Amid changing licensing laws (see news extra p14) off licences are fast becoming an integral part of the forecourt shop’s offer, helping to boost total shop turnover through increased footfall. And according to Insight Research there are now about 2,150 forecourts – about 20% of the network across all types of operation – with a licence to sell alcohol.

When it comes to beer and wine, forecourts have established their own point of difference with chilled product. Elliot Symonds, national account manager at Interbrew UK, says: “Chilling is far more developed in forecourts than other trade sectors and so presents a unique selling point.”

Wine leads in the take-home alcohol sector and a new report from Datamonitor forecasts that total wine sales will grow by more than 15%, from £6bn in 2003 to £7bn in 2008. Wine’s success is being driven by increased drinking at home, as well as increased drinking among women, who account for more than half of wine consumption.

“Wine tends not to be socially acceptable for males to drink in traditional British pubs so the shift to home drinking significantly increases potential consumption,” says John Band, drinks analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report. “It also allows people a much wider choice of wine, which is important given the limited and often unpalatable wine selection available in pubs.”

The top five branded take-home wine brands, according to TNS Superpanel, are Blossom Hill, Stowells of Chelsea, Jacobs Creek, Hardys Banrock Station and Kumala.

With beer, retailers must focus on lager to maximise the sales potential of beer on the forecourt, according to Interbrew UK. The brewer says that lager’s share of beer sales on forecourts is growing and has now topped 95% – far higher than its 77% share of total take-home sales.

“Lager is increasingly dominating the forecourt environment with premium lager playing the major role,” says Symonds. “It is important that retailers put the display focus on major lager brands and ensure they have adequate supplies to cope with periods of heavy demand.

“Forecourts are much more lager-biased than the take-home market,” he adds. “This reflects the profile of the forecourt shopper and the fact that it includes a far higher percentage of young adult men than the take-home market as a whole.”

At the end of 2003, based on a sample of 458 sites operated by major oil companies, the beer category breakdown was premium lager 62.5%; standard lager 28.2%; superstrength lager 3.3%; ale 3.8% and stout 2.2%. Based on a bigger sample of 524 sites, the category performance in the first half of 2004 was premium lager 65.7%; standard lager 26.6%; superstrength 3%; ale 3.2% and stout 1.4%.

This summer Interbrew focused on its lager portfolio to help retailers drive summer beer sales through the launch of innovative dummy pallets of fast-rising Castlemaine XXXX.

High-impact dummy pallets communicating a “Chilled Castlemaine XXXX available here” message were rolled out to 398 forecourts including all Esso and BP forecourts with a licence to sell alcohol, and a selected number of Shell, Texaco and Total outlets. “This raises awareness of the availability of beer, and chilled beer in particular, stimulating impulse sales among forecourt shoppers,” says Symonds.

Matthew Leyland, Londis trading controller, also stresses the importance of premium brands. “Premium brands are driving sales of lager, dominated by major brands such as Stella Artois, whose market share is more than double that of its nearest competitor Carling,” says Leyland.

Bottled lagers also performed particularly well through Londis stores – growing by 35% year on year. And in addition to the mainstream brands, Leyland urges retailers to stock the increasingly popular international lagers such as Leffe and Hoegaarden.

Leyland also says that the emerging table beers sector is another opportunity to boost beer sales. These are bottled beers over 600ml for sharing, and could be seen as an alternative to wine. “A concise range of multipacks is also a must,” adds Leyland. “They are increasingly popular because they’re easy to pick up and perceived by customers as offering better value.”


While lager is dominating beer sales in forecourts, Badger Ales claims that many retailers are missing out on an opportunity in the premium bottled ales market through lack of space.

“The premium bottled ales category is the fastest growing sector (+19%) of the total beer market,” says, Rick Payne, marketing manager for Badger Ales. “Many forecourt retailers still insist on giving all their shelf space to lager brands, but consumers want premium bottled ales and if space is an issue, they should look to stock at least five ales from the biggest and fastest selling premium bottled ales,” he continues.

The top five should offer enough choice to cater for the traditional, modernist and female drinker, says Payne. “I would suggest retailers stock Tanglefoot, Badger Golden Champion Ale, Fursty Ferret, Newcastle Brown ale and Old Speckled Hen,” he says.

“By including Fursty Ferret within the offering, forecourt retailers will also appeal to the younger drinker who wants to upgrade from lager. Fursty Ferret has had tremendous success in the off-trade, just recently becoming the top-selling Premium Bottled Ale in Thresher.”

Matthew Leyland at Londis agrees that bottled ales present a good sales opportunity. “It’s a growing lucrative market, offering high margins, without the fear of being undercut by the multiples,” he says.