Super Bowl viewing isn’t just jocks on the couch cramming their mouths with chips anymore. These days, football fanatics celebrate the big game at parties alongside people whose only association with a “clothesline” is laundry. “It’s really turned into a social event more than a sports event,” says Laurie Jennings, vice-president of Masstown Market in Masstown, N.S. Super Bowl Sunday can’t be beat for combining sports and socializing, says Brian Findlay, NFL Canada spokesperson. “It’s a gathering point more than any other event in sport,” he says. More than four million people watch the Super Bowl in Canada each year, says Findlay. That’s right up there with the Oscars.
Female interest in the NFL goes up by 37% during the Super Bowl.
But here’s the cool thing about the Super Bowl for grocers: since it’s not tethered to a holiday or gift giving, people can just sit back and enjoy the experience, watching the game and eating. “It’s all about having fun,” says Jim Bexis, general manager of Sun Valley Supermarket in Toronto. “It’s a nice, casual atmosphere.” He knows first-hand; a self-professed “footballcrazy guy” and Miami Dolphins supporter, Bexis even sets up a projector screen in his living room for his own Super Bowl fêtes.
For most consumers, eating is a huge part of game day. “ e football and the food are the centrepieces,” says Findlay. NFL Canada research shows Super Bowl time is among the highest grocery sale weeks in the year. Sounds like a prime opportunity to score some killer sales.
“My chip section is wiped Super Bowl Sunday,” says Bexis. Like a lot of grocers, he finds the other traditional offerings consumers serve guests at their parties–such as salsa, dip, pop and chicken wings–also sell well around this time.
Bexis’s experience is backed by NPD Group’s tracking of the snacks Canadians eat on Super Bowl Sunday. Big winners in the snack category on this day are salsa and dips, says Joel Gregoire, industry analyst at NPD Group. So it’s a great opportunity for salty snack manufacturers to capitalize on the sales of their dips as people look to have friends over to watch the big game. “As a share of snack-type foods, Canadians are more than twice as likely to eat a dip when watching the Super Bowl versus the entire year,” says Gregoire. He believes dips go hand-in-hand with the whole idea of entertaining. “You want to offer an enjoyable, if not premium, experience to your guests. And dip is that little bit extra that makes the party that much better.”
BE BOLD…AND SPICY
Thanks to the influence of Asian cuisine, consumers are seeking flavours that are anything but bland these days. Keeping on trend, Orville Redenbacher’s introduced a Spicy Nacho flavour to its popcorn line in June.
Rob Tallis, marketing director of snacks and innovation at ConAgra Foods Canada, says, “People are looking for bolder, more exciting fl avours in popcorn and chips.” Same goes for nuts. Trophy Foods has seen growth in hot and spicy flavours and VP of procurement, Lee Mainella, notes sales of its Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Peanuts do well. At Blue Diamond Growers, the “Bold Flavours” line extension for its almonds includes Jalapeno Smokehouse. The smokiness adds a “sports-oriented fl avour” that works well in an adrenaline-filled environment, says CB Powell brand manager Chuck Corrigan. Sales of this 170-gram tin go up roughly 37% around the Super Bowl, he adds.
Running back to healthy
Chips will likely remain a standard Super Bowl snack for eternity, but nuts are also taking a slice of game day sales. Part of their popularity is linked to the perception that nuts are healthy, says Joe Milando, VP of sales for Eastern Canada at Trophy Foods. “People are trending toward the word ‘natural,’ ” he says. Within Trophy’s categories, that’s where raw almonds come in. “People don’t want them further processed–they want them right off the trees and into their mouth.” Milando’s colleague Lee Mainella, VP of procurement, has also noticed consumers want snack foods with less salt–another opportunity for raw almonds to shine.
Chip manufacturers are also paying close attention to the sodium issue. PepsiCo Foods Canada reduced sodium levels across its entire portfolio of Lay’s flavoured potato chips in 2009. Each Lay’s fl avour now has at least 25% less sodium. PepsiCo Foods Canada spokesperson Sheri Morgan says the chips still off er the same taste as their saltier predecessors.
Good thing, since that’s what’s most important to consumers. As NPD Group results show, taste is the No. 1 consideration of Canadians when making a snack food selection. “Considerations around health fall well behind,” says Gregoire.
On Super Bowl Sunday, 70% of Canadians are more likely to eat snacks versus any other day of the year.
Karen Hamilton is living proof. The Vancouver-based football fan, foodie and blogger has hosted Super Bowl parties at her home on and off over the past decade. Even though health is more of a consideration for the new mom these days (she used to deep fry prepackaged foods for her gatherings) and she’s made efforts to improve the nutritional value of the goodies she lays out on game day, health isn’t the be all and end all for her.
As Hamilton puts it, “We’ve tried to get a bit healthier, but not too much because on Super Bowl Sunday everything has to go with beer.”
Top 4 Merchandising Tips
1. Create a one-stop-shop for Super Bowl party hosts. “Position yourself as a party destination. Are you making it easy for the host?” says Joel Gregoire, industry analyst at NPD Group. This is where cross merchandising snacks and beverages comes into play.
2. Have several points of interruption flagging Super Bowl items. If using ready-display pallets, a half-pallet allows for more points of interest, says Joe Milando, a VP of sales at Trophy Foods.
3. Prizes pay off. Laurie Jennings of Masstown Market once did an Xbox giveaway as part of his in-store Super Bowl promo. As Jennings sees it: “An ad in the local paper costs $1,000; the Xbox cost us $200.” Sure, only existing customers see the promo but Jennings says it creates buzz, and shoppers spread the word to friends and family.
4. Get typing! Yucatan Foods’ Kristyn Lawson says giving Super Bowl party tips via online social media creates excitement and new consumer trial for her guacamole.