branded-montage_011The recession might be claiming its retail victims at ten to the dozen but there is one area of the British economy that is set to profit from the financial downturn. Never before has the prospect of at-home summer alfresco living been more appealing. Despite a couple of poor years weather-wise, the summer eating and BBQ market has continued to flourish and is now worth in excess of £6.7 billion, with the BBQ food market alone growing at 10 per cent per annum. And this looks set to rise even further thanks to the growing premiumisation and growth in mid-week BBQs, as consumers turn to the cost-efficiency of their own outdoor ‘kitchens’ this summer.

Indeed over the last few years, the alfresco and BBQ campaign has grown to become the longest and third largest grocery promotional period, representing a significant sales opportunity for major retailers in the UK. So, with the credit-crunch in full swing and no major sporting events to speak of – the Lions tour of South Africa and the Ashes aside – the major multiples now see this sector as a summer lifesaver!

Whilst the UK has previously seemingly always taken its more traditional approach to BBQing from both the Australians and Americans, times have now changed. With Gastro-grilling coming very much to the fore and a desire to live the Mediterranean lifestyle copied from our European counterparts in the likes of Italy, Spain and Greece, us Brits are now exponents of the alfresco living experience in our quest for the sun, and 2009 looks set to be the year for fulfilling that dream. With the dark shadow of El Nino very much behind us, consumers can look forward to putting their BBQing skills to good use, as the 13th Gastro Alfresco campaign gets underway.

According to Brian George, President of the National BBQ Association, “2009 not only marks the continuing evolution of summer alfresco eating, entertaining and drinking into a much broader market but it also highlights the wider and more profound sociological adjustments in consumer lifestyles. As patterns in household expenditure change induced primarily by the credit-crunch, the home once again becomes the centre of family-life as well as a hub of fun and entertainment.  In fact I would even go as far to say that outdoors has become the new indoors and staying in is the new going out!”

This year, the National BBQ Association is once again running the 13th Gastro Alfresco – National BBQ campaign, an annual national celebration of summer alfresco eating, entertaining and BBQing.

Worth nearly £5 million in consumer impacts, the organisers behind the campaign are understandably excited about what this season holds for one of the nation’s best-loved pastimes. As Brian goes on to explain:

“British consumers are increasingly more adventurous and aspirational when it comes to alfresco eating and entertaining. This coupled with the diversity of the food and drink on offer makes for a more sophisticated – yet equally cost-effective – occasion than ever before. And it isn’t just BBQ food, wine and beer, which are benefiting. The sector now covers many other key categories which are playing an integral role in the whole alfresco experience, such as long-summer drinks, snacks, bakery, soft drinks, vegetables and fish as well as desserts and cheese. Plus non-food leisure areas like garden furniture, outdoor heaters and summer music are also providing great sales opportunities for retailers.

“Unsurprisingly, all of the major retailers have recognised that not only has BBQ season become more than just about BBQ’ing but it is now more occasion driven and is as much about the lifestyle as the products that are associated with it. With the credit crunch biting, consumers and retailers are recognising that not only can BBQing provide quick and fun entertainment, but importantly that the whole BBQ and alfresco concept is a cost-effective way of providing great, healthy meals. Latest figures from Mintel back this up too – an average of £3.67 is spent per BBQ occasion in the UK. And best of all, the experience isn’t just confined to the weekend. Over 40 per cent of BBQ occasions are accounted for mid-week, with after-work BBQs becoming one of the top Barbi hot-spots,” concluded Brian.

Now in its 13th highly successful year, the National BBQ Association will be building on the Gastro Alfresco theme first introduced in 2007. The campaign for 2009 will focus on the overall alfresco meal and social occasion and how at home alfresco taps into the consumer desire for a more fun, stylish and fashionable way of outdoor eating and drinking. Building in better budget BBQ options will highlight that staying in is the new going out!

Sponsorship is a fundamental part of the promotion and to reinforce its commitment to driving innovation within the market, the National BBQ Association has attracted some world-famous brands to the 2009 campaign. New for this year is a collaboration with iconic liqueur Grand Marnier as the official Long Summer Drink Partner. This is a very timely association for the brand, which will aim to position Grand Esprit – a refreshing, yet exotic mix of Grand Marnier, elderflower cordial and soda water – as the perfect summer tipple.

A second big brand also teaming-up with the National BBQ Association this year is Fruitiser, as the official Soft Drinks partner. For the duration of the campaign, the Fruitiser range will be heavily involved in all aspects of the activity including two major direct to consumer sampling programmes called the Alfresco Experience Road Show and in store BarbiBooths.

A key promotional aspect of the campaign and the area currently most recognised by the industry and consumers is the 13th National BBQ Week. Running this year from 25 – 31 May, National BBQ Week marks the start of the summer long promotional and sampling activities organised by the National BBQ Association.

Following its launch last year, 2009 sees the return of the 2nd Alfresco Food Fortnight, which will run from 20 July – 2 August. The aim of the campaign is to encourage consumers to continue to enjoy the alfresco lifestyle and experiment with a host of exciting recipes, tips, advice and competitions.

Once again, the 6th Alfresco Experience RoadShow will be taking to the road, even bigger and better than before. This year’s Roadshow will boast a more ‘at home’ look and feel to fit in with the Gastro Alfresco – staying in is the new going out theme and will demonstrate the lifestyle benefits of outdoor eating to consumers.

For further information on the National BBQ Association’s Gastro Alfresco 2009 campaign, National BBQ Week or Alfresco Food Fortnight, log on to:

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