IT looks like British politics has finally eclipsed the Scottish summer in terms of unpredictability, but while MPs and activists campaign yet again, there’s no doubt more than a few punters will seek respite in the nation’s beer gardens.
In common with the House of Commons, nothing is certain in the on-trade, but drinks firms reckon there’s plenty of potential to make hay while the sun shines – or even if it doesn’t.
Claire Arnott, head of customer marketing at Tennent’s, said the warmer weather encourages drinkers to spend more time in pubs and beer gardens, providing publicans with some great sales opportunities.
“To take full advantage of this, licensees should ensure any outdoor space is clean, comfortable and welcoming and could consider adding some extra value such as a BBQ, DJ or live music – driving footfall, increasing sales and encouraging repeat visits,” said Arnott.
“Licensees should share any in-bar activities and events, such as live music and BBQs, with their customers in plenty of time, allowing them to round up their friends for an afternoon in-bar.”
Cellar Trends, the firm behind Angostura rum and Luxardo sambuca, agreed that creating an offer that marries an outlet’s drinks range with food and entertainment has become of “greater importance” to publicans, and can create opportunities to boost sales this summer.
Introducing a pop-up bar in a beer garden can improve convenience.
Amy Burgess of Coca Cola European Partners also suggested operators “consider creative ways to bring their drinks range to life” during the coming weeks.
“On days when the weather is warm, many people choose to sit outside to enjoy a drink, and introducing a pop-up outdoor bar in a beer garden or outdoor area can help to maximise convenience for customers,” she said.
While not every bar will have a beer garden, operators who do should be mindful of how they promote the outlet’s offer outdoors, according to Burgess.
“This can be done by using menus that are laminated or displayed in plastic holders, while items such as sandwich boards, banners or chalkboards can help further highlight the soft drinks on offer,” she said.
One category that’s surely worth shouting about in summer is cider; and Katie Hunter of Diageo GB expects there to be high demand for fruit flavours, driving sales of the firm’s Smirnoff Cider range.
“There have been a number of innovations in the fruit cider category over the last few years, and as the market continues to grow in both the on and off-trade channels, we still see that there is potential to grow the category even further,” said Hunter.
Rob Salvesen, senior marketing manager at Kopparberg, agreed that fruit-flavoured products have “definitely been one of the key driving trends over the past few years”, and predicted this will remain the case in the coming weeks.
“This trend will continue through 2017 and can be demonstrated by the success of brands like Kopparberg that have a strategy of premium fruit refreshment at its core,” said Salvesen.
People buy with their eyes so if a drink looks good they’ll be tempted.
“The impact of this trend means that categories like fruit cider are still in growth as we see younger consumers looking for more refreshing, tasty products in place of blander and less exciting propositions which have dominated drinking occasions over the last twenty years.”
Cider isn’t the only drinks category expected to find favour with customers this summer.
Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, which includes Southern Comfort and Buffalo Trace in its portfolio, reckons cocktail sales could soar even higher during the warmer months.
“Whether it’s a big night out with friends, pre-dinner cocktails, or a cool, refreshing drink in a pub garden, there’s an opportunity to drive sales of long drinks and cocktails from the May bank holiday right through to the autumn,” said Bolton.
Cocktails were also flagged by Justin Horsman, marketing controller for Franklin & Sons, as a potential key sales driver this summer.
“51% of consumers prefer cocktails with their meal and cocktail culture is growing year on year,” said Horsman.
“It has been reported that outlets which serve cocktails sell 36% more spirits than ones that don’t.
“Having a range of cocktails, mocktails and mixers with a point of difference in the summer is crucial to create the most premium bar experience.”
And while cocktail menus often focus on spirits, Amy Giacobbi, marketing manager at Continental Wine & Food (CWF), the firm behind wine brands that include Berlucchi and Neirano in the UK, reckons there is “growing interest among consumers” in wine-based cocktails.
Giacobbi also suggested operators “take time to speak to your suppliers”, who can provide recommendations of new wines that are well-suited to warmer conditions.
“There are some wonderful wines out there at the moment that are particularly suited for the warmer summer weather,” she said.
While many will enjoy wine in the sun this summer, other visitors to the on-trade will be seeking out something soft; and Carol Saunders of Highland Spring Group reckons this is the perfect time for bottled water to shine.
“Although the bottled water category is not solely reliant on warmer weather, summer is always a crucial sales period for all soft drink producers,” said Saunders.
“Within bars and restaurants, sparkling water is a popular summer beverage as it appeals to consumers looking for a non-alcoholic option, whilst still wishing to have something special.”
Adrian Troy, marketing director at AG Barr, agreed that the rising mercury creates a great opportunity to boost soft drinks sales.
“Above all else, people visiting licensed premises when it’s hot are looking for thirst-quenching, refreshing drinks,” said Troy.
“People buy with their eyes so if a drink looks good, they will be tempted to buy and styles can be adapted to portray long summer drinks during a heat wave.
“Ideally in summer, carbonated soft drinks should be served poured over a glass filled with ice, while bottled water should be chilled to perfection and served with a slice of lemon or lime.”