The past few years have enhanced the barbecue season in the UK. It’s starting earlier and lasting longer and that’s not because we’re suddenly getting the weather, but because circumstances during the pandemic have driven al fresco dining.

This shift in consumer habit is here to stay and the summer ahead has a series of bumper opportunities for wholesalers, as celebratory events, such as the Queen’s Jubilee, will see people flocking to barbecues and street parties all summer long.

“Looking at data from last year, it’s clear to see that there is enormous opportunity in barbecue season and the rolls category really comes into its own,” comments Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre Groupe. “In the 12 weeks to August ’21, sales in rolls increased by £20 million. Burger buns alone, added an additional £10 million to the category during the summer months which delivers a clear message to wholesalers. Merchandise to maximise those sales. Give popular products more than one-facing; offer good, better and best options to cater to the trend for premiumisation and consider long-life options to help navigate unpredictable weather.”

Since 2019, the UK has seen sales of rolls rise by £70 million, which means the nation has consumed an extra 300 million rolls compared to pre-pandemic. Being prepared for another bumper barbecue season is key to success for wholesalers this year.”

The St Pierre brand grew in wholesale by 49 per cent last year, matching and exceeding the peak sales brought about at the onset of the pandemic.

“Summer 2021 was less restricted than summer 2020, yet sales were still up,” says Louise Reynard, Commercial Manager at St Pierre Groupe. “This demonstrates that wholesalers need to be prepared for further increase in sales as the country comes out of lockdown for summer 2022.”

The St Pierre core range includes Brioche Burger Buns, Seeded Brioche Burger Buns, Brioche Hot Dog Rolls and Sliced Brioche Loaf and these products now account for 91 per cent of wholesale figures – up from 89 per cent in 2020.

In addition, St Pierre Brioche Burger Buns are now worth more than £5m to the sector and are the second best-selling product in wholesale bakery. The seeded variant in particular drove growth for the brand in wholesale last year, with sales doubling in the last 12 months.

“Savvy wholesalers will look at where growth is coming from and ensure they are merchandising in line with demand,” adds Reynard. “As a brand, we will be providing stand-out branded casing and marketing campaigns that will help to further brand awareness. An increase in brand awareness helps to drive margins for retailers and operators too, whilst our longer shelf life protects them from wastage in a season that typically has peaks and troughs.”

Having spent two years in lockdown, everyday consumers are now routinely trading up on bakery staples. Those hosting barbecues want to impress and offering an upgrade to standard bakery – such as through St Pierre brioche – is one way to ensure they do so.

Baker Street’s core products – which include the Drive Thru Range of Original Burger Buns and Classic Hot Dog Rolls – now account for 92 per cent of the brand’s wholesale figures, an increase of 4 per cent on 2020.

Classic Hot Dog Rolls were Baker Street’s top-performing wholesale product last year, growing by 22 per cent and being bought by 45,000 customers, thanks in no small part to a bumper barbecue season.

Baker Street’s products benefit from extended life that guarantees availability and reduces wastage for retailers and operators alike, which is key to the brand’s success in the wholesale sector.

Matthew Grenter, Sales Manager, Brioche Pasquier, comments: “The pandemic changed the way we live in so many ways, but perhaps one positive outcome was the amount of time we spent outdoors. There were long periods when the only legal way to meet with friends and family was in the open air, and come rain or shine, many of us took to our gardens and open spaces to enjoy social contact.”

Gazebos, pizza ovens, barbecues and fire pits became garden desirables, and many families created cosy outdoor areas that they could enjoy in cold weather as well as warm. The trends for growing your own, chicken keeping and having a dog also took people outside in all weathers, and many enjoyed the benefits of fresh air and exercise that these hobbies bring.

“Two summers on, it is very likely that people will continue to enjoy their outside spaces and that cooking and entertaining outside will remain popular pastimes,” adds Grenter. “BBQ will continue to be an important product area for wholesalers, but the season has become much longer. No longer a focus on the two month July/August window, an outdoor eating section will now attract customers from April to October.”

