Top-up your profits for Christmas!

Coca-Cola truck

With Christmas fast approaching, shoppers are increasingly thinking about stocking up for the hectic festive period and that means a great chance for retailers to cash in on top-up shopping in the final few weeks.


Christmas is looming bigger and bigger on the horizon for shoppers and that means fresh new opportunities for retailers to cash in on top-up shopping as the big day approaches. Many organised customers will no doubt already have begun preparing for the busy festive period, stocking up on all those key products that make Christmas and New Year get-togethers so special – but there will always be things that they forgot, or things that they had already bought but have been tempted to tuck into early.

For retailers, that means ensuring the basics are all in place over the vital next month or so: full availability in key categories and a good range of well-merchandised, easy to find products that will drive footfall, sales and profits this festive period.

Soft options

One of the most important categories of all at Christmas is soft drinks and the major manufacturers have all been busy launching festive packs and new products that will drive sales this year. Note that soft drinks generate double the value of spirits and seven times that of Christmas cakes over the festive period [IRI 2018], further highlighting the importance that retailers should place on the category.

The key to optimising profits, says Barr Soft Drinks, is to stock up on bestselling soft drinks brands and make the most of impactful seasonal POS.

“Soft drinks are increasingly important to retailers in the run up to and during Christmas, showing continuous year-on-year growth for the last three years and adding a huge £150m to the category [IRI, Christmas 2018],” says Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks.

Shoppers are typically willing to spend more over the festive period as a treat, with over a third preferring to shop brands and premium adult drinks, so there is an opportunity to increase sales by widening the choice available to shoppers.

“It’s crucial to get your range right and stock up on those bestselling brands that shoppers will be looking for, in both multipack and larger pack formats, to cater to those preparing for family get-togethers and parties,” adds Troy.

Barr Soft Drinks offers a wide-ranging portfolio of different flavours and pack formats, meaning there’s something to meet the needs of a range of consumers, including the number one Scottish grocery brand Irn-Bru [Kantar, Sep 2019], the Barr Family Range and Bundaberg, a Australian range of craft-brewed, premium non-alcoholic beverages.

Crimbo Juice

Besides Irn-Bru 1901 (see panel), also new this Christmas is Irn-Bru Crimbo Juice, a limited-edition flavour available in 500ml and 2-ltr plain and PMP packs in Scotland only. The ‘Spiced Ginger’ festive flavour features regular Irn-Bru with warming ginger, clove and cinnamon notes.

“Timely NPD of this kind delivers premium value, creates a feel-good factor and opens up profitable new consumption occasions,” says Troy. “In the last year, limited-edition flavours have added almost £190m to the soft drinks category [IRI, Jul 2019] and we are confident that Irn-Bru Crimbo Juice will add excitement to the soft drinks fixture and incremental retailers sales during the festive period.”

Cola, mixers and adult

For Coca-Cola European Partners, Christmas will be all about colas, mixers and adult soft drinks. Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at CCEP, says: “Christmas is a magical time of year for families and friends to get together and celebrate at home with delicious food and drink. Grocery sales increased over the festive period in 2018 with more people buying soft drinks than the previous five years, highlighting that there is growing opportunity for retailers to tap into the Christmas spirit and boost their sales.”

Burgess believes cola, mixers and adult soft drinks offer a huge opportunity as they perform particularly well on the lead up to Christmas. “Cola was the largest contributor to soft drinks growth in Christmas 2018, adding £34m in value. Sales of the Coca-Cola brand grew by 14% during Christmas 2018, delivering more than double the sales of the nearest branded cola competitor.

“This year Coca-Cola will once again be helping drive excitement with festive on-pack graphics featuring the iconic image of the Sunbloom Father Christmas enjoying a bottle of Coca-Cola. These will run across large PET bottles and multi-packs of cans which are perfect for the at home sharing occasion.

“The festive packs will be supported by a multi-million-pound consumer marketing campaign that includes advertising, experiential, digital and PR and of course the return of Coca-Cola’s iconic ‘Holidays are Coming’ advert.”

