chaz1October and November are ‘dark’ months with later sunrises and nights drawing in, but they also contain Halloween (31 October) and Bonfire Night (5 November), two welcome excuses for a party.

Most of us will agree from personal experience that people across the UK are still determined to have fun in these bleak economic times and enjoy a good ‘Big Night In’ with friends. It’s certainly welcome news for our supermarkets, co-ops and convenience store chains.

Sir Winston Churchill would be proud of our continued commitment to enjoying ourselves. You can hear the great man’s words ringing out: “We shall party in our living rooms, we shall party in our kitchens, we shall never surrender!”

The figures from leading research company Mintel for Crisps and Snacks, Pizzas and Wine, three of the product sectors that help make up a Big Night In, confirm that we are distinctly more careful with our money, but continue to make the best of it.

Crisps and snacks’ market growth in 2007-8 was substantially better than the previous three years, thanks to premium sector sales and manufacturers’ efforts to bring out healthier ranges. Writing in January, Mintel reckoned premium crisps and snacks’ growth was likely to slow over the course of this year as consumers re-evaluated their purchases of premium products as their incomes were squeezed.

Mintel released their Pizza analysis this June. They reported many consumers trading around in the recession, going from restaurants to takeaways or from takeaways to chilled or frozen pizzas. Pizza bases and sauces only accounted for about 1% of sales, but with more consumers interested in cooking from scratch and many finding it healthier and cheaper to make their own pizzas, there was much room for expansion.

The overall wine market declined in 2008 due to the recession, but off sales’ value increased 5%. Writing in June Mintel reported that the supermarkets’ power and importance in the wine market had grown, with the multiples strongly out-performing the specialists and driving off sales. Mintel qualified it by saying the growth figure was exaggerated by 2008’s 17% duty increase and compounded by intensified discounting, which has sustained the performance of £5-10 wine particularly.

The supermarkets have seen a significant drop in sale of wine under £4, as those hit hardest by the recession choose to opt out of the market altogether. Mintel predicts the recession leading to a 2% volume and 1% value decrease in 2009, building once more when the economy picks up again

So the verdict is clear: shoppers are being cautious with their money, but they haven’t stopped celebrating. When they want a good time in, offer them a wide choice of goodies and you’ll still profit from the Big Night In opportunity.

The Grocery Trader

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