Brioche Pasquier Brioche Rolls are consistently high sellers throughout the year and in the summer they are particularly popular as the ideal roll for a hot dog. The soft and slightly sweet rolls are a perfect carrier for the smoky flavours of barbecued sausages.

“With the prolonged season for bbq wholesalers should be prepared to set aside an outdoor entertaining section which opens in April and is in situ until the end of September,” suggests Grenter. “This area can bring together all the products required and set the scene for customers, featuring everything from the bbq’s themselves to paper plates, re-usable plastic glasses and napkins.”

When it comes to food, a chilled section for seasoned and prepared bbq meats and vegetables is a good and well-established idea, but the same can work for ambient products too.

“There are many products that are required to make the perfect summer occasion,” adds Grenter. “Bring together sauces, snacks, soft drinks, condiments, dips and of course, bread products like Brioche Pasquier Brioche Rolls. Don’t forget sweet items too such as wafers and sprinkles for making ice cream sandwiches, and Brioche Pasquier PITCH snack brioche.

“Putting these items together will ensure that nothing is forgotton and prompt impulse purchases on associated items that may not have been sought out in the wider store.”

Sunny Mirpuri, Director for Wholesale & Convenience, Budweiser Brewing Group, comments: “As of July 2021, BBQ occasions had grown by a significant 26% over two years, likely driven by the boom in at-home occasions that came as a result of pandemic restrictions (Kantar). This year, we believe BBQ occasions will be more prominent than ever as the warm weather and Queens Jubilee bank holidays entice consumers to gather with friends and families.”

Beer has long played a key role in the BBQ occasion, last year, there were 60.3m off-trade packaged beer serves at BBQs and picnics (Kantar).

“So stocking up the right range of beers will be key for stores’ success,” says Mirpuri.

The Budweiser Family grew 29% YOY last year (Nielsen) due to numerous brand activations around its sponsorship of the England Men’s team and BBQ campaigns. Another busy year is planned for Budweiser, with a summer of BBQ activations planned to help retailers drive sales throughout the summer months.

Corona is also performing well, sales grew by 55% since 2019 (Nielsen). Success of the brand in the convenience channel has been driven by its 12pk 330ml bottles, which grew +20.1% vs last year in value (Nielsen).

Containing 95 calories per can and 4% ABV, Bud Light Seltzer is a great option for those looking to maintain a balanced lifestyle while enjoying their BBQ.

“We have seen consumer moderation grow, with a fifth (20%) of consumers saying they have been drinking less,” adds Mirpuri. “As friends and families get together for BBQs, retailers need to cater for a wide range of drinking preferences for summer socialising. Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois Alcohol-Free, have seen double digit growth since launching, making them a great choice for stores looking to provide shoppers with alcohol-free alternatives of their favourite beers.”

Kevin Fawell, Off-Trade Sales Director at Molson Coors Beverage Company, comments: “The summer season is an important opportunity for wholesalers to grow their sales as more people look to make the most of the warmer weather with outdoor events, picnics and garden parties, all of which lend themselves to being accompanied by refreshing drink options.”

Core lager can be overlooked among all the new innovations in the market, but it still accounts for 23% of total off trade lager sales (IRI).

“Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between inspiring shoppers with a wide selection of exciting premium and flavoured options alongside best-selling core lines,” adds Farwell.

As the number one lager brand in Great Britain (IRI), Carling is the ideal option and is a trusted brand retailers look for to help drive sales.

Coors is now worth almost £320million in the UK (IRI) and the brand has undertaken a full refresh – including switching from Coors Light to ‘Coors’ – as part of a multimillion-pound investment to drive growth in the premium 4% category.

