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Picnics In The Park

By Maev Martin
Picnics In The Park

Outdoor dining became the norm during the summer of 2020, thanks to the sunny weather and COVID-19 restrictions. Donna Ahern reports on the outlook for summer 2021.

When surveyed by Nielsen in March 2020, most shoppers believed that the COVID-19 crisis in Ireland would last for six months. Our lives changed drastically in the following months, but one of the few certainties was that shopper behaviour would continue to change as we became accustomed to government restrictions and had to adjust our lives accordingly.

According to Kantar, overall take-home grocery sales growth in Ireland last year slowed to 13.7% during the three-month summer period, with shoppers spending an additional €19 million on groceries in August due to local lockdowns.

At the time, retail analyst at Kantar, Emer Healy, commented, “Grocery sales over the past 12 weeks (to 6 September 2020) remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, but compared with April and May, shopping routines are much closer to what we would usually expect.

“An additional €19 million spent on groceries during the past month coincides with the start of a number of local lockdowns. This suggests that local restrictions are already making their mark – with people in certain parts of the country spending more to stock up on food and drink to consume at home.”

As home entertaining came to a grinding halt last year, outdoor dining was also affected as the restrictions that were place ahead of the previously busy BBQ and picnic season extended to house hold gardens.

While the lockdown impacted on outdoor entertaining, it is interesting to note that Bord Bia research released last year showed that consumer spend on gardening reached its highest-ever level, at €1.2 billion in 2020, an increase of more than half compared with 2018.

The surge was driven by record levels of spend on garden products, which showed a 75% increase compared to 2018, and outdoor plants, which increased by 51% versus 2018. “2020 was an extraordinary year for gardening activity due to COVID-19, amplified by a particularly warm and sunny spring,” said Carol Marks, horticulture sector manager, Bord Bia.

Marks noted that the garden became the focus of much of our attention during lockdown. The research highlighted a number of key consumer gardening behaviours as a result of societal changes brought about by COVID-19. These included reimagining outdoor spaces, and the biggest uplift in spend in 2020 was on garden products such as BBQ equipment.

As most consumers are now more garden proud than ever, and the restrictions are easing, many people will be anxious to entertain at home once again. With this in mind, there is an opportunity during the summer months for retailers to harness the newfound interest in our outdoor spaces by stocking up on BBQ essentials.

BBQ Essentials

Even though the outdoor dining experience last year was limited to close family, BBQ essentials fared well during summer 2020. Research conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Checkout showed that the condiments category was worth €178.5 million, which was a 25% increase compared to 2019. BBQ sauces showed a 39% value growth compared to the same period the previous year.

Ketchup also showed a 18% value growth compared to 2019. Ignition products were worth €69.1 million in 2020, which was a modest increase of 0.5% on the previous year. The buns/rolls/baps category was worth €4.30 million, and showed an impressive 29% increase.

Meat Market

The Nielsen research showed that the total meat, poultry and fish market was worth €1.1 billion in 2020, which was an overall increase of 16% compared to the same period the previous year. Beef experienced a 20% value growth, whereas poultry grew in value by 12% during the period.

Steak Sales

Given that half of all Irish steaks are sold into foodservice, a sector that has been decimated by COVID-19, Bord Bia launched a major marketing partnership with 11 leading European retailers to drive sales of Irish beef steaks last autumn and winter. The campaign launched in Germany on 15 September.

The foodservice market accounts for a third of all Irish beef exported to continental Europe, while over half of all Irish steak sold in continental Europe is through foodservice.

Although restaurants reopened across Europe last year, most did so under reduced capacity, and as a result, foodservice sales were forecast to decline by over 33% in 2020.

Bord Bia’s European steak campaign aims to drive sales of steak at retail level outside of the traditional summer steak/BBQ season, in order to compensate for this decline in foodservice steak sales. Despite accounting for only 13% of the carcase, steak commands the highest price, and so equates to approximately one third of the overall value of the entire carcase.

“Bord Bia has been working alongside key customers in our European markets to create a consumer-focused campaign that aims to provide a much-needed boost to Irish steak sales,” said Bord Bia’s global business development director, Ailish Forde, last year. “Research from Bord Bia’s The Thinking House points to an opportunity to increase steak sales at retail level, with greater numbers of consumers reporting that they are buying better quality cuts of beef since the onset of COVID-19. While retail demand for steaks remained buoyant over the summer months, we need to redouble our efforts to sustain and grow sales into autumn and winter.”

The marketing activation plan featured a range of online and offline marketing materials, including banners, on-pack stickers, and information on video screens in-store, all designed to increase awareness of Irish steak and provide an uplift in sales.

Positive Outlook

On 13 April, Dublin City Council announced that applications were open for financial support from a new scheme aimed at tourism and hospitality businesses in Dublin city.

Under the Outdoor Dining Enhancement Scheme, businesses can request financial support to purchase or upgrade equipment to provide additional outdoor seating and, therefore, increase their outdoor dining capacity for summer 2021. The scheme is open to attractions, hotels, restaurants, cafes, public houses or other tourism and hospitality business establishments where food is sold for consumption on the premises.

The group said that the scheme will provide for up to 75% of the ex-VAT cost of equipment purchased/installed with a maximum allowable contribution of up to €4,000 per applicant.

The Outdoor Dining Enhancement Scheme is being delivered in partnership with Fáilte Ireland and local authorities across the country. With this in mind, the outlook for outdoor home entertainment looks more positive for summer 2021.

© 2021 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Donna Ahern. For more fresh produce news click here. Click sign up to subscribe to Checkout.


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