When the Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20th, Brits across the land will be pulling on their rugby shirts to support their team in style and cheering them on with a song or two and a drink or several. And it’s not just the blokes either – these days Rugby appeals to pretty much everyone. It adds up to a hefty sales opportunity all round for supermarkets.

With the last Rugby World Cup reaching an average audience of 789 million viewers worldwide, the tournament is in Japan this year, the first time it’s been hosted by an Asian country. With the Japanese setting the Rugby World Cup is the perfect cue for selling Japanese snacks, says Jessica Davies, Communications Manager at Ajinomoto Foods Europe, who make Japan’s number one Gyoza bar snacks, which are traditionally served as bar snacks and enjoyed alongside beer while watching sporting events. Ajinomoto Foods Europe, producer of Japan’s number one Gyoza, offers five savoury Gyoza flavours including Chicken and Vegetable, Pork, Duck, a vegan 5 Vegetable with spinach pastry, and Prawn, along with one sweet flavour, Apple.

The biggest rugby tournament on earth, the Rugby World Cup comes around just once every four years, says Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director for HEINEKEN UK, so sales during and leading up to the event are set to be significant, with customers stocking up for the sporting celebration:

“As such, this presents a key opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the rise in demand. However, with the event hosted in Japan the majority of matches will take place early in the day in the UK, when an alcoholic drink may not be appropriate. As such, the Rugby World Cup presents a strong opportunity for unlocking value in the No and Low alcohol category, with customers wanting a great tasting beer to feel part of the occasion, but without the alcohol.”

For those catching up on the matches in the evening, and therefore able to drink, premiumisation is also a continuing trend that shows no signs of slowing. With shoppers increasingly looking to trade up for a treat at home, Toby Lancaster says brands like Heineken and Old Mout are perfect for retailers to stock to cater for those rewarding moments customers are seeking. With 28% of shoppers looking to secure a better-quality experience, the trend has really accelerated over the last year driven by a broader range of quality premium beers and ciders emerging on the market.

The Beer and Cider category is in a healthy state and is currently in +7% MAT value growth in the impulse channel. Beer is at +8% and Cider at +4% MAT value growth. Several factors are driving this growth, says Toby Lancaster, but one of the most promising is the increased demand for premium products. Identified as the We’re Worth It driver in HEINEKEN’s category advice Greenpaper, bolstering the premium options in store is critical to both maximising sales and ensuring the category’s success.

“Recently premium brands have flourished,” Toby explains, “as customers have increasingly looked to trade up to more premium offerings to treat themselves at home, so retailers must take stock to ensure they can provide products to suit these changing requirements.”

Regarding premium brands, one of the fastest growing alcohol brands in the UK off trade, Birra Moretti has experienced +127% growth in the past year, largely due to customers’ growing expectations of a strong food and drink offering in stores, as they look to create a more quality experience at home.

The Cider category is also in a very healthy state and experiencing 4% value growth in Impulse. Mainstream flavoured cider is in +11% growth. With the appetite for flavoured cider and premium apple alternatives on the rise, Strongbow is evolving with the landscape. Strongbow Dark Fruit is the number one Mainstream Flavoured Cider brand in the category and experiencing +19% growth. Premium Flavoured Cider is currently in +13% growth. Old Mout continues to go from strength to strength, currently sitting at +43% growth and worth +£7m to the offtrade.

No, Low and Gluten Free Beer category is another area that has boomed in the last year. Driving the growth is Heineken 0.0, the fastest growing brand in the segment with 236% growth in the last year. In January Heineken 0.0 fronted its biggest Dry January Campaign yet. Demonstrating our continued investment in the category, we recently launched Birra Moretti Zero into the off-trade. Appealing to those who want alcoholfree beverages within meal led occasions, Birra Moretti Zero follows in the footsteps of Heineken 0.0 and Old Mout Alcohol-Free.

In the premium beer category, HEINEKEN have also rolled out a redesign of their Desperados brand. With the brand continuing to go from strength to strength, with 24% value growth, the latest design evolution continues the brand’s growth, as well as enhancing visibility and range navigation, resulting in a significant increase in purchase intent. HEINEKEN UK is set to invest £5m into the brand, enhancing media visibility by 50% compared with 2018.

