Getting more out of lunchboxes

There’s always a heightened focus on the lunch occasion as the schools go back, but while food-to-go is growing, there’s no let up for the make at home ‘lunchbox’ occasion, and retailers need to accommodate all age-groups if they are to make the most of the opportunity.

by Kevin Scott

The many categories in your store that pull together to create the ‘lunchbox’ opportunity are diverse, but a willingness to show good category management across all involved can help retailers boost sales, of that there is no question. And at a time when consumers are looking to cut costs, home made lunches are a popular place to start.

We begin this feature then, with the area where most people filling a lunchbox would begin – with the bread used to make sandwiches, and ‘bread’ itself means more than just loaves. Martin Baptie, Warburtons Category Strategy Controller, says: “Our insights tell us that the lunch occasion is currently in growth at 3.9%. We are seeing a particular increase in carry out lunches (lunchboxes) for both children (+2.7%) as well adults (+2%). This could be as a result of continued decreasing consumer confidence in the current turbulent economic climate, which is leading consumers to make lunch at home and take it with them. Along with the unpredictable economy, the trend for lunchboxes could also help to explain the decrease in out-of-home Lunches which we are currently seeing.”

The advice from Warburtons is that retailers should start thinking about the Back to School occasion early to drive demand and interest with consumers. Baptie says: “parents will start thinking about what to include in their child’s lunchboxes before the occasion begins so it is important that key varieties of bread and sandwich alternatives are displayed prior so they can educate their customers to the options available – both traditional and alternative formats from Pitta bread to Square(ish) Wraps and Sandwich Thins.”

As Baptie hints at, it’s not just sandwiches that make up lunchboxes these days and retailers should give a little more space to fast growing sectors such as sandwich alternatives, as this could add incremental sales. Trials have shown that sales of these products can be doubled if you do this, resulting in great overall Bakery sales.

Remember that sandwiches remain a crucial, and growing, part of lunchboxes however, with bread eaten by children at this occasion up 9% in the last two years. 75% of sandwich occasions occur at lunchtime, making bread a must-stock for retailers hoping to help retailers to capture the lucrative lunchbox market.

In particular, white sliced bread remains a consumer favourite and Kingsmill Soft White remains one of the most popular.

The health trend also influences this market and parents keen to provide their kids with healthy options for lunch look to products like Kingsmill 50/50 for lunchbox sandwiches, as it provides the great taste of white bread with half the daily recommended allowance of wholegrain in two slices.

Kingsmill 50/50 is the number one Healthier White brand in Impulse, with 81% share of Healthier White, and the fastest-selling Healthier White bread brand. Retailers should be sure to stock up on broad range of 50/50 SKUs, including rolls, wraps and pockets in order to capitalise on demand for these products.

Healthy components

The health trend can also be applied to the drinks that accompany sandwiches and snacks in the lunchbox, with parents opting for healthier drinks for their children and schools creating lunchbox guidelines. Products such as Robinsons Fruit Shoot My 5  clearly communicates the ‘1 of your 5 a day’ message and Kate Fletcher, Commercial Director – Impulse at Britvic says that Fruit Shoot Hydro is ideal for retailers to stock, as they not only provide a healthier lunchbox solution with hydration benefits, but also satisfy children’s demands for taste and enjoyment.

The Fruit Shoot Hydro range comes in three flavours, Orange & Pineapple, Apple & Raspberry and Blackcurrant and is available individually or in packs of four or eight. The range is made from spring water, with a hint of natural fruit flavour, providing children with a tasty and refreshing drink, which is free from sugar and artificial colours and flavourings.

Fletcher says: “While the main components of children’s lunchboxes are typically chosen by adults, it is important that they are still appealing for children. A children’s soft drink is one designed specifically for kids in both style and size and didn’t really exist before the introduction of Robinsons Fruit Shoot in 2000.”

Coca-Cola Enterprises Scotland Field Sales Director Alan Halliday agrees. He says: “Parents are growing increasingly conscious of what they put in their children’s lunchboxes and health, vitamins and nutrients are still the main focus. Packing lunchboxes full of fruits and healthy snacks, parents are also keen to choose products their children will enjoy the taste of. This often leads families to opt for pure fruit juices or flavoured water variants that appeal to a younger market, whilst also providing them with the relevant vitamins they require.”

From CCE, Capri-Sun offers a range of lunchbox drinks including Capri-Sun Juice Drink and Capri-Sun 100% Pure Juice. The brand has just launched Capri-Sun Mango, which is available in 200ml 10-pack and 200ml 49p PMP single packs

In addition, last year, Capri-Sun extended the breadth of the brand into the flavoured water sector with flavoured still spring water drink Capri-Sun H20+, available in refreshing, Blackcurrant flavour and Apple flavour variants.

