Bewitching brews for Halloween

The UK has enjoyed one of the most glorious summers in recent memory and BWS sales have soared as sandal-clad Brits sought refreshment.

But it is now winding down, eased towards oblivion by the tail end of Hurricane Bertha, and retailers must start looking to different events to drive sales.

First up is Halloween. It was once something of a nonentity on these shores but globalisation and a fascination with American culture, driven by TV shows such as The Simpsons, have turned it into a big deal.

Children in search of E numbers prowl the streets in their most terrifying costumes and, while there are still the odd grumps who turn off all the lights and pretend they aren’t in – hopefully none of them are lighthouse keepers – many adults get into the swing of things. It’s always a good excuse to dress up, enjoy a few drinks and bump and grind with some witches or wizards.

Pubs across the land deck out their bars in ghoulish paraphernalia and sell Hobgoblin by the bucketload, but with the trend towards drinking at home in credit-crunched Britain, Halloween house parties are becoming de rigueur.

“Halloween has undoubtedly grown to become one of the biggest seasonal calendar dates in recent years, making it a key driver for sales,” says Emma Heath, marketing manager at Sourz.

“It gives independent retailers the perfect opportunity to engage with customers in a meaningful way and ensure a pre-Christmas trading boost.

“Halloween can be a very profitable period and, what’s more, as we progress into autumn and the weather starts to turn, consumers start to look for a change in seasonal flavours and ingredients to accompany events such as Halloween and Bonfire Night.”

As sturdy boots and warm coats replace sandals and shorts, consumers start to seek drinks with a bit more warmth and character.

Hobgoblin is the perfect choice, according to brewer Wychwood, because while the blend of Chocolate and Crystal malts and Styrian, Goldings and Fuggles hops give this full-bodied ruby beer a toffee malt flavour with a hint of fruity bitterness, it is not too challenging to be enjoyed by the mass market.

Autumn is the ideal time for Wychwood to get the “lagerboys” depicted in its ads to taste something different and, in the build-up to Halloween 2014, the brewer has given Hobgoblin a Season of Mischief rebranding to make it “the most spooktacular season of them all”.

A new orange design on the 50cl bottle, a themed six-pack and Halloween mini-casks are all part of the offering, while a Wheel of Misfortune promotion offers drinkers the chance to win £5,000 and other prizes in the run-up to the big day.

Wychwood marketing manager Chris Keating says: “It’s Hobgoblin’s ninth consecutive year as the unofficial beer of Halloween. We have created a demand for Hobgoblin during the season of mischief and consumers expect to see the Hobgoblin on shelf throughout October.

“Retailers should certainly join in the fun and capitalise on the third- biggest retailing event of the year. It’s a unique trading period that lends itself to the most mischievous beer brand.”

Sourz has introduced a Toffee Apple variant to its core range, which is said to “lend itself perfectly to the autumn season”.

“It’s important to tap into the customer’s mood and maximise seasonal opportunities such as Halloween,” says Heath.

“The convenience shopper may be preparing for Halloween parties, and capitalising on this is vital for the independent retailer.

“Retailers should stock a wide variety of party drinks, including beer, RTDs and cider as well as brands such as Sourz.

“When shopping for Halloween parties, consumers look for variety, similar to the way they’d choose a drink in a bar or club – a range of flavours, something that can be shared, and anything that is distinctive and unique.”

Halloween is also a key trading period for Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo as it hits TV screens with an ad campaign that aims to make the most of what it calls “Hallowine”.

“We want to make Casillero del Diablo the wine of choice for Halloween,” says marketing director Clare Griffiths. “There is a lot going on with children so we have to be careful, but adults have parties so we are looking at some great activity around Halloween.”

Jägermeister marketing director Nicole Goodwin is equally enthused about the event and says: “We want to take over Halloween. With the blacks and oranges on the label we are a good fit. It is a key time to drive sales and with all the parties at home the potential for retailers to maximise their shot sales is huge.”

Creating theatre around the fixture and blending innovations with tried and tested classics on-shelf are key.

“Giving prominence to well-loved brands and ensuring top sellers and impulse lines, such as Sourz, are at eye level is key to building excitement around Halloween too,” says Heath.

“Theming aisles or areas, and including party elements such as decorations, paper tableware and dress-up costumes encourages incremental purchases and improves the overall customer experience, key for driving sales in the independent off-trade.

“These themed aisles and areas make consumers confident they will find everything they need for throwing the ultimate Halloween party.”

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