chaz1As the weather cools, Halloween and Bonfire Night looming and the party season coming up, it’s time to take another look at treats for sharing and that major social institution, the Big Night In.

Traditionally the autumn is a good time for getting together with friends and family to defy the dark weather. But how we do it could all change in our chilly Coalition climate.

With Britain either out of recession or set for double-dip doom and gloom, depending who you listen to, latest research from British Lifestyles, Mintel’s flagship report, reveals two thirds of consumers are worried about the state of the economy.

The recession has taken its toll on eating out, traditionally a high-growth sector as people go out to cheer themselves up. Per head spending on eating out rose 0.7% in 2009, versus 43% between 1999-2009, further evidence that for millions of Brits, Big Nights In have replaced Big Nights Out.

Mintel reckons consumers have moved from fearful to doubtful, either way not a strong foundation for spending on enjoyment. How all this will affect Britain’s Big Nights In remains to be seen: the euphoria of the World Cup, and the Barbeque bonanza that came with it is long gone.

Almost 70% of consumers are searching for ways to save money when food shopping and 40% will be actively searching for cheaper food and drink brands.

In these sober times soft drinks noticeably continue to sparkle, thanks to their relative cheapness and positioning as an affordable indulgence in troubled times.

More than one third of consumers Mintel interviewed described their situations as ‘tight’, struggling or in trouble and a further 40% were just coping. However, though savings and cost cutting are priorities, some consumers out there are putting their money worries behind them and looking on the lighter side – 42% of consumers said they were concentrating on getting on with life, and not letting money worries get in the way. These then are the people who we can expect to go on enjoying a Big Night In over the months to come.

We’re tightening our belts – financially, at least. Despite the move to healthier eating, it seems pies and pasties could play a prominent role in soaking up the drink on those Big Nights In that we do have. Mintel reports that between 2008-2009, sales of pies and pasties increased by around 5% as Brits were faced with rising food prices and sought comfort food items that offered not only value for money, but a treat they could indulge in. The upshot is that pies are now the nation’s favourite snack in the thriving pies and pasties market, overtaking the classic sausage roll during the recession.

The Grocery Trader

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