Time to finish your Christmas list

Consumers eager to try new drinks and trade-up this festive season

THE lists have been made by now and checked at least twice but there’s still time to make some final tweaks to the drinks list to ensure maximum sales this Christmas.
To make the most of the season, a number of drinks firms have offered their assessment of where publicans can cash in on Christmas cheer by adapting their drinks offer to suit seasonal demand.
Amy Burgess, of Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), said Christmas represents a “huge opportunity” for licensees to increase their soft drinks sales, thanks to a boost in trade from groups of friends, families and colleagues – many of whom may not drink alcohol.
“According to the Office of National Statistics, a fifth of adults in the UK today are not consuming alcohol, whilst Christmas is also a time when many people act as the designated driver for their group,” said Burgess.
Adrian Troy, marketing director at AG Barr, agreed that the festive season creates an excellent opportunity for operators to drive soft drink sales.
The drinks won’t sell themselves, however, and Troy suggested operators go the extra mile to ensure high returns this Christmas.
“Licensees should always ensure soft drinks are served in a way that will enhance the customer’s experience during the festive period,” he said.
“Carbonated soft drinks should be served chilled and poured over ice, while bottled water should be chilled to perfection and served with a slice of lemon or lime.”
All soft drinks firms agreed that there’s a real opportunity to boost sales during the festive season, and Russell Kirkham of Britvic, the firm behind J2O, reckons one way to do this is to tap into the overarching seasonal trend of premiumisation in the on-trade.
“If there is one time of year consumers are open to treating themselves, it’s at Christmas. Take advantage of the opportunity this presents by creating seasonal mixed serves that encourage people to trade-up from their usual soft drink choice,” said Kirkham.
The importance of including premium alcohol-free serves for drivers visiting the on-trade over Christmas was also highlighted by Rob Salvesen, of Kopparberg.
Salvesen said the introduction of the lower drink drive limit in Scotland in 2014 has “no doubt made no and low-alcohol alternatives more important than ever for the on-trade operator”.
“The challenge for operators lies in delivering a portfolio that meets the drinking occasions of their customers that choose not to consume alcohol but doesn’t make them feel excluded,” said Salvesen.
While low and no alcohol products are essential for operators looking to cater to non-drinkers this Christmas, Salvesen also reminded licensees to keep on top of their year-round big hitters, ensuring they are “well prepared for the expected increase in demand”.
Michael Hardy, managing director of online wholesaler Ooberstock, agreed, suggesting operators should “keep on top of popular stock” throughout the season.
Hardy also highlighted the real chance to boost margins further by up-selling premium brands this Christmas.


“With people willing to trade-up and spend more at Christmas, make sure your staff know their premium spirits and cocktails and recommend them to customers,” he said.
That willingness to trade-up is good news for sales of the national drink, according to Balblair brand manager Matthew Jamieson, who reckons customers “are looking for affordable luxury” over the festive period.
A single malt may make for a perfect serve with nothing more to add, but there’s a plethora of premium spirits that licensees can use to drive margins – many of which are ideal cocktail ingredients.
Anna MacDonald, marketing director for Baileys at Diageo, reckons mixed drinks offer “a great opportunity to trade-up during the Christmas season as we’re seeing more consumers than ever opting to drink premium cocktails”.
“A quarter of cocktail drinkers now opt for premium options, with over a third of adult consumers saying they choose them as a treat,” she said.
And while publicans can expect year-round favourites to perform well through the festive season, Alan Hay of Tennent’s suggested the first few weeks of December could also bring some surprising sales spikes.
“Christmas spirit will encourage consumers to try something new, so keeping on top of the less frequently ordered drinks is also important,” said Hay.
“Offering customers a promotion on different brands or serves through the early weeks in December will give pub owners an idea of what drinks might prove particularly popular during the busier period.”
Christmas isn’t the only major
event to take place over the festive period, and Hogmanay is undoubtedly a big money spinner for the Scottish trade.
While the same broader trends still apply, Andrew Morrison, sales director at Maxxium UK, offered some suggestions on how operators can ensure their tills ring in the new year.
“As with Christmas, Hogmanay is another celebratory time and operators should continue to offer their festive menus through the New Year,” he said.
“This is another great opportunity to take advantage of increased footfall and consumers who are looking for celebratory drinks.”
If Christmas makes many customers think of family, Hogmanay is arguably a more lively occasion with many younger adults out to have a good time until the wee hours.
Carlo Valente, director of Stivy’s owner VC2 Brands, reckons there’s a trend among these consumers towards “sweeter easier to drink products” and so publicans should be sure to stock up with that in mind. That trend is not entirely uniform, however, and Valente also reckons craft beers and craft gins have had an impact “particularly on the 25 to 30 group”.