Wine is a major part of the Beer, Wine and Spirits category, which is in 3.9% annual value growth and 2.2% volume growth in multiple grocers, highlighting consumer willingness to spend on categories that provide enjoyment and following the current trend of drinking less, but better. Total Still Wine’s growth is driven by Hardys, the UK’s number one wine, says Andrew Nunney, Category, Shopper and Insights Director at Accolade Wines, who market Hardys in Britain.

For best results over the Rugby World Cup period, Andrew Nunney says retailers should ensure wines are merchandised next to appropriate food choices in the right pack formats to maximise impulse sales. Hardys 50cl bottles are an ideal accompaniment with food products associated with watching sports at home, such as BBQ meats or snacking. Also, with the Rugby World Cup starting in the summer, temperatures should be higher so putting wines in the chiller is essential: “Keep popular brands such as Hardys, Echo Falls White Zinfandel and Mud House New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc chilled to encourage purchase from consumers who will drink soon after buying,” says Andrew.

Brands like Hardys, the UK number one brand and official sponsor of English cricket, which is strongly associated with sport and trusted for everyday drinking, should be stocked and displayed in eye catching areas. Hardys has premium tiers that are perfect for these times of the year and should be linked to encourage trade up to brands such as William Hardy.

Events when people are socialising and watching sport such as the rugby, will be occasions when they are looking for good quality, good value wines to share with friends and family. Cross category merchandising linking wine to products associated with watching summer sports at home, such as BBQ meats or snacking, can remind shoppers of your range and raise intrigue.

Retailers can try signage such as ‘Great for the Rugby’ and ‘Specially Selected Rugby Wines’ to drive visibility and connection between the sport and these products will inspire impulse purchasing and increase the shoppers’ overall basket spend.

On the spirits front, Accolade Wines has launched a new rosé wine and gin fusion under its second largest brand, Echo Falls. The new style joins Accolade’s best-selling portfolio of wine, fruit fusions and vodka in response to gin’s booming popularity, growing at an annual 47.6%. Echo Falls spirit fusion is made by blending the brand’s highly popular rosé wine with a gin infusion and summer fruit flavours, with a 9% ABV. This spirit infused wine combines Echo Falls’ much-loved qualities with the latest drink trends, creating a sales opportunity throughout the summer.

Accolade Wines is also launching a new Summer Berries Pink Gin in its Echo Falls portfolio in response to the gin boom, in a category growing 43.4% year on year. Echo Falls’s At 37.5% ABV, Summer Berries Pink Gin respond to gin’s huge popularity, particularly the coloured and flavoured gin subcategory.

Echo Falls Summer Berries Pink Gin follows the hugely successful launches of Echo Falls Rosé Wine & Gin Fusion earlier this year and Echo Falls Summer Berries Vodka in 2018. The launch will be supported with five delicious new drink recipes, featured across wider consumer PR, digital and social on Echo Falls’ channels.

Staying with spirits, there’s a growing choice these days, with blended malts getting lighter bodied and low and no alcohol spirits growing in popularity as an emerging and burgeoning category, says Ifan Jenkins, Marketing Director for William Grant & Sons UK. William Grant’s Monkey Shoulder was made for mixing, which is why it tastes so good with other ingredients that drinkers want to be more adventurous with and is proving to be a winning combination for new and seasoned whisky drinkers.

Low and no alcohol spirits are growing rapidly, with many new entrants coming into the market. “Inspired by the more mindful choices of today’s consumer, we have also recently launched Atopia, available in two distinctive flavours, Spiced Citrus and Apple Blossom. The liquid was created by Lesley Gracie, Master Distiller at William Grants & Son and is mindfully made from natural distillates, flavours and extracts to create an ultra-low alcohol spirit bottled at 0.5% ABV. With Atopia we have created an accessible yet special flavour profile to elevate the moderated drinking experience, allowing people to drink exceptionally.”

