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There’s no doubt that Christmas 2020 will play out differently to other years. Quite how we can’t guarantee, but the talk of smaller gatherings and ‘less but better’ can be festive music to the ears of independent fine food retailers. Big parties may be out, but smaller, more considered events are in, reports are suggesting, and with that comes a consumer desire for a little affordable indulgence.
A great way to do this, as we all know, is with a fantastic bottle of wine, so be sure to get your wine shelves heaving with quality wines at a variety of price points. You may be offering shoppers beverages at the finer end of the scale, but be conscious that some budgets are smaller than they might otherwise have been. When a product is on the extravagant side - be it a bottle of wine, a spirit or a new non-alcoholic option - do what indies do best and satisfy the consumer desire for story, provenance, and justification of a higher price point. In the past this might have meant Meet The Producer events, whereby a drinks maker would come to the store and hold a tasting session with a select group of customers. It’s looking like that isn’t an option for the upcoming Christmas - although we hope that the situation allows for it in the next few months - therefore customer education must all be in the display around a product. Small shelf speakers are always a good option, and for star products it’s worth making a dedicated display with a larger and more in-depth information point.
A glass of something bubbly can make even a dull Tuesday into a celebration, so it’s only natural that it would form part of your customers’ festive events. Prosecco and Champagne are still strong sellers, but why not cash in on the shopper desires for products with provenance and supporting local and/or British businesses by stocking a few bubblies made on our shores? UK winemakers are famed for their sparkling white wines, and there’s a host to choose from. Nyetimber and Chapel Down are perhaps the best known, but independent favourites Lyme Bay Winery have great options too - try their Classic Cuvee and Sparkling Rosé. There are winemakers across the UK, so keep an eye out for suppliers local to your store to support nearby businesses and capitalise on the shopper desire to do just that.
Speciality Food recently reported on the rise of Italian-influenced tipples, and while an Aperol Spritz may seem more suited to the warmer months, there’s nothing to stop indies from stocking great quality versions of other classic Italian spirits. The non-alcoholic sector in particular is home to some great options - try Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Amaretto and Wilfred’s Orange & Rosemary Aperitif, designed to be served with ice and tonic water as well as within party-worthy non-alcoholic cocktails. The Wilfred’s website has recipes for crowd pleasing cocktails including a negroni, martini and a festively gingery London mule. Position these spirits alongside great quality nibbles such as Cambrook’s Baked Truffle Nuts or Cocktail Nuts (a party-ready combination of sweet, spicy and smoky nuts) and olives, and discerning hosts and party attendees will come flocking.
Speaking of non-alcoholic drinks, if you haven’t yet taken the plunge now is the time. “Christmas can be a particularly challenging time if you aren’t drinking,” says Laura Willoughby, co-founder of Club Soda. “Alcohol generally plays a big role in the festivities. More and more people are choosing to cut down or stop drinking, and the impact of Covid-19 has seen many people look to adjust their relationship with alcohol and examine their overall approach to health and wellbeing. There are numerous reasons that people may be choosing not to drink, and it’s important to make sure they feel included, regardless of their drinking status; we need to give people the opportunity to have a drink that tastes great, looks the part, and really makes them feel like part of the occasion. Luckily, there is an appropriate alcohol-free alternative for pretty much any drink you can think of. These are great to have in for guests, and of course make very thoughtful gifts.”
Laura Willoughby, co-founder of Club Soda suggests great options to stock this Christmas:
“It’s surprisingly easy to replicate a lot of the festive favourites. You could try mulling Celtic Marches cider, or even create an eggnog cocktail using Lyres American Malt.
“For toasting, you have a fantastic range of sparkling wines. Noughty from Thomson & Scott is great as a stand alone option, or you can get creative and use it to make a champagne cocktail.
“Alcohol-free beer now comes in a huge variety of styles, from IPA and pale ale to stouts, and even sours. Big Drop Brewing Co and Drop Bear Beer Co both brew beers that are also gluten free, perfect for any coeliacs.
“You can find a range of gin alternatives, each boasting a unique flavour profile. We love Sea Arch, made using botanicals that are evocative of the British coastline, and remember to use a quality tonic whenever you’re mixing. We’re fans of Twelve Below tonics, which combine some really interesting flavours. There are also some spirits emerging that make use of natural ingredients to create relaxing drinking moments, enhanced by botanicals. Three Spirit is a great example.
“Shrubs and Kombuchas are in their element when it comes to food pairing, and their acidic characteristic means they tend to be a sipping drink. Both /Shrb and Real Kombucha are served at some of the UKs leading restaurants, and would make a real statement at the dinner table.
“And for the calorie-conscious, look for products with natural ingredients and natural sugars. Cloudwater Soda produces a range of sodas made with ingredients commonly found in beer, for complex low-calorie pours.
“If you are a retailer looking for a reliable wholesaler in the low and no sector, check out Wise Bartender for an extensive range of products.”