Barbecues are continuing to grow in popularity, presenting a sales opportunity for retailers that get a great range in place. Chris Dillon looks at how you can get barbecue sales sizzling.

What's the opportunity?

Last year, more than 115 million barbecues took place, an increase of 8.4% year on year. In the past two decades, barbecue ownership has increased by 20%, proving that the appetite for al fresco dining is as present as ever.

Clare Vintner, customer marketing & field sales management director for Molson Coors, says: “At the slightest hint of sun, Brits will fire up the barbecue. Fifty-two per cent of consumers will have a barbecue this summer.”

The fickle British weather means that barbecue shoppers are well suited to convenience stores. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners, says: “The unpredictability of British weather means that plans to host barbecues are often made at the last minute.” It means the shop nearest their home is likely to get their custom.

Summer means sales uplifts in a number of categories that are relevant to barbecues. Kerry Foods’ chilled range has a sales increase of 10% during the summer, while soft drinks receive a 21% boost.

Adrian Troy, marketing director for AG Barr, says: “Water, juice drinks and other flavoured carbonates all have the biggest summer uplifts.”

If you can encourage your shoppers to host more barbecues this summer, you could see a massive increase in their basket spend during warmer months.

Create unmissable displays

To best promote barbecue products in your shop, you need to put the idea in your shoppers’ minds as they walk around.

This should begin at the front of your store, with a display of disposable barbecues, so they can grab one as they enter and then buy the additional products they need.

Creating a main barbecue-themed display is essential for driving sales. Burgess says: “These displays could have bestselling soft drinks brands stocked alongside burgers, buns, condiments and disposable barbecues.”

The easier you make it for a shopper to grab everything they need, the more likely they are to buy from you. Shoppers that have decided at the last minute to have a barbecue will be in a rush to get cooking before the sun disappears. 

Vintner suggests adding extras like salads, ribs, sauces and tongs to displays to inspire customers to spend more.

It’s important to make sure you are offering a broad range of chilled drinks too, so that shoppers can enjoy them straight away.

Toby Lancaster, category & shopper marketing director at Heineken, says: “Sixty-four per cent of beer and cider trips are for consumption that day so it’s vital for occasions such as barbecues that retailers ensure their chillers are well stocked.”

Barbecue displays are an important piece of summer theatre for your store. To promote barbecue-related products at the chiller, you could place a row of disposable barbecues along the bottom of the chiller, drawing attention the both them and the meat  or drinks in the fridge.

Matt Collins, convenience sales director for KP Snacks, says: “Seventy-nine per cent of shoppers say it would be useful to have commonly purchased products merchandised together.”

Sauces

Ketchup, mayonnaise and salad cream will be key for any barbecue, but to stand out from the competition, you should also stock interesting flavours that tap into trends.

“People are looking to recreate worldwide flavours, the hotter the better,” explains Heather Soutar, sales controller at Baxters Food Group, which produces Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauces.

Grace Foods has taken this trend on board and launched a limited-edition Carolina Reaper Chilli Sauce, which it claims is the hottest sauce ever produced by a mainstream brand.

Nyree Chambers, head of marketing at Grace Foods, says: “In recent years, consumers have become far more adventurous, looking to replicate restaurant dishes at home and seeking out different flavours.”

Look at what the competition is offering and stock products that help you stand out.

Meat and bread

Meat and bread are the main components of any barbecue, so getting this selection right is crucial.

You should have burgers, sausages, chicken and kebab ingredients merchandised together to increase sales.

Catering for vegetarians and vegans can also add to your profits if you have the right shoppers. Mike Chatters, sales director for Lactalis McLelland, says: “It is important for convenience retailers to give their customers choice this summer.” The company has just launched Galbani Mozzarella Grill, which can be heated on a barbecue in two minutes. 

Julian Cooke, head of category management at Quorn, urges retailers not to overlook the meat-free category. “It’s bought by almost nine and a half million shoppers. Most of these are non-vegetarian,” he says.

Charcoal & instant barbecues

You have to offer all solutions for a barbecue. If you don’t then you risk missing out on sales.

Just by making barbecue packs noticeable in store you can inspire shoppers to host one. 

Melanie Higgins, Bar-Be-Quick national account manager, says: “Barbecue fixtures should be stocked with instant barbecues – both regular and larger, ‘party’ sized versions, along with instant lighting charcoal and barbecue accessories.”

The company recently launched a 500g Grab n Grill bag, which can be placed in the barbecue and lit. “It’s essential to stock instant-lighting charcoal, as well as briquettes and lumpwood charcoal,” Higgins explains.

Best snacks for barbecues

Matt Collins, convenience sales director for KP Snacks, says sharing is a key segment for the summer months, especially products in price-marked packs.

“Half of shoppers prefer PMPs as they are reassured they’re not being overcharged and 82% of retailers believe they must stock PMPs.”

Premium snacks also present an opportunity to increase sales and spend at this time as shoppers look to treat themselves. Walkers has recently extended its Sensations range with Japanese Sweet Wasabi & Ginger and Chargilled Steak Chimichurri Crisps, as well as Mango & Red Chilli Chutney Poppadoms.

Summer drinks

You need to stock a strong, chilled range of both alcohol and soft drinks if you want to make the most of customers buying for barbecues over the summer months.

Amy Burgess at Coca-Cola European Partners says barbecues are a staple event of the British summer. “An event centred on food and drink, soft drinks are always high up on the shopping list for consumers, as people look for refreshments while spending the day outside in the sun,” she adds.

In beer, ciders and wines, lighter flavours grow in popularity in the warmer weather, so you should consider extending your range of these flavours to cater for the increased demand.

Toby Lancaster, category & shopper marketing director at Heineken, says flavoured ciders perform well once the weather warms up.

He adds that Old Mout launched 10x330ml packs for its Kiwi & Lime and Passionfruit & Apple flavours last year to appeal to shoppers buying for barbecues.

If you can, pair wines with food in your range. Red wines like Shiraz go well with red meats, while dry white wines go with chicken and fish. Sweet wines and rosé complement fruit salads.

David Mallory, impulse & on-trade channel director for Gallo, says: “Barbecues are much more sophisticated than they used to be. Today’s barbecue will match with a variety
of wines.”

Top Tip

“Drive significant incremental impulse sales when the sun shines with secondary displays merchandised with complementary barbecue products, including a choice of take-home soft drinks.”

Adrian Troy, Marketing director, AG Barr

Retailer Views

“In soft drinks, Orangina is a good seller for us. It’s one of those drinks that has a loyal and devoted following. “It’s definitely a drink that picks up in the summer months. We normally sell a case a week, but when the weather picks up, it goes up to at least a couple of cases a week.  It’s one of those drinks that you really need to stock if you want to offer a really good range and give some diversity to your soft drink offering.”

Aman Uppal, One Stop Mount Nod, Coventry, West Midlands

“We sell a lot of wine, so it made sense for us to have a display of wine with barbecue products over summer. When we have a warm weekend we’ll see sales of charcoal and instant barbecues pick up, but we do get hardcore barbecue fans that have them all the time.

Offering good deals on wine is really important. Our bestsellers in the summer are lighter wines like pinot grigio and well-known brands like Jacob’s Creek. At the moment, we have a New Zealand wine in stock called Mud House, which does really well at £6.99. Our shoppers tell us it’s cheaper than anyone else.”

Gary Eyles, Cabus Spar & Post Office, Preston, Lancashire

Find more ways to increase summer sales with our Month of Summer features.