Nielsen insight: Off-trade can reap benefits of ‘missed’ occasions

It’s been just over two months since the on-trade began to reopen.

During this time, Eat Out to Help Out was introduced to encourage people back into cafés and restaurants, and it resulted in 64 million meals being bought under the scheme. While alcohol was prohibited from the discount, it was nonetheless an important factor for the sector and it succeeded in generating footfall back into the on-trade.

However, the overall feeling among shoppers is still nervousness around heading back out to the on-trade.

Though 65% of Brits have said they will likely eat and drink out by the end of the year, this does differ by outlet.

More have already visited a restaurant or a cafe than a pub/bar, with 27% saying they don’t plan to visit a pub/bar for the rest of 2020.

Two of the key reasons for this are that shoppers don’t think the experience will be the same as pre-lockdown and they don’t feel as though they have an occasion or reason to go out.

All this presents a continued opportunity for the off-trade.

We know it has been performing well since the start of lockdown, generating £10.6 billion in value (up £2.4 billion, 30%) – and the reopening of the on-trade hasn’t impacted this, with the-off trade generating £3.7 billion in sales (up £661 million, 21%) during this time.

To capitalise on this opportunity, the off-trade needs to focus on two key elements for the remainder of the year: occasions and experience.

We know the off-trade spikes when activating events such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter.

With many looking to stay in the home for the rest of 2020, tapping into this for the remainder of this year’s calendar events will work well to drive additional revenue for both manufacturers and retailers.

In addition, we are seeing some on-trade establishments revisiting those occasions which were  “missed” during lockdown (eg Mother’s Day) to drive additional footfall.

If the off-trade can engage here and create standalone activations for these “missed” events, this could also be another way to see categories such as Champagne and spirits recuperating some lost sales from earlier in the year.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, is experience. With 36% of Brits worried the experience in the on-trade will not be the same, brands have a huge opportunity to help shoppers create the on-trade experience they once enjoyed in the home, with guidance on interesting ways to serve drinks.

This doesn’t just apply to spirits categories as experiences with serves can be shared across beer, cider, wine and Champagne.

As with the importance of creating occasions, brands must think about how they can activate in-store and online to excite and inspire shoppers to create on-trade experiences in the home, thinking bigger than just glassware and garnish and including food pairings, day-specific moments and seasonal activations.

Retailers should look to excite shoppers and build on the successes seen in the year to date, to bolster off-trade sales right through to 2021.

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