Which categories and missions to focus on this Autumn

As the long summer days give way to chilly darker evenings, it signals the arrival of Autumn. Whilst traditionally this would lead to people switching on their central heating, the steep increase in energy costs means this year is likely to be very different.  energy, fuel, food price and interest rates having risen to unprecedented levels this year, many people are struggling to make ends meet, so this is likely to be an Autumn like no other.

Within this article, we have pulled together advice to help you prepare your store for the Autumn season to ensure you are catering for their new priorities.  In addition, Partners for Growth has also published an article detailing how to minimise the impact of Cost of Living to support retailers in these troubling times.


What you should be focusing on for Autumn

Key drivers of sales in Autumn include, the return to school and events such as Halloween, Bonfire night, and preparing the store for Christmas. For retailers this means a resurgence of lunchboxes, quick on-the-go meals such as Pot Snacks, and catering for quick and easy evening meals.

Autumn traditionally sees a surge in scratch cooking, as preparing the evening meal becomes more of a social event for some, however it is expected to be even more pronounced this Autumn due to the increased number of ‘struggling’ shoppers turning to scratch cooking as a means of saving money.

By focusing on key relevant categories, adjusting your ranges accordingly, and working hard to maintain your store margin, you can help your business navigate through these challenging times.


Review your Cooking Sauces 

With the UK renowned for putting in some of the longest working hours in Europe(2), in recent years we’ve become a nation that is more engaged with scratch cooking. And like many in-home behaviours, Covid helped accelerate this, driving 708 million more ‘Scratch cooking occasions’ (+6%)(3).  

As the nights draw in and children get back into the school routine, parents want easy, quick to prepare meal solutions, and this drives a seasonal jump in Cooking Sauces sales. In fact, research shows that approximately 70% of shoppers don’t know what they are going to have for dinner that evening, and as Cooking Sauces provide ideas for what to cook and only require a small amount of ingredients they offer the perfect solution for a ‘Meal for Tonight’.

To help your customers find the right meal solutions and optimise your Cooking Sauces sales, your displays should communicate these ‘quick meal solutions’ and fixtures need to be easy to navigate. Should space allow, why not group some grocery and dry goods together – for example, mince, tomato sauce, pasta and cheese – as inspiration for customers. And don’t forget to offer meat free and plant based meal solutions as these will continue to grow ahead of meat-based products; the average cost of a meat free meal is £0.88 versus £1.81 where meat or fish is included(4).

Unilever Category Director, Kat Simpson, says, “When it comes to selling cooking sauces, retailers need to think about the end meal, rather than just the individual product.  Make it easy for shoppers to find the other key elements that will make up the meal and encourage trial of cooking sauces by placing signage up near the chilled chicken, mince etc.”

As cooking sauces is a growing market with plenty of innovation, it pays to take time to review the latest Cooking Sauces advice to make sure you offer your customers a comprehensive range of best-selling SKU’s.

Focus on Pot Snacks to make the most of back to school and university

With the return to school and work, Pot Snacks present shoppers with a quick and convenient snack option. They require no pre-planning, preparation or chilling unlike a homemade sandwich or salad, and can be consumed either out of home – for example in offices and work places such as building sites – or in home or student residences as a quick bite to eat. 

The snacking category is worth a total of £24M to the convenience channel, with Pot Snacks dominating with a 62% share, but block noodles have been steadily growing as part of the positive trend towards ‘in-home’ dining(5). 

In fact, 50% of Pot Snacks are consumed at lunchtime and 70% eaten ‘on the go’ with a soft drink, making it a valuable category to retailers where lunchtime trade is high. 

With 8 out of 10 Pot Snacks being bought on impulse, and with the typical customer pushed for time, retailers can maximise impulse purchases by making sure Pot Snacks are highly visible and located in high traffic areas and King Pot is stocked to trade customers up.

Getting the snacking display right for the surrounding local audience has proven to be key to increasing basket spend, so we would urge you to make sure you are stocking the right range of best sellers to ensure you are making the most of this unique and valuable snacking option.

Make the most of the Big Night In

The Big Night in occasion saw an increase in popularity during the pandemic, as a result of hospitality venues being closed in line with lockdown restrictions. It is set to see another jump in popularity this Autumn, because of the unprecedented rise in the cost of living, meaning the many shoppers looking to make their weekly budget go further, may well choose to stay at home when they socialise, rather than go out. This presents a big opportunity for convenience retailers that get behind the Big Night In event in their stores.

And with colder weather on the way and major sporting and cultural events such as football matches, Strictly and I’m a Celebrity back on TV this Autumn, together with the diverse number of streaming services available, entertaining at home presents an attractive option to bring people together. It would be fair to say that for many, staying in has become the new going out! 

The Big Night In mission presents huge incremental sales opportunities for retailers across a number of categories, including soft drinks, pot snacks, crisps and snacks, beers, wines and spirits, fresh and chilled, meal solutions and of course confectionery and ice cream – check out our Ice Cream category advice.

There are many ways retailers can make the most of the Big Night In opportunity, so check them out in this article: Making the most of the big night in


  1. Kantar, value sales 52 w/e 27.12.20 vs previous year
  2. Office of National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, Eurostat
  3. Kantar usage 52w/e May 2021
  4. Kantar 9th September 2020
  5. Kantar 52 w/e July 11th 2021

Share this article

Recommended for you…

Clean up with Spring sales.

As this Spring coincides with the easing of lockdown restrictions, it presents retailers with opportunities to take stock to ensure they’re meeting their customers changing needs.

Read More »

You May Also Like

Share your thoughts…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *