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For many consumers in the UK, summer 2021 began as a washout. Unlike the sunny, warm weather throughout the spring and summer of 2020 – which saw the season dubbed a “BBQ summer like no other” by the AHDB – this year has been more damp and grey by comparison.
Yet consumers are still spending big on barbecues. Personal finance experts at money.co.uk expect shoppers will spend a whopping £258.3m, or £51 per person per barbecue, this year. And thanks to easing restrictions, research by Primula found that 60% of those surveyed had plans to socialise this summer, with 45% looking to fire up the grill with family and friends.
With staycations plus sporting events such as the rescheduled UEFA European Football Championship and the Olympics boosting the likelihood of outdoor gatherings, retailers still have a prime opportunity to help consumers elevate BBQs this year and to learn lessons to boost their barbecue season next year.
So what’s on the menu this summer? Primula’s survey revealed that go-to favourites for barbecues are, perhaps unsurprisingly, meat (67%), salad (53%), condiments (46%), cheese (40%) and vegetables (30%). Watirose noted that consumers began stocking up on their barbecue essentials in June, with sales of burgers and kebabs up 27% and 44%, respectively, while pre-made salads rose 25%. On the sweet side, sales of ice creams were up 25% and searches for ice lollies rose 84% on Waitrose.com.
But while the classics have proven popular, there is also a changing mindset among Brits when it comes to barbecuing. More and more consumers are branching out to wood-fired ovens or pizza ovens, as well as a more American style of meat, with products such as ribs and briskets selling well. With a focus on flavour rather than a quick foodie fix, more shoppers are trying “low and slow” cooking processes.
Consumers are also keen to get their hands on better cuts of meat with a stronger sense of provenance, with more shoppers visiting independent butchers, and butchers reporting that BBQ staples are flying off the shelves.
And while flavour is now top of consumers’ minds, convenience is still a strong selling point. Online butcher field&flower noted that two of its most popular cuts this barbecue season have been its sous vide Sticky Cola Pork Ribs and its Drunk Rum Brisket Burnt Ends. “This, and the success of our Chef Prepared range in general, has illustrated a shift in consumer behaviour towards pre-prepared, BBQ ready products this summer,” founder James Mansfield told Speciality Food. “The development of this sous vide range has meant field&flower have taken the time out of slow cooking BBQ cuts, so people can spend less time preparing and more time socialising again.”
With socialising a priority, drinks have also played a key role in retailers’ BBQ arsenal. According to Kantar’s data, despite pubs and restaurants being open, take-home sales of alcohol increased by £29m in June compared to May, partly helped by the bank holiday and the Euros. Waitrose also reported a surge in summer drink sales, with cocktails such as Aperol and Pimms spiking 41% and ready-to-drink cans rising 58%.
Retailers also mustn’t forget about the veggie option. Vegan and vegetarian products will go down well with 21% of us who now identify as flexitarian, as well as the growing numbers of plant-based eaters. Stocking a mix of fresh vegetables, and grilling cheeses like Halloumi plus products like jackfruit and tempeh as well as the more innovative meat substitutes will ensure your range caters to everyone’s tastes.
By taking note of consumers changing preferences, retailers can tailor their BBQ range to accommodate the latest food and drink trends.