available to support off-trade sales, you only need to ask. When it comes to your customers, disposable income is tight, so where people are willing to spend, aim to give them exactly what they want – or even better, suss out what they want before they do.
Know your customer, learn about them, and base your festive offering and activity on that knowledge, and it should be a successful winter season for all. Have a good one!