Christmas is the perfect time to come together to celebrate with family and friends, this year more so than ever after 2020’s festive season restrictions.

Brits spent a record-breaking £12 billion in the grocery channel during the four weeks to December 26 last year, with wine and spirits the fastest growing category overall (Nielsen).

“This year, we will expect to see shoppers wanting to treat themselves to make the occasion that bit more special,” comments Sandra Brunet, Marketing Director, Campari Group UK. “As such, the grocery channel should maintain steady supplies of premium lines well ahead of Christmas to meet this anticipated demand – starting with the Wine and Spirits category, which is proven to thrive at this time of year.”

Prosecco is a big seller over the festive season. In 2019, one in every four bottles of Prosecco in the UK off-trade was sold during the eight-week run up to Christmas (Nielsen).

“With consumers looking to add sparkle to their festive celebrations, grocers should encourage their customers to opt for premium sparkling drinks this year,” adds Brunet. “This should not be limited to the traditional Prosecco or Champagne offerings, but expanded to include exciting ways to elevate sparkling wines – such as by adding Aperol or other flavoured liqueurs.”

We have seen shoppers become more adventurous with their drink choices with spikes in cocktail searches last year, as 39% looked to try different alcoholic drinks (Kantar). The Negroni is a cult classic on cocktail menus worldwide, and a great cocktail to make Christmas moments at-home that little bit more special. To ramp up the Christmas spirit, Campari has published a recipe for a Hot Mulled Negroni for consumers to enjoy on cold winter evenings. With 42% of consumers looking to be inspired in-store at Christmas through recipe ideas (IDG), retailers should consider displaying all the ingredients for the perfect Hot Mulled Negroni together – combining seasonal staples such as oranges, red wine and gin.

Christmas is a chance for consumers to premiumise their at-home experiences and use more expensive, ‘treat’ purchases to differentiate the season from any other time of the year. Rum is a growing category, recording +11.5% growth YOY (Nielsen) in 2020 – and as consumer demand for high quality rums grows, retailers have the opportunity to position premium rums as a must-have this Christmas.

With a focus on minimum ageing – just as whisky drinkers have become accustomed to – Appleton Estate offers an 8 Year Old, 12 Year Old and 15 Year Old rum, offering drinkers the highest calibre expression of Jamaica rum.

David Miles, Senior Whisky Specialist at Edrington UK, comments: “In contrast to the summer months, consumers are likely to seek out darker, richer, and more complex flavour combinations in the lead up to winter, favouring well-loved classics such as the Highland Park Orkney Old Fashioned and The Famous Grouse’s Grouse and Ginger which combines the Scotch with ginger ale and citrus garnishes. Retailers should definitely keep this in mind when deciding what to offer during the colder seasons.”

The Famous Grouse, Courvoisier, and Sourz are amongst the top selling brands in Edrington’s portfolio at the moment. Sales of Courvoisier have grown in the last year as a result of online and cultural trends establishing the drink as the leading cognac in the UK. Sales of Sourz have also grown due to an increase in people creating cocktails at home over the past year or so, with more consumers sharing their fun creations on social media too.

“Retailers must spotlight the premium end of the market as much as possible,” says Miles. “Encouraging consumers to drink better, rather than more, is vital and retailers should ensure they have the necessary mixers available to equally complement their premium offerings, as well as ice and fresh garnishes such as citrus fruits. Retailers ought to also pay close attention to the mixers they stock as it’s important to offer more than just tonic water and lemonade, given we’ve seen consumers become increasingly experimental and adventurous at home.”

“In order to maximise sales, retailers must ensure they are offering the whole package,” suggests Miles. “For example, if they have a spirit such as gin on promotion, it is important the product is easily visible and stocked next to complementary ingredients such as tonic, lemons and limes. This can also be expanded by providing festive nibbles such as seasonal nuts.

“Another top tip is for retailers to provide some form of festive recipe for people to follow, whether that be on show in the shop or through scanning a barcode. This gives people the confidence to try new recipes at home and spend that bit more.

