Consumers are still enjoying a Big Night In. Asian Trader discovers how indies can make the most of the occasion.

With box sets and TV/film/sport on demand services becoming increasingly popular, staying in is becoming the new going out.
This means snacking moments are as much about relaxing and being social as they are about eating.
According to Kantar, 28% of all in-home meal occasions are a snack. However, while daytime snacking has actually fallen, snacking in the evening is growing for almost all consumer groups, and it’s often impulse-led.
Autumn and Winter sports such as football and rugby will play a big role in TV consumption over the next few months.
Research shows that 7 in 10 shoppers choose supermarkets over c-stores when buying for sporting events.
The main reasons they give are price perception and ranging but independent retailers can do a lot to increase their share.
For example, 46% of shoppers say promotions would influence them to buy from a c-store so multi-buys and cross-category merchandising are highly recommended.
Crisps, beer, soft drinks, hot drinks, bagged snacks and pizza are popular across the board but the Big Night In is not just about beer and crisps. Treating and snacking is increasing in other categories. Both pot snacks and ice cream tubs play a part in this and are increasing in sales.
The UK population is becoming increasingly diverse, with ethnic minorities set to make up one-fifth of it by 2051 and, at the same time, consumers’ tastes are becoming more adventurous.
Health is also becoming an increasingly important factor in snack choice, with 68% of UK adults believing they should eat more healthily (Kantar).
The proportion of snacking occasions where ‘health’ was an important consideration for choice is rising.
Nick Widdowson, Partners for Growth Merchandising and Creative Controller, suggests: “Keep up to speed on the best-sellers in snacking-related categories but don’t neglect areas like ice cream and instant hot snacks.”
Instant hot snacks are increasingly being seen as tasty and filling options, relevant for social meal occasions and evening consumption. They’re portable, accessible and convenient.
“So making sure instant hot snacks are visible in store in the evenings, as well as at lunchtime, is key,” Widdowson adds. “82% of pot snacks are bought on impulse so put them somewhere visible. Flavours are crucial so make sure you give space to the best-selling variants.”
Ice cream consumed for ‘special’ or ‘treating’ reasons has soared in recent years. Demand for ice creams as an evening treat grows, as the weather gets colder, so stocking the best-selling lines is crucial, Widdowson believes.
“NPD drives excitement into the category when people are treat-focused,” he says. “Make sure Pops material is colourful and displayed so that customers can see it.”
Multi-buys and cross-category merchandising are highly recommended, as 46% of shoppers say promotions would influence them to buy from a c-store.
“Make sure you’ve got something for everyone and tailor your communications – think deals targeting men, couples, groups of friends, ‘treat for myself’ offers and family promotions,” Widdowson adds.
A special ‘big night in’ fixture is a great way to build excitement.
It is recommended retailers shout about their offers, flagging them up through signage instore and using social media to tell people what’s on offer. Offering entry into a prize draw for people who like, share and comment on posts can really spread the word and bring customers in.
The ‘big night in’ occasion provides an important opportunity for retailers to drive extra sales across multiple categories, says Trystan Farnworth, Commercial Director, Convenience & Impulse at Britvic.
“We know that at home entertaining happens throughout the year and while food is a key facilitator in most occasions, soft drinks also play an important role in these events,” Farnworth comments. “As a result, it’s essential for retailers to prepare for both planned and last-minute trips across a variety of categories, especially soft drinks.”
Shoppers may be in a hurry as they pick up last minute items for social occasions so Farnworth recommends grouping sub-categories together to make it easier for shoppers to find what they are looking for.
“For example, merchandise all carbonates together, alongside popular entertaining items, such as popcorn, crisps and chocolate,” he says.
Britvic has a strong portfolio of products that suit the big night in opportunity perfectly. Multipack carbonate cans such as Pepsi, 7Up and Tango are perfect for sharing and these brands all offer consumers a choice in formats for different occasions.
It’s also worth noting that at home occasions can take a variety of forms including with kids, with friends / family or with partners. Carbonated and adult soft drinks such as J2O are the ideal soft drinks when having people over. Larger sharing formats, such as 1.5l or 2l bottles of brands like Pepsi MAX, are often bought as an alternative to alcohol and also make great mixers, while multi-pack products of drinks such as Fruit Shoot are great for kids’ occasions.
Recent growth in soft drinks has been driven by the continued trend toward premium and occasion drinking within the take home sector, which is up +6% value YoY, especially since one in four 18 – 24 year olds are now teetotal, says Ed Jones, Senior Customer Marketing Manager, Vimto Soft Drinks.
“But shoppers aren’t just looking for any old drink to serve when hosting friends and family at home, they’re conscious of what they are putting in their bodies,” Jones comments.
Retailers can capitalise on this with brands like Vimto that offer No Added Sugar variants. Stocking both low and No Added Sugar drinks, as well as those with sugar allows consumers to have the choice whether to pay slightly more for a full-sugar version or less for a healthier version.
With entertaining at home on the rise, soft drinks that can be enjoyed alone or used as a mixer present fantastic opportunities for retailers whilst saving precious chiller space.
Vimto and Vimto Remix are available in various formats including 2L fizzy variants, perfect for sharing amongst the family for a Big Night In.
Retailers can maximise the Big Night In occasion by stocking those top-performing brands that provide the choice, quality and value shoppers are seeking, says Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks.
“Brands such as IRN-BRU, Rubicon and the Barr flavours range are perfect for Big Night In shoppers looking for soft drinks to share,” Troy comments.
