We’re all hoping that 2009 will bring us a long, hot summer.

With promotional events like National BBQ Week and Alfresco Food Fortnight planned for the next few months, no one wants a repeat of the wash out of the past two years.

Tortilla and wrap manufacturer Mission Foods is one company that is putting its money where its mouth is. It’s linking up with the 13th National BBQ Gastro Alfresco campaign - becoming the official bakery sponsor of this year’s event, which includes National BBQ Week.

Ian Job, European marketing director, says: "Mission Foods is delighted to be a partner of this year’s Gastro Alfresco event which is set to be the biggest to date. Via the partnership, we are aiming to show consumers how versatile and tasty Mission Deli Wraps are and demonstrate that they are a perfect bread alternative, adding a twist to any barbecue or picnic favourite. This represents a strong sales growth opportunity for retailers this summer."

Activity includes the Gastro Alfresco