“Additionally, retailers should take advantage in the lead up to Christmas as consumers start looking for those perfect gifts. They have to always make sure they have as many different and exciting gift packs on offer as possible – these are ideal for spirits lovers at Christmas.”

Vodka brand JJ Whitley has announced the launch of a new gold filtered variant of its artisanal Russian Vodka, complete with a dazzling gold bottle.

The latest addition to the portfolio is distilled at the JJ Whitley distillery in St. Petersburg using premium quality Russian winter wheat and water. It is then slowly passed through a filter of fine gold silk thread to produce a smooth, premium quality vodka.

The new bottle features the distinctive embossed detail of the JJ Whitley range, complete with an eye-catching gold finish which is guaranteed to stand out on shelf.

James Stocker, Marketing Director, Halewood Artisanal Spirits, comments; “We have been investing heavily in our JJ Whitley Vodka portfolio and our new distillery in St. Petersburg, which enables us to provide our customers with a quality, authentic Russian vodka at great price point. Our Artisanal Russian Vodka has gone on to win a number of gold medals at internationally recognised awards, and is now the fastest growing top 10 vodka range, which is testament to the quality and accessibility of the product.

“Our new JJ Whitely Gold Vodka is a fitting tribute to its gold-award winning success, providing retailers with a unique proposition which taps into multiple shopper occasions. From those looking to treat themselves or find something special to mark a celebration, or even as a great gift option, we’re confident that it will present a strong sales opportunity for retailers.”

Caitlin Barker, Marketing Assistant at Continental Wine and Food, comments: “Christmas 2021 is going to be one to remember! We are all aware that last Christmas was an unusual one for most and did not hit the high notes we had all hoped for. With this, consumers will be looking to create a Christmas spectacular this time around. So, ensure you stock up and provide great purchasing options from the early autumn.”

CWF has predicted this Christmas will be an incredibly busy one. Key product areas for retailers to be conscious of when planning their ranges are bigger pack formats designed for sharing and premiumisation of products. Within the core range of red, white and rosé, CWF offers both 75cl bottles and 2.25L bag-in-box formats which becomes more desirable as we creep into the party season. Each box is equivalent to 3 x 75cl bottles and features an easy-pour tap which is ideal for topping up your glass with ease. The bags stay fresh for up to 6 weeks after opening and screams value for money for the consumer.

“With all the uncertainty and last-minute cancellation of Christmas last year, people will want to embrace Christmas 2021 and celebrate more than ever,” adds Barker. “That said, there will be many wanting to toast to the festivities on a tight budget so ensuring you cater for every budget is vital.”

CWF supplies the Casa Gheller Prosecco range, which supports both ends of the sparkling wine market with DOC and DOCG Proseccos as well as Frizzante and Spumante wines to meet value demands. Premium spirits help to drive footfall as shoppers look to trade up to make Christmas and New Year that little bit more special. Perfetto Italian Gin is a premium gin range without the premium price tag.

“Mulled wine is a firm favourite amongst consumers during the festive season and there are several ways to keep your sales consistent over this period,” says Barker. “To capitalise on sales of mulled wine in the run-up to Christmas and beyond, merchandising is imperative. Ensure you capture impulse purchases by stocking near the tills as well as featuring alongside seasonal displays. You should also take care when selecting your mulled wine range – we recommend choices from entry-level through to premium.”

Harvest Fruits Mulled Wine and Winter Warmer are two of CWF’s best sellers. Both can be enjoyed either warm or cold and are blended with the finest ingredients to give a character of subtle cinnamon, clove spices and zesty citrus fruits. Harvest Fruits is 5.5% ABV and Winter Warmer is 8% ABV. Consumers are drinking differently and for different reasons, while the trend for low and no alcohol continues, so it is key to cater for this demographic also.

Matt Saltzstein, Brand Unit Director at Heineken UK comments: “Covid-enforced restrictions heavily impacted group occasions and sizes over Christmas and New Year’s 2020, with many unable to travel home and enjoy usual traditions. Families and friends will look to make up for this in 2021 and with New Year’s Eve falling on a Friday, it will be a huge celebration. This provides an opportunity for retailers to dial up their “Biggest Christmas Ever” messaging to customers and to secure strong sales for Beer and Cider, particularly in the 18-44 market who will be looking to stock up for the occasion.”