“Retailers should ensure they stock sharing size bottles of trusted, well-loved soft drinks brands to drive purchase, and restock regularly as availability is key. It’s important to remember that 75% of purchase decisions are made at fixture and sharing sized bottles can be dual-sited with other big night in essentials to create a range of eye-catching deals, including price-marked packs and multi-buys.”
Take home products are also hugely important as they are higher value items which encourage footfall and loyalty.
“Value is a key priority for shoppers and an off-fixture branded display with complementary items e.g. soft drinks, crisps and snacks featuring a cross-category promotional deal will encourage increased basket spend,” says Troy.
Consumers are increasingly aspiring to improve their diets and live healthier lifestyles, meaning that shoppers are looking for greater choice at the fixture. Retailers should ensure that their Big Night In offering includes a good choice of low and zero sugar variants to cater for everyone’s needs.
Despite this trend, consumers are not prepared to compromise on taste and a growing number are looking for low and zero calorie options featuring the full-on flavour they get from regular products. An example of this is IRN-BRU XTRA, which is full of extra IRN-BRU taste, with no sugar.
Shoppers are also becoming more adventurous and open to experimenting with new flavours, so it’s important to stock a wide range of different products to cater for these customers. For example, many retailers are now dedicating a substantial space to world food and drink fixtures in order to showcase exotic flavours.
Walkers, the number one savoury snacking brand, launched a new proposition this year aimed at social sharing occasions, which are growing at +3.5% and driving the growth of total savoury snacking.
Intended to appeal to beer lovers, Walkers Max Strong is a range of ridged crisps in spicy flavours to deliver maximum flavour and help retailers drive cross-category purchases.
Walkers Max Strong is available in three fiery flavours across a heat spectrum ranging from medium to extra hot – ‘Chilli & Lime’, ‘Hot Chicken Wings’ and ‘Jalapeño & Cheese’.
All flavours are available in a Sharing Bag (150g, RRP: £1.99) and Grab Bag format (50g, RRP: £0.80). A Jalapeño & Cheese Clip Strip Bag (90g, RRP: £1.00) offers retailers the perfect solution for the beers, wines and spirits aisle. Each flavour has been carefully crafted to complement different types of popular beer.
Research reveals that savoury snacks only feature in 15% of beer occasions, with half of these being crisps. With this launch, Walkers has helped retailers add incremental growth to the savoury snacking category. Walkers Max Strong has been developed to ensure that the right product delivers against the right occasion, with its indulgent ridges providing maximum fiery flavour.
Rachel Holms, Walkers Senior Marketing Director at PepsiCo, comments: “We are seeing an increase in social occasions, and while savoury snacks are playing an increasingly important role, there is no mainstream ‘perfect snack’ for this occasion. We saw this as an untapped opportunity in the market and have created Walkers Max Strong to complement beer, to answer this demand for a perfect snack to accompany a pint. The new proposition will also pose a great opportunity this summer, offering retailers an innovative snack for consumers to enjoy during upcoming sporting events.
“It is no surprise that beer and snacks can play a role when it comes to social sharing, with over fifteen million weekly beer occasions taking place in the UK, with crisps being well-placed given existing consumption moments. We know our consumers feel passionately about the indulgent taste of Walkers Max, so we’re really confident that with the introduction of new flavours, which have been carefully chosen to match with types of beer, the range will be a success.”
The Big Night In trend is showing no signs of slowing, says Dan Newell, Confections Marketing Director, Mars Wrigley Confectionery.
The popularity of confectionery share bags continues as consumers continue to keep a tight hold on their purse strings, spending less money on evenings out and instead staying at home to enjoy a Big Night In.
With 47% of consumers spending less money on out-of-home entertainment and 50% eating out less, the Big Night In remains a key sales opportunity, as consumers are more conscious of their spending.
Mars Wrigley Confectionery brand Skittles is a vital offering for Big Night In, with 60% of Skittles being consumed as an evening snack, over indexing against total sugar confectionery.
Dan Newell, Confections Marketing Manager says: “Creating a clear display that communicates the ‘Big Night In’ occasion draws shoppers into the fixture and cross category promotions will certainly encourage incremental purchases. Remember to focus the display on products that are ideal for sharing such as Starburst ‘Tear and Share’ Pouches, which are great as they are individually wrapped and offer a variety of flavours for everyone to enjoy.”
Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK is best positioned for retailers to maximise the ‘Big Night In’ trend, offering a popular suite of products that have seen sharing bags increase by 2.2% in sales YTD (Nielsen). Led by Maltesers – the UK’s number one boxed bitesize brand, the ‘Big Night In’ occasion features Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK’s family of best-selling bitesize products including M&M’s, the number one chocolate brand in the world, Galaxy.
M&Ms provide another opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the sharing trend having outperformed the chocolate category by recording over £7m in sales (an increase of 9.2% according to Nielsen) and growing by 4% last year. This was driven by the launch of M&Ms Peanut & Hazelnut last year, a brand new limited-edition variant that combines the most popular M&Ms variant with one of the most popular flavours in the UK.
The key is giving shoppers choice, says Mark Roberts, Trade Marketing Manager at Perfetti Van Melle. “Look at the best performers and what adds to your core range. For instance Fruittella, with its beloved classic range, but with its newly added sugar free and sugar reduced ranges, each appeal to different consumers and demographics, which makes the entire range an option for all stores.”
Signposting is key for confectionery, Roberts suggests. As a category 80% of sales are purely based on impulse. Displaying the range of sugar free and sugar reduced products amongst the classic sugar, clearly signposted helps consumers make a conscious choice when selecting their purchase. As consumer demands change, be sure to align to different shopper missions, targeting different offerings, such as bagged confectionery with Big Night In to capture home sharing.