Drinks companies are going all out to give consumers a reason to buy beer and wine alongside barbecue bangers, says Tim Palmer The importance of the marketing opportunity presented by the summer barbecue season has been underestimated by the drinks industry in the past, but statistics show it is worth investing in. This summer's big event will undoubtedly be the World Cup and the brewers, in particular, have made plans to make the most of it. But the barbecue season goes on beyond this football frenzy. The promoters of National BBQ Week 2002 maintain barbecuing is the longest-lasting seasonal fixture in most multiple grocers ­ including Christmas activity. Both Scottish Courage and Californian winemaker E&J Gallo have bought into National BBQ Week, which runs from May 27 to June 4. Scottish Courage has put forward Foster's lager as the main beer sponsor and Gallo is fielding Garnet Point as the lead wine for the event. Garnet Point brand manager Arthur Miller says: "The brand has been the official wine sponsor of this national event for the past three years and has benefited substantially from this complementary sponsorship during the crucial summer trading period. "The event will be supported in store by brochures, display bins, competitions and giveaways." He adds: "The most successful drinks promotions are campaigns that link brands to events or occasions such as barbecues." The winemaker plans to capitalise on the potential sales boost all summer and will be making the most of the interest in its rosé or blush wines. Last year sales of its two styles in the sector, White Grenache and White Zinfandel, grew by 66% compared with the same period in the summer of 2000. Australian producer BRL Hardy will be promoting its boxed wines during the summer. Brand development manager Bryonie Grieveson says: "We will concentrate our activity over the summer, focusing on the convenience and value benefits of boxes which are ideal for barbecues and picnics." The company's range features Banrock Station, Stamp of Australia and VR. The changeability of the British weather is often a deterrent to outdoor cooking, but when the sun shines everything changes. Scottish Courage marketing director Brian Sharp says: "Good weather not only makes for more enjoyable barbecues but also encourages excellent beer sales. For every degree increase over the average summer mean temperature, which we take to be 20 degrees, beer sales grow by 3%. That is an extra 400,000 cases of beer for every degree over 20 degrees. "With its natural associations with Australia ­ the spiritual home of the barbie ­ Foster's is a perfect partner for National BBQ Week," says Sharp. Both Gallo and Foster's will benefit from a series of 12 roadshows, starting with the Royal Bath and West County Show in Shepton Mallet. They will give the brands the chance to reach an estimated 1.44 million people. Interbrew's research shows that the summer barbecue or party is one of the top 10 most important take-home drinking events throughout the year, accounting for 8% of drinking occasions for men and 5% for women. It says the trade needs to cater for different purchasing habits during the summer when there is a sharp increase in home entertaining. The major brewers agree the proper use of chillers and stubby bottles is crucial during the summer and urge retailers to consider dual siting of beer and insist big brands such as Foster's, Stella Artois and Carling do better than the rest during sales surges. Interbrew points out the top 10 brands account for 48% of the value of take-home beer sales, compared with 40% in 1999. Sales director Steve Kitching adds the provision of ready chilled beer is vital, particularly in convenience and specialist stores, where nine out of 10 drinks bought are consumed the same day. The brewer's research shows 31% of beer shoppers in independents drink their purchases within an hour of buying them. Outside the impulse purchase, the decision to buy beer is often made based on the event it will be consumed at. Coors Brewers category marketing controller Linda O'Brien says: "Shoppers have told us the purchase decision is about the intended occasion, so we have to get better at giving them solutions for these occasions." This includes big staged events such as the World Cup, but it also means better targeting over the summer to make the most of outdoor eating. "Consumers are spending more time and money on home-based entertaining with the family, where refreshment is the reason for drinking." O'Brien says lager is the main form of alcohol that people take to a barbecue, and it is usually in units of 12. She says: "Chilled solutions are increasing in the trade but the big retailers also need to signpost the fact they can supply ice. Most do, but few people know about it." Coors' theme over the next few months will be Summer Sizzler. This will be communicated with merchandising across its key brands Carling, Grolsch, Reef and Caffrey's. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}