The Rugby World Cup presents a massive beer and cider sales opportunity for retailers, especially if it is accompanied by warm weather, says Araminta Karol, Assistant Brand Manager at Brookfield Drinks. “The football World Cup helped store sales see a huge uplift and though the impact isn’t expected to be as considerable, retailers should still make the most of this new opportunity. Categories expected to fare best include beer and cider. Local products and patriotic brands are bound to be desirable as shoppers support their countries of choice.”

As England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales have all qualified for the Rugby World Cup, retailers have a great opportunity to create themed displays and interesting POS in store to engage shoppers and encourage additional impulse purchases. Brands such as Brookfield Drinks’ Kestrel awardwinning lagers are recommended for Scottish themed events. Born in Scotland and crafted using the Holy Brewing Method, Kestrel offer a range of premium, canned beers that offer an award-winning, quality brew at good value for money.

Ale is also often popular with rugby fans, says Araminta. The newly released Lionheart Artisan Ale is a traditional ale crafted with a modern twist to appeal to today’s ale consumers, bringing in craft elements but offering a traditional flavour profile which incorporates sweet gale and uses open fermenters in the 12th-century inspired brewing process. Hand crafted at a microbrewery, says Araminta Karol, Lionheart is popular with both craft and traditional ale drinkers. Generally, alcohol sees an uplift in consumption when major sporting events are active, as consumers look to enjoy the occasion with special items including snacks and often buy larger quantities to enjoy with friends.

The biggest single driver of incremental cider sales in the off trade was the World Cup, says Darryl Hinksman, Head of Business Development at Weston’s Cider, so the Rugby World Cup should have a similarly positive effect:

“The weeks when England were active in last summer’s World Cup delivered off trade cider volumes 42% above average for the year. The peak week for cider volumes for the entire year was the week ending 30th June, where England played both Panama and Belgium, helping to drive off trade cider sales 59% above the weekly average.”

In the on trade the picture is the same, says Darryl: “The World Cup also helped deliver some of the best performing weeks in the on trade. This is even more apparent when you look at the top 10 best performing days for draught cider in this sector.”

Operators should follow a “right brand, right outlet” approach, where the packaged cider’s positioning is reflective of the outlet’s positioning. Today’s cider marketplace offers a “near endless choice,” permitting operators to fine-tune their offering to what their customers want.

Finally, it’s also helpful for retailers to be aware of what cider drinkers see as the different strength categories. A low alcohol content cider is any cider between 0.5% and 3.9% ABV: a medium alcohol content cider is any cider between 4% and 5.9% ABV: a high alcohol content cider is any cider above 6% ABV.

Still on drinks, as product quality advances, the alcohol-free sector is an increasingly attractive option for today’s health-conscious consumers. Andrew Turner, Director of Wine for Halewood Wines & Spirits, which manufactures Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine, says:

“Warmer summer weather naturally sees shoppers reaching for the drinks chiller, so retailers will be looking to capitalise on Britain’s bursts of good weather to maximise basket spend and impulse buys. The opportunity this summer is even greater though, with the Rugby World Cup tournament adding to the social calendar for many. This means that wholesalers need to be ready to provide what their customers are looking for.

“World Health Organisation data found Britons are on average drinking less alcohol, with consumption falling from 12.6 litres of pure alcohol a year per adult in 1990 to 11.4 litres in 2017. Just over one in 10 of us say they are looking to cut down their alcohol consumption. And while most are doing this by simply drinking less, some are turning to low or no-alcohol products, with the ONS reporting drinking rates at their lowest in 18 years.

“This move towards conscious lifestyle choices will be key – especially with a huge sporting event. Those reducing alcohol intake will not simply stop attending social events but at the same time, consumers don’t want to be increasing their calorie intake or feel excluded from any occasion. This presents the industry with a huge opportunity for low and no alcohol beverages.

“The public demand a full range of alcohol-free drinks with a premium feel, a grown-up alternative that won’t have a negative impact on their waistlines. What was previously seen as something only for designated drivers or pregnant women has now developed into a popular lifestyle choice, which has created an increase in consumers who are on the lookout for options that do not compromise on taste or quality.

“This is one of the reasons Eisberg is experiencing such growth, as our wines are made in the same way as all highquality wines, allowing us to retain the vibrant, fruity flavours, even after the alcohol has been removed. They are also low in calories, with less than 33 calories per glass.”

Britons spent £48 million in the 12 months to April on low or no-alcohol wines and non-alcoholic spirits, a market only three years old, is now worth £5 million. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said the low-alcohol wine and beer market had increased ‘ten times since 2009 and the wider and non-alcoholic spirit alternatives are following suit’.”\

“The best hosts,” says Andrew Turner, “are the ones that ensure all their guests are included in all occasions, and can enjoy a drink without worrying about their diet or health – this includes developing alcohol-ree cocktails. The most popular of these is Mon Petit Cherie – it consists of 15ml lemon juice, 125ml of Eisberg’s Alcohol-Free Sparkling Rose and cherry syrup reduction.”

Eisberg has a range of cocktail recipes to offer on the website, shared via social media channels and its involvement with other sporting events, such as the OVO Energy Men’s and Women’s Tour of Britain and the Tour de Yorkshire has seen us driving trial across the country to familiarise customers with the range.

80 minutes plus of nail-biting Rugby action calls for no-fuss foods to slot in the oven and pick at throughout the match, says Shah Khan, Senior Marketing Manager, UK & Ireland at Aviko, the frozen potato specialists. “Add to this the probability that consumers will be watching the matches with groups of friends and family and frozen potato sides will be your ‘food of the match’.”

With consumers demanding choice, quality and added-value, says Shah, Aviko’s range of frozen potato sides help retailers hit the mark:

“Retailers have a real opportunity to inspire shoppers with such meal solutions in store. Giving shoppers a great in-store experience and offering inspiration for match-nights will not only drive higher value basket spend, it will also drive customer loyalty longterm.”

To touchdown and score big time in Rugby World Cup season, Aviko recommends stocking the following core frozen categories:

• Chips and added value potato products – these are essential products to stock as they are the perfect accompaniment and sides to a variety of ‘treat’ and shareable meals, ideal for group-nights-in in front of the match. Make sure you stock oven chips, sweet potato fries, diced potatoes, hash browns and gratins

• Pizzas – always great meal solutions for group occasions

• Burgers – provide each consumer with a base in which to personalise their meal

• Frozen Desserts

It’s going to be warm in September, so barbeques will be a major part of the Rugby World Cup experience, says David Craig, marketing manager at Baxters Food Group, which licenses Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces in the UK:

“The timing of the Rugby World Cup means barbecues are likely to be a popular and convenient way to host guests for big games. Consumers are continuing to buy into the experience of casual, American-style outdoor dining.

“The public are demanding more from barbecues as they continue to be inspired by their favourite dining experiences and trips abroad. They are looking for premium options that will add excitement to their dishes and work with their meals as more than just a side of plate addition. This trend has naturally elevated the British barbecue repertoire from the standard burger and sausage into an altogether more gourmet experience – they are no longer content with simply the traditional red or brown sauce and instead are adding to their baskets more exotic, spicier flavours.

“Millennials are also impacting the consumer landscape, buying into brands who they consider premium and who have an authentic brand story. As many as three in five millennials don’t plan meals in advance, so convenience and inspiration are key to the buying process. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Barbecue Glaze remains a best-seller for its versatility and bold flavour.

“We support our stockists by providing a range of simple, but effective recipes on our website in order to provide inspiration to kings and queens of the grill. The Jack Daniel’s BBQ Sauce newsletter also highlights occasions such as the upcoming Rugby World Cup to put our products front of mind for sporting hosts this summer.”

“It’s a different BBQ experience in 2019 and we will be there, educating and inspiring consumers with recipes and cooking hacks that elevate their repertoire on the grill or bringing the smokey grill flavour indoors.

“This is a key season for the brand and consumer choice is key. As such, we’re supporting the brand across our entire current range. That includes Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Barbecue Glaze, Smokey Sweet Barbecue Glaze, Smooth Original Barbecue Sauce and Full Flavor Smokey Barbecue Sauce, to ensure that there’s an option for everyone.”

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