Mixers & adult soft drinks

In addition to cola, consumers are also looking for ‘special’ drinks that capture the excitement of the holiday season like cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails.

Mixers grew by more than a fifth last Christmas as more people looked to recreate their favourite mixed drinks at home. Schweppes continues to be the nation’s favourite mixer brand. With this in mind, Schweppes Tonic and Schweppes Slimline Tonic 1-litre PET bottles should be considered as must-stocks on the lead up to Christmas alongside alcohol ranges.

“With one in five consumers now saying they don’t drink alcohol, and half of those that do are making an effort to cut down, Adult Soft Drinks are a must, especially during the Christmas period,” says Burgess. “Appletiser helps retailers to offer a sophisticated alternative to alcohol that the growing number of teetotal consumers are happy to drink while others may be enjoying beer, wine or cocktails over the festive period.”

Burgess also highlights a growing trend among consumers to experiment with new variants of their favourite soft drinks. “It is increasingly important to keep an eye out for the latest flavour innovations across a range of different soft drinks formats over the Christmas period,” she says.

“Our Light Cola flavours have also proven extremely popular, and earlier this year we expanded our range further with the launch of two new flavours – Coca-Cola zero sugar Raspberry and Diet Coke Twisted Strawberry, which are now worth £7m.”

Snacking sales

Another key category at Christmas is snacking with savoury snacks in particular growing by an impressive 6% over the last year and the sharing segment in particular is booming with double digit growth of 12%.

Will Kerr, Head of Impulse Category at PepsiCo, says: “As the nation’s favourite crisp brand it’s important that we at Walkers don’t stand still. With insight-driven NPD, we’re tapping into consumer demand to drive long-term savoury snacks category growth and expand our portfolio of popular brands.

“As a business, we remain agile and responsive, a great example of this was the launch of Walkers Max Strong, the top innovation of 2018 in the savoury snacks category , a product developed in response to the rise in sharing occasions and to answer the demand for a perfect snack to complement a pint of beer.”

While Walkers’ range of family favourites maintain their popularity, shoppers are getting more adventurous, looking for bold and exciting flavours when choosing snacks.

Kerr comments: “Off the back of insights such as 45% of UK shoppers are likely to experiment with new flavours, we have expanded our offering across Doritos, Sensations and more. The popularity of the BBQ Pulled Pork and Spicy Sriracha flavours in the Walkers core range has also demonstrated the rewards of listening to consumers, retailers and the wider market trends.”

Due to popular demand, Walkers is also bringing back its Christmas dinner flavours that the nation fell in love with last year. New for 2019, £1 PMP formats join the line-up, available in two of the nation’s favourite festive flavours: Pigs in Blankets and Turkey & Stuffing.

Christmas is the biggest sales opportunity of the year, particularly for the savoury snacks category, worth £645m and growing at 6.5% year on year. Therefore, it’s important for retailers to fill the shelves with the best-selling festive favourites of 2018 from the category leading brand. The return of this range means they can continue to bring some festive magic to retailers’ sales this Christmas.

Everyone loves a Christmas dinner, so the flavours will continue to spark debate surrounding that most contentious of festive accompaniments: the Brussels sprout. Two multipacks will be available again this year, one for the sprout lovers, and the other, for the sprout haters.

Christmas dinner for sprout lovers includes Brussels Sprouts, Turkey & Stuffing and Pigs in Blankets, while Christmas dinner for sprout haters includes Glazed Ham, Turkey & Stuffing and Cheese & Cranberry.

Nick Day, Brand Manager, at PepsiCo, comments: ‘‘The return of the Walkers Christmas flavours comes in response to the buzz and talkability generated last year, and the huge demand from consumers. This year, we are also excited to launch two new £1 PMPs in our most popular festive flavours. We hope to spread the festivity and continue to invite customers to decide whether they’re a #SproutLover or #SproutHater.”