Elsewhere, and mums stocking up for the new school term will be targeted by Vimto in a nationwide campaign to promote its lunchbox-friendly Tetrapak cartons.

The brand will launch a national consumer campaign throughout August to promote the 250ml Vimto No Added Sugar ready to drink cartons to drive demand before the key ‘back to school’ season. Vimto will be providing money off coupons on the triple packs through selected major multiple grocers, appearing in back to school editorial plus money off coupons in selected major multiple store magazines and advertising in key mums’ magazine titles such as Prima and Closer to raise awareness and drive sales across all channels.

The campaign will promote Vimto No Added Sugar 250ml cartons as a convenient format for mums to continue to provide their kids with Vimto Still when they return to school, and is an extension of the brand’s summer cordial campaign, which encouraged mums to trial Vimto cordial through nationwide distribution of 26 million 30p money off coupons


Meal deals

As mentioned, the use of meal deals can be a real boon for retailers. Of course, this works better if the customer has no lunchbox, and is simply looking for lunch. In this case using a sandwich and soft drink along with a range of snacks is continuing to be incredibly popular.

Nick Stuart, Commercial Manager at UBUK, says: “Simple things like cross-selling products with meal deals can be easily implemented within any store, regardless of size, making it a key opportunity for all convenience retailers.

For example, this can be done with snacks like McCoy’s, sandwiches and a drink as part of a lunchtime meal deal package. This opportunity to cross-sell products can enable convenience retailers to significantly increase sales but it’s important for them to ensure that any meal deals or promotional offers are clearly sign posted to draw the shoppers’ attention.”

In recent months, United Biscuits has relaunched its Wheat Crunchies brand, along with a new Cheddar & Onion flavour, while the company has added 25% extra weight to its range of handypacks to offer consumers even greater value for money and drive sales for retailers. Available now, the new extra weight packs will be available for the Hula Hoops, Skips, NikNaks, Disco’s and Wheat Crunchies brands.


UB top tips

United Biscuits advises convenience retailers to do the following:


  • Range: Get the range right: consider new trends and products, but ensure that firm favourites and best sellers such as McVitie’s Medley and go ahead!. Consumers want and will buy, big brands they know and trust
  • Bespoke Display: Set up a bespoke lunchbox display to support those packs typically consumed out of home to encourage cross-category purchases. This could be at the front of the store among a refrigerated food-to-go section or within an ambient display offering snacking options to compliment a sandwich, drink or fruit
  • Meal Deals: Promote meal deal solutions across categories to deliver visible value for money and ensure these are signposted well to draw the shoppers’ attention. This could include a sandwich, cereal bar such as McVitie’s Medley or go ahead! and a soft drink.
  • Keep Stocked Up: Ensure shelves are always fully stocked. Empty shelves will undoubtedly result in customers going elsewhere
  • Talk to Customers: Talk to your customers on a regular basis and adapt your range to meet their needs and to give your store a point of difference
  • Formats: For larger stores consider multi-packs so shoppers can stock up for the lunchbox occasion for a whole week.


Taking in treats

In almost every lunchbox, a treat or two will reside with the main meal. Biscuits are a top option here, and there’s no bigger range than the offer from UB. The company says that despite the recession, biscuits and cereal bars continue to prove to be low cost treats for consumers, this means that the lunchtime snacking occasion is becoming an even bigger opportunity for convenience retailers.

Nick Stuart, Commercial Manager at UBUK, says: “Bearing this in mind, it’s extremely important for convenience retailers to stock a range of products that will meet this consumer demand. 44% of consumers are more likely to purchase an item on impulse when price marked so convenience retailers should also stock a range of price marked packs, as they offer visible value for money and attract sales from consumers who are watching their pennies.”

UB has a wide range of cereal bars across its go ahead! and McVitie’s portfolio’s benefitting from 55p price-marked-packs, all of which are available in counter display units making them easy to stock regardless of the size of the store. Products featuring the 55p price-marked-packs include skills from the Go Ahead! and Medley Ranges.


Heinz launches soft drink

A new soft drink, LOL, has been launched by Heinz follow success in Australia and New Zealand. Aimed at teenagers, the lightly sparkling drink is a blend of 75% fruit juice with 25% carbonated water, which can be consumed straight from the can or enjoyed over ice in a tall glass.

LOL was created to offer teenagers a fun and refreshing drink that contains ‘one of your five a day’, as every can has a portion of fruit juice, making it appealing to parents. In addition, the drink contains no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial colours, no preservatives and no caffeine.

With an rrp of £0.99, LOL comes in a single serve 250ml can and is available in O Ranj (Apple and Orange), Razz Bri (Apple and Raspberry) & B Current (Apple and Blackcurrant).

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