What to focus on this Autumn

With Autumn now upon us and the country returning to a new normal, we can look back on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on shopper behaviour within Independent and Symbol stores; Average basket spend increasing to £10.53 and value sales growing by 33%(1) are unprecedented numbers, but it is story behind the numbers that retailers should take greater pride in. The fact that now, more than ever, convenience stores are truly valued by the communities they serve, for the support and spirit they have shown over the last eighteen months to keep these communities safe.

As the country gradually returns to a new normal, retailers must again adapt to support their communities by catering for the gradual changes in lifestyles and location, that will affect their stores as the nation returns to shopping “little and often”.

Autumn’s menu includes cooler weather, a resurgence in lunchboxes, easy evening meals, indoor social occasions, and seasonal events including Halloween and Bonfire Night. By focusing on key relevant categories and adjusting your ranges accordingly you can see your sales rise this fall!

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 Sauce 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 here 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

After a long period of closure due to the pandemic, hospitality venues are slowly returning to some semblance of normality. However, for many the thought of going out to a busy venue makes them feel anxious, and now that people have got into the habit of socialising at home, many feel more comfortable with this option. 

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 here,

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

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Award winning category management advice for growing your sales based on knowledge and insight from Unilever category experts, plus business advice from our Retailer Advisory Panel of award-winning UK convenience retailers.

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