Ontario grocers score beer sales on Super Bowl Sunday

Field Agent report looks at success of big food brands on Game Day
2/9/2016

Grocers managed to score added sales in the lead up to the Super Bowl, suggests the results of a real-time game-time sampling of Canadian consumers.

"The results across the board are very interesting," said Jeff Doucette, general manager of Field Agents Canada, a mobile insights firm that pays the 48,000 Canadian consumers who have downloaded its app to upload images and do surveys of goods and services while shopping.

According to Doucette, his company's second Super Bowl survey—which it dubs Big Game Brand Warsis based on the information supplied by some 715 app users who provided information on the salty snacks, carbonated soft drinks and beer they served during the 3.5 hours watching Sunday night's game.

He said Lay’s continued its domination as the salty snack king, while Tostitos overtook Doritos in all regions of the country except Atlantic Canada.

Similarly, Coca-Cola was found to be the dominate carbonated soft drink, with Pepsi running a close second.

The beer category held the night's biggest surprise.

As expected, big brewery brands like Coors Light and Bud Light led the way among Field Agent's app users, a repeat performance that Doucette chalked up to big beers' close affiliation with the NFL and the Super Bowl, and weeks of prominent in-store promotions and product placement.

However, 11% of respondents in Ontario said they had purchased their big-game suds in supermarkets.

The rest were split almost evenly between The Beer Store (46%) and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (43%).

It was the first Super Bowl since Ontario permitted six-packs of beer to be legally sold in supermarkets in December.

Though the results of Field Agents' study were widely reported, one pundit questioned its relevance due to its sample size of 750 people.

"The problem with these kinds of analytics panels is that you have to go big or go home," Ken Wong, a professor of marketing at Queen's University's Smith School of Business, told Canadian Grocer. He observed that this mobile-driven approach may overrepresent millennials.

"I think that if I'm a supplier catering to older people the information would be of limited use."

The report, Doucette said, is intended to provide a snapshot of a segment of the population during the 3.5 hours they watch the Super Bowl. It's about reaching a group of people in a specific moment, he said, adding that with a sample of 715 respondents the margin of error is approximately 3.6%, 19 times out of 20.

Wong said that any big public event or holiday like the Super Bowl or Christmas is good for food retailers.

"Any occasion to consume is good for business," he said. "The Super Bowl is easy because it requires stocking up on a fairly narrow range of products that are pretty low margin."

"That being said, an enthusiastic grocer might bundle products and services to provide a complete solution to hosting a Super Bowl party. That would require more than just stocking more chips and dip in aisle six."

That approach paid off again this year for Vince’s Market, a busy store in the upscale Toronto-area town of Newmarket.

"We do not offer beer, however historically we see a significant boost in the snack category as a whole (for the Super Bowl)," store partner Giancarlo Trimarchi wrote in an email.

In additional to solid sales in what he terms "the traditional items" — including fresh-made guacamole, seven-layer dips, and salsa -—Trimarchi said his store experienced "good growth in store-made and natural/local offerings of those items over national brands.

"People are looking for something a bit unique or special," he wrote.  "We still run Tostitos (as every year) and had another strong showing (but) this year we also featured a bunch of value-added items from our prepared food and salad department."

The ready-to-heat and serve wings/ribs offering, noted Trimarchi, "performed very well for us."

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