The cider category continues to evolve with new flavours and varieties to meet changing tastes and trends. Molson Coors has noticed a shift towards more refreshing flavours, with citrus ciders in volume growth during the past twelve months (IRI). Last year Molson Coors launched Rekorderlig Pink Lemon, which is ideally placed to cater to this trend with a light, crisp citrus flavour with a hint of raspberry, reminiscent of a pink lemonade – ideal for a hot summer’s day.

“Premium fruit ciders remain a key part of the cider category and are worth more than £250m to retailers (IRI), so making sure there is a broad range of options, from berry-flavoured favourites like Rekorderlig Strawberry-Lime, to tropical and citrus varieties, including Rekorderlig Mango & Passionfruit and Rekorderlig Watermelon-Citrus, is key,” says Farwell. “Indeed, tropical and citrus ciders have both seen volume growth during the past twelve months (IRI).”

The super-premium cider category is also in growth (IRI), with products like Aspall Cyder proving increasingly popular as a result.

Hard seltzer sales have increased in value more than eight-fold in the space of twelve months in the UK (IRI), as consumers and retailers alike embrace this rapidly growing entrant to the RTD market.

Molson Coors got into the category early through an exclusive distribution partnership with premium hard seltzer brand Bodega Bay last year, and this year expanded its presence by launching Three Fold, a new brand with mainstream appeal which taps into the growing hard seltzer opportunity in the UK. Three Fold comes in three fruity variants – Red Berries, Tropical and Citrus – and is naturally vegan and gluten free, containing 93 calories per 330ml can.

“World beers continue to increase their volume share of the beer category as consumers look to expand their horizons beyond the traditional options on the shelf,” adds Farwell. “Retailers’ ranges should cater for this and include a variety of international beers such as Staropramen and Cobra.”

Volume sales of Staropramen are up more than 50% in retail (IRI), with its unique hoppy, malty flavour providing a point of difference that appeals to consumers. Due to its growing popularity, Molson Coors launched a new 6x330ml can multipack across its Staropramen range last year, tapping into increasing demand for multipack formats.

Ben Blake, Head of Marketing – EMEA – Treasury Wine Estates, comments: “Format and convenience are vital, especially during the summer months when consumers will be spending more time outside. To maximise sales, retailers should consider stocking a wide range of formats in different flavours, from recognised brands on shelves.”

Due to the ongoing popularity of Blossom Hill Gin Fizz, the brand introduced an RTD format to fit into the ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle consumers have fast adopted.

Value sales of wine cans are steadily increasing and grew 177.9% in the last year.

19 Crimes introduced a premium bag-in-box format last year, which brings convenience and quality to summer sipping consumers. It holds two bottles (1.5L) of wine and can be savoured for up to six weeks once opened, making it ideal for hosting multiple occasions throughout summer or taking along to a BBQ party. The box is also sustainable and more environmentally friendly than transporting glass bottles.

“Cross-merchandising provides added value throughout the year,” adds Blake. “Over the summer months placing wine next to food appropriate for summer occasions, such as crisps and snacks, will help to encourage consumers to increase basket spend.”

Signposts also have standout shelf appeal and are a good way to inspire drinks choices and guide customers through ranges.

“It is important for wholesalers to consider the increased demand for millennial focused brands as consumers look to try new varietals and formats,” says Blake. “19 Crimes continues to be popular in the category, with +91% volume and +88% value growth vs this time last year (Nielsen), and as the UK’s #1 millennial wine brand (Nielsen), we can firmly say that flavours are a key driver for this audience when it comes to discovering new wines.” The range includes 19 Crimes Red Wine, 19 Crimes Rosé and 19 Crimes Chardonnay, with the red also in a Bag-in-Box format.

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) introduced Blossom Hill Gin Fizz (8.5% ABV) to consumers in 2019. The sub-brand category product is made up of a sparkling blend of crisp white wine, botanical infused water, and a dash of gin – flavours include Rhubarb, and Blood Orange. Introduced within the Blossom Hill portfolio, Gin Fizz not only responds to increasing consumer demand for new and exciting products in the wine space, it has also been developed to recruit new consumers to the wine aisle.