With the Low & No category continuing to go from strength to strength, retailers should also remember to stock a strong range of Low & No beverages for people wishing to moderate over the festive period or for the designated drivers who still want to be part of the celebrations.

2020 saw a resurgence of the ‘big shop’ as consumers stocked up on their favourite brands and shopped less often. In the lead up to Christmas, grocery is likely to play a huge role again, as consumers handpick their Christmas essentials, trading up for the occasion and engaging in the excitement of the festive season.

“With Covid restrictions lifting and the robust vaccine roll-out, we anticipate consumers will be feeling optimistic ahead of the festive period, looking to stock up early and take advantage of promotions in the lead up to December,” says Saltzstein. “Retailers should capitalise by publicising trade-up options, added value offers and cross merchandising, to attract customers early and boost sales.”

Heineken is the fastest growing Top 10 mainstream premium lager brand in impulse (Nielsen), delivering 10.7% more sales to each store in 2021 than in 2020. With classic and mainstream beer and cider still accounting for 63% (Nielsen) of the category, getting the basics right by stocking a staple range with brands such as Heineken, Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit is key.

Heineken 0.0 has swiftly become the fastest growing brand in the Low & No segment (Nielsen) and is the number one Low & No Alcohol Beer (Nielsen) in the impulse channel. Heineken 0.0 is the largest value sales growth No Alcohol lager brand in total market in the latest year (Nielsen).

Birra Moretti is one of the fastest growing alcohol brands in the UK off-trade, experiencing a growth of +32% (Nielsen) in the past year in the impulse channel, largely due to consumers’ desire to trade up when buying alcohol, especially when celebrating at home.

Inch’s is Heinken UK’s latest cider – a sustainable apple cider. Made from 100% British apples, grown, and sourced within 40 miles of the mill in Herefordshire, Inch’s has the green credentials to appeal to consumers aged 18-34 who prefer to buy brands that have a social and environmental commitment.

Old Mout, a premium cider, has also been experiencing a high volume of sales. Following on from the success of its Pineapple & Raspberry variant in 2019, which was the number one off-trade cider innovation of 2019, swiftly becoming Old Mout’s best variant in the impulse Channel – worth £2m in the impulse channel in the latest year. Heineken UK expanded Old Mout’s innovative range of fruit flavours in February 2021, with the addition of Old Mout Watermelon & Lime.

Kevin Fawell, Off-Trade Sales Director at Molson Coors Beverage Company, comments: “After a disrupted Christmas period in 2020, families will hope to tuck into their turkey together this year and enjoy all the trimmings that come with the festive period, including parties and cosy nights in.

“One-fifth (18%) of UK adults would prefer to enjoy a beer alongside their Christmas dinner, so stocking up on favourites such as Carling, Coors and Doom Bar can help to drive more sales. It’s also a time for treating yourself, so consider how you can cater to those looking for more premium drinks with options including Aspall Cyder, Staropramen and Blue Moon Mango Wheat.”

Beers, wines and spirits continue to perform ahead of the wider grocery category, increasing in value by 12% (IRI), with both lager and ale in significant growth (IRI).

“It’s important for retailers to ensure they are catering for different tastes and occasions, from single bottles and small packs for those enjoying a relaxed evenings in, to mid-to-large multipacks for those planning gatherings with friends or big social occasions,” adds Fawell.

World beers are a popular choice and the category has remained a key driver of growth in the off-trade, where it continues to track ahead of the overall lager category, seeing a 27% sales increase in the 12 months to March this year (IRI). As a result, brands like Staropramen are increasingly popular, giving people a chance to experiment and explore new tastes. To support this trend, Molson Coors has recently launched a new 6x330ml can multipack across its Staropramen range to tap into the growing demand for multipack formats.

In particular growth has come from more premium brands as shoppers look to trade up. Nearly half (46%) of shoppers are more inclined to trade-up to premium food and drink options when dining at home (Kantar) and, as a result, premium brands are gaining more and more traction.

The super-premium cider category continues to grow, increasing in value by 16% compared to last year (IRI), and the Aspall Cyder range is an ideal choice for retailers looking to make the most of this growing opportunity.

“Low- and no-alcohol options remain a small part of the overall beer and cider category, but one that’s in significant growth,” says Fawell. “As a result, there is an increasing expectation for retailers to offer a distinct low- and no-alcohol section as part of their existing alcohol range. This should include choice in different categories, including lager, cider and ales, to catch the eye of beer and cider fans who are looking for something different.”

With the launch of Doom Bar Zero, Molson Coors now offers drinkers alcohol-free options in lager (Cobra Zero and Bavaria 0.0), cider (Rekorderlig Alcohol Free) and ale (Doom Bar Zero), catering to a host of different tastes.

Doom Bar Zero is the UK’s first widely available 0.0% ABV amber ale, providing a real point of difference for those looking for new low and no options to try. The expert brewing team at Sharp’s worked on the recipe for more than two years and have developed a pioneering brewing method that ensures Doom Bar Zero retains a similar flavour profile and stays true to the style of the successful Doom Bar brand while achieving 0.0% alcohol – significantly more difficult to brew than 0.5%.

Alison Berry, Senior Brand Manager, Seasons & Gifting, Mars Wrigley UK, comments: “As retailers, businesses and manufactures alike will understand, the year 2020 presented an unusual and challenging Christmas. Despite the skepticism around Christmas 2020, from a sales perspective, the retail and confectionary sector saw better-than-expected sales. Likewise, throughout the season, shoppers continued to give gifts to loved ones, with 86% of consumers continuing to gift something special – despite a turbulent Christmas period.

“While the current circumstances remain unpredictable, we know that confectionery remains a staple during the holiday season and have seen it play an ever-important role in providing little moments of joy and pleasure for consumers across the world in recent times.”

Additionally, the arrival of Freedom Day and a successful UK-wide vaccine roll-out, has shed positivity around Christmas 2021.

Kicking off the season is the launch of Maltesers Mint Reindeer. Mint flavour products have rapidly grown +34% over the past year.

Available now in Tub, Pouch and the more special, Centerpiece format, Celebrations are the perfect treat to share with friends and family.

To benefit the environment, the newly designed Celebrations pouch has achieved a 20 per cent plastic packaging reduction.

Following a successful launch, Galaxy Truffles was the number one confectionery NPD for Christmas 2019 and continued to grow in 2020 despite challenges. Now available in Caramel and Orange flavour variants, Galaxy Truffles are set to make a splash for a third year running.

Maltesers Advent Calendar and Galaxy Advent Calendar are also returning to shelves to help consumers count down to the big day.

Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, comments: “Mondelez International – the number one confectionery supplier at Christmas – is once more gearing up to help grocers with their seasonal sales this year. New treats and returning favourites will be in store for the 2021 Christmas season across confectionery and biscuits, from much-loved brands Cadbury, Green and Black’s and Maynards Bassetts.”

One of the fastest growing flavours of the year (Nielsen) in a new form – the all-new limited-edition Cadbury Dairy Milk Winter Orange contains orange nugget inclusions making it a great treat for chocolate orange lovers and a key addition to a retailer’s festive range. The new launch comes with an impactful winter-themed design for strong stand-out on shelf and is a great size for a stocking filler at RRP £1.49 for 95g.

Returning to retailers’ shelves for the first time in nearly 20 years, Cadbury Puds was last on sale in 2003. With its truffle centre, hazelnut and rice crisp pieces covered in the nation’s favourite chocolate (Nielsen), Cadbury Puds are sure to be a hit once again with those looking for a touch of nostalgia. The launch aims to bring new shoppers into the individually-wrapped self-eat category as a great treat, with the occasion on the rise. This is a key launch for the season, with impactful packaging to stand out on shelf and capture shoppers’ attention.

This year Cadbury is introducing an all-new engaging advent calendar, allowing shoppers to build and decorate their very own pop-out Christmas tree throughout the month of December. With every Cadbury chocolate door opened, there’s a festive decoration to add to the pop-up Christmas tree featured inside the pack, with an innovative design for strong stand-out on shelf.


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