Finally, Walkers is also launching its biggest-ever festive on-pack promotion and marketing campaign with global superstar Mariah Carey, who is the perfect Christmas icon to be the face of the brand.

This festive season marks 25 years after the first release of her song All I Want For Christmas and therefore it couldn’t be a better time to launch the partnership with her, as well as the new packs.

Carey will be centre stage in the new Walkers Christmas TV advert for 2019 and the on-pack promotion will run across the Walkers core range, giving shoppers the chance to win prizes every hour.

Sweet things

Confectionery, of course, is another category that delivers for retailers at Christmas. Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director at Ferrero, comments: “Christmas is a key seasonal trading spike for the confectionery category, and it’s important that retailers stock the right range of quality products to cover every shopper’s needs. That’s why we are providing customers with the right support for them to grow their sales through a winning core range and exciting new products reinforced by a £6.8m investment in consumer support.”

NPD from the company this year is extensive once more with a raft of products under the Thorntons, Ferrero, Raffaello, Kinder and Nutella brands.

Boorer advises: “Christmas is a critical sales period for retailers and despite a year-on-year slowdown in performance in 2018, spend remained up at +1.6%, alongside basket size and frequency increases. Food is an important part of Christmas Day, with quality taking centre stage, so retailers should focus on stocking a good range of the bestselling brands that shoppers will be looking out for. Twenty-nine per cent of shoppers are willing to spend more money on chocolates to get better quality for the occasion. The pursuit for quality is reflected in the overall performance of the confectionery category too, which grew +4%, driven largely by branded products at +2.6%.”

In practice this means promoting a range of advent calendars throughout November to capitalise on demand for those items being very time sensitive leading into December. November is also an important time to drive sales of stocking fillers – everything from selection packs to novelty figures and shapes. Retailers should start to promote stocking fillers from mid-November through until the end of December to take advantage of when seasonal purchases are at their highest. Lastly, Ferrero advises retailers to start promoting larger, premium boxed chocolates in December to make the most of those shoppers looking for the perfect gift.

Cake mix

What would Christmas be without cake? Premier Foods is extending its festive cake range with delicious seasonal additions from its Mr Kipling and Cadbury brands. The new products will be joining the line-up of popular SKUs to help retailers capitalise throughout the Christmas period. The variety of flavours and formats make it the ideal selection for friends and family of all ages.

Mr Kipling will be launching a Mini Mince Pie Selection pack to add more variety to the line-up. The pack features nine mini mince pies, containing three each of: Mr Kipling Deep Filled Mince Pies, Iced Topped Mince Pies and, a new addition especially for the selection pack, Frangipane Mince Pies.

Following the success of Stem Ginger Slices and Candy Cane Slices last Christmas, Mr Kipling is bringing both products back with the addition of Mince Pie Flavour Slices and Reindeer Slices. The Mr Kipling Mince Pie Flavour Slices transform the tastes of the classic mince pie, a Christmas favourite, into an easy-to-eat slice format while the Reindeer Slices provide a combination of chocolate and caramel flavours.

In addition to the new Slices SKUs, Mr Kipling is launching two new small cakes that deliver strong festive flavours, Chocolate Orange Whirls and Irish Crème Fancies. Chocolate Orange Whirls bring a festive favourite into a new format, whilst Irish Crème Fancies look to drive penetration amongst new shoppers and give adults the perfect Christmas treat.

Cadbury is introducing two new Mini Roll flavours – Caramel and Orange – with seasonal packaging to drive excitement over Christmas. Having been the most popular flavours during testing, the products are set to drive penetration and bring incremental growth to the category. Premier Foods is also launching festive Cadbury Caramel Cakes, capitalising on the popularity of Cadbury Caramel – which is worth £60m RSV – using a popular format and helping to increase retailers’ sales at Christmas further.

Chocolate is a leading flavour over the Christmas period, and the new Cadbury cake products sit alongside returning favourites to cater to a wide range of occasions and needs. The returning range has undergone a packaging refresh in line with the confectionary redesign to maximise the brand standout in store.