Treasury Wine Estates’ #1 UK Millennial Wine Brand (Nielsen), 19 Crimes, introduced a new variant to its range last summer, 19 Crimes Rosé (13.5% ABV). This dry-style rosé, features lifted red berry flavours and a slight floral note, and finishes with sweet spice. Encased in a unique bottle design, it features AR technology on-pack with 19 Crimes’ new roguish character, Robert Cranston coming to life via one of TWE’s famous Living Wine Labels.

Brand loyalty remains important to consumers especially within the wine category. Even though more people have become open to trying new flavours and products, over half of consumers (60%) state that brands are important to them when making their wine selection – this is even higher for males under 35 at 70% (Wine Intelligence).

“It would be advisable for wholesalers to stock a selection of well-known brands such as Blossom Hill, which was the 6th largest impulse brand in 2021, in order to continue to feed the appetite for consumer brand loyalty,” suggests Blake. “Even though brand awareness remains the highest priority when purchasing wine, other important cues continue to be grape variety and country of origin.”

TWE also launched its first multi-country of origin wine range into the UK, Squealing Pig. The portfolio of six wines is sourced from some of the most iconic regions across the Old and New World. Unique and quirky in nature, Squealing Pig offers consumers the chance to discover wines from Australia, New Zealand, France, Argentina and Italy all under one brand.

Lauren Priestly, Head of Category Development, Off Trade at Diageo, comments: “This summer, wholesalers can drive sales through carefully stocking a range of drinks that are synonymous with the summer months, which allows retailers to inspire their customers to enjoy great-tasting drinks at home. White spirits are often synonymous with summer, as they lend themselves to popular drinks such as spritz serves. With this in mind, wholesalers may want to consider stocking gin and vodka options to maximise their profitability.”

Gin has been a key player for some time and will continue to be a must-stock in 2022, especially as people opt for mixed drinks such as G&Ts and other spritz serves during the warmer months.

Stocking a good variety of gins, from London Dry to wider variants will be key.

“Innovation is driving exploration of the category, so we recommend providing a variety of gin options with different taste profiles to inspire consumers to try something new,” adds Priestly. “To encourage exploration, it’s worthwhile leveraging well-established gin variants, such as Gordon’s Premium Pink Gin (37.5% ABV), which was the most successful new spirits product development in Great Britain in the last decade (Nielsen).”

The vodka category has also been evolving, with flavoured vodka in particular having experienced the fastest growth within the category (Nielsen), and recent innovations from Smirnoff, the world’s number one vodka brand, cater perfectly to this trend. The new innovations include Smirnoff ‘Raspberry Crush’ and Smirnoff ‘Mango & Passionfruit Twist’,and offer consumers the option to create simple but effective twists on classic spritz serves that can be enjoyed this summer.

The whisky category, and whiskey-based spirits drinks, remain incredibly dynamic due to consistent innovation and brand evolution. In recent years whisky has become increasingly appealing to a wider consumer audience who enjoy exploring new ways to experience the liquids. Whisky is now considered a versatile liquid which is an accessible drinks option for consumers during the summer in the form of highball cocktails.

Haig Club’s latest innovation Haig Club Mediterranean Orange is an expertly crafted spirit drink, delivering a distinctive blend of fresh-tasting and juicy marmalade orange flavours, infused with orange blossom extract and the signature scotch whisky notes of Haig Club Clubman.

The rum category (which includes rum-based spirit drinks) is particularly popular during the warmer months of the year and can be used in numerous great-tasting yet easy to execute serves.

“Whilst it’s important to maintain classic staples such as spiced variants, wholesalers can inspire their customers to try new drinks by leveraging well-known brands,” says Priestly. “Captain Morgan, for example, is the number one driver of growth in rum-based spirit flavour innovations, therefore stocking the likes of Captain Morgan Spiced Gold alongside innovations such as Captain Morgan Tiki and Captain Morgan Sliced Apple can encourage exploration of the category.”

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