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We can already hear jingle bells in fine food retail, and with only a few months to go until the big day, it’s important to get your stock sorted before the festive season kicks off. This year, be sure to focus on the gifting opportunity as consumers look to treat themselves or loved ones after a difficult financial year.
When it comes to what consumers will be looking for this festive season, spirits seem to be a steady choice. Mark Kacary, managing director at The Norfolk Deli, explains, “At first sight, I would think that in general very little will have changed from 2021, there’s still lots and lots of gins to choose from, and even more flavoured gins, but there’s also been a steady increase in the range of rums available.”
The rise of rum as a trending tipple has been very apparent to Brad Wicks, head of marketing at Devon Rum Co. He explains, “I’d say the recent growth in the spiced and flavoured rum sector has encouraged more consumers to make rum the focus for big occasions throughout the year. Just like gin before it, rum’s now enjoying a renaissance, and a real passion among consumers for artisan rums is driving this.”
“Rum is right up there during the festive season, especially when it comes to spiced rums. Their warmth, richness, and complexity make them the perfect festive tipple”, he adds.
Mark also sees a boost in RTD cocktails and ingredients as the cost-of-living kicks in. He tells Speciality Food, “During periods of austerity the popularity of cocktails comes to the fore and we’ve seen an exponential rise in the number of ready-made cocktail companies. As we put on an extra jumper or two this Christmas the one bright spark we may all have is a hassle-free way to enjoy a cocktail or two.”
For Brad, consumers are looking for something a bit more complicated during the festive season. He explains, “I think a combination of both classic and modern twists are needed when it comes to Christmas. Nostalgia and tradition play a big part during the holidays, which means consumers will always be looking to enjoy a few family favourites. But modern twists are equally important.
“Sometimes, it’s as simple as tweaking a classic to suit your tastes. We focus on this a lot at Devon Rum Co. when it comes to mixology; creating Christmas corkers such as our Espresso Rumtini, and our take on a traditional White Russian cocktail, which combines spiced rum with coffee liqueur, single cream and loads of ice!”
She tells Speciality Food, “Half of all UK adults are looking to cut down the amount they drink, and at Christmas, they are becoming more conscious that alcohol affects quality time with loved ones. As a result, they are looking for alcohol-free drinks that have the same glamour and feel of celebration as their alcoholic tipples.
“There is now an alcohol-free equivalent for everything you would want this Christmas – whisky, amaretto, stout, even Irish cream – so there is no need to feel like you are compromising with non-alcoholic options.”
In fact, according to Mark, providing plenty of non-alcoholic options makes business sense. “With Dry January following on from Christmas and there not necessarily being too much to celebrate between now and Christmas, getting the right mix of Christmas drinks could help the bank balance in the lead up to the slow trading period during Q1 of every new year”, he explains.
Laura adds, “Alcohol-free sales are still growing at double-digit rates annually, and consumers are keen to add these drinks into their diet for a whole host of reasons. Recent KAM Media research shows that 37% of consumers drink low and no alcohol drinks at home at least once a week. It is clear there is demand.”
Upselling Christmas drinks
When it comes to upselling, for Laura, it’s all about knowing your products. She explains, “As a retailer, it’s worth doing your own taste test, so whatever you decide to stock, you can genuinely advocate for the product. Knowing you personally like a product will give consumers the confidence to buy.
“If there is something you and your team really like, then talk directly to a brand for some extra stock to offer sampling in-store. The consumer is really curious about products in this space, and you can provide essential consumer education in-store. It is a great way to increase dwell time and spending across the board!”
She also suggests that it is a good idea to offer samples of non-alcohol versions of traditional Christmas tipples. “An alcohol-free mulled wine to try means every customer can have a cup, and it will increase the spending across the store. It will also give you social media content, as you can show off cocktails, beers and wines for all occasions in both alcoholic and alcohol-free versions.”
At The Norfolk Deli, Mark believes that capitalising on the feel-good factor of buying local is the key to generating more drinks sales. He explains, “We focus on local produce which means that there is nothing alcoholic made outside of Norfolk. Many independent retailers will know of a local distillery, maybe even a local vineyard and almost certainly more than one local brewery.
“Offer customers something they cannot find in a supermarket or a department store. To receive something made locally, something only available from a few specific locations adds value and interest to the product. Speaking personally, I am more excited about trying a local bottle of sparkling than having yet another bottle of Moet.”
The gifting opportunity
Getting your drinks offering right is of the utmost importance during the festive season, as it can lead to crucial extra sales as customers pick up something special as a gift or to impress their Christmas party guests.
As Harry Coulthard, co-founder of Tidal Rum, explains, “Christmas is an incredibly social occasion, one that has people stocking up weeks before the main event, whether that’s for their own stash or for gifts. To make the most of this lucrative time, retailers should make sure they have their Christmas drinks offering ready by the beginning of November. Additionally, with stores attracting a variety of customers, it’s important to stock drinks for everyone, from everyday options to more premium ones.”
Brad adds, “Consumers are always looking to gift something unique to their loved ones over the festive period. And with more consumers supporting local, independent retailers have a real opportunity to stock exciting drinks brands that won’t be found on the shelves of big chain supermarkets over Christmas.”
For Mark, this involves creating specially curated gifts that shoppers won’t get anywhere else. He explains, “We’re creating a range of hampers which can be bought online and sent or collected from our shop. Create something which matches and effectively creates a little story. Classic examples are combinations like Stilton and port, but offer something else, something more. We’re creating party hampers, including everything you need for a party straight out of the box.
“But we’re also creating hampers combing things like beers, cheeses and chutney, or gourmet products alongside quality wines/sparkling wines. It’s a great time to be imaginative and to give customers easy options to buy. It’s always going to be easier for a customer to see & touch a combination of products you as a retailer have put together than it is to persuade them to come up with the idea themselves.”
According to Laura, “At Christmas, people are also looking to gift for friends who don’t drink, as well as to make sure they feel part of the action if they drive to a party. Customers want to spend on a product that tastes great and means they feel included in every festive occasion. Retailers would be foolish not to offer options for people to grab in-store.”
Make sure you’re covering all bases this festive season with gifting options, non-alcoholic tipples and this year’s hottest spirit, rum. Let’s raise a festive glass to Christmas 2022!
Christmas content supported by Woolcool – the pioneers of sustainable temperature-controlled packaging.