European spend on ‘aperitivo’ snacks gets €2.2bn boost during lockdown

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The reimagined aperitivo occasion on Zoom in 2020. Pic: GettyImages/Guiseppe Lombardo
The reimagined aperitivo occasion on Zoom in 2020. Pic: GettyImages/Guiseppe Lombardo

Related tags Iri coronavirus Savoury snacks Popcorn Chocolate Europe

Lockdown gave birth to the Zoom aperitivo occasion, which saw Europeans spending €2.2bn more on snacks to recreate their evenings out in a virtual way during the first lockdown, an increase of 12% compared to the same period last year.

A recent survey from the global market researcher analysed the spend in seven European countries (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands) on treats such as salty snacks and confectionery during the lockdown period, which varied in timing and longevity between countries.

It also looked into the alcohol consumption of those countries during that time.

The big picture

The most significant increases were noted in Spain and the UK, each consuming a fifth more treats overall in lockdown at +21% and +19%, respectively.

This was followed by the Netherlands at +12%, Greece at +10% and Germany at +6%.

In contrast, France and Italy increased only very slightly overall, but had large increases in specific sectors.

“As people’s homes became their world during the lockdown, they found new ways to cope and we saw people recreating their social occasions online or creating new traditions with their family,”​ said Anne Lefranc, VP of Marketing, Europe and South Africa at IRI.

“Understanding these trends shows us the opportunities that are open to brands and retailers during further periods of lockdown this winter as people move indoors and are perhaps even more tempted to treat themselves during this period of uncertainty.”

Night out takes on new meaning

All countries showed a marked increase in sales of salty snacks and alcohol, driven in part by the aperitivo occasion on Zoom.

Salty snacks clocked in the highest spend across all the countries, with Spaniards pulling out all the stops to match up snacks (up 28%) with alcohol (tequila was the biggest seller) to keep the uncertainty, frustration and boredom of lockdown at bay.

This was followed by Greece (+28% for snacks to accompany rum) and Germany (snacks up 16%, paired with gin).

The biggest market for the salty snacks sector though remains the UK, up 3.5% to €1.2bn in spend.

On the alcoholic side, sales of wine rose by between 4% to 17% points in all countries, except in France, which recorded a 31% sales decrease, especially champagne as celebrations were cancelled.

Consumption of salty snacks and spirits remains high across all seven countries, especially as several have reengaged stringent lockdown rules.

The family film night in became the new going out, driving the sales of popcorn.

In Italy, popcorn grew by over half (+53%) and by 19% in Germany, but purchase levels returned to normal once lockdown ended.

At home baking all the rage

According to IRI, the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t been as sweet to confectionery sales.

The sweet treats fell in almost all countries during lockdown and have not recovered, with candy sales in all countries still down or flat versus a year ago. The only country to clock in sales growth was Spain (+2%), driven by children’s favourites. Gummies were up by 37.8% to €30m as people found a way to deal with home schooling.

The desire for adult candies, like chewing gum, is obviously largely related to working at the office, so was hit hard everywhere. The Netherlands saw a reverse trend on mint throat sweets, noting growth during the initial panic of the pandemic, but since falling by 9%.

Chocolate, on the other hand, recorded a soar in sales. Despite seasonal sales suffering – particularly Easter – overall, the sector fared extremely well, growing by 40% in France, 39% in Spain, 33% in Italy and 28% in Greece.

The market researcher, however, noted chocolate sales were driven by a large degree by the home baking trend, which became all the rage for many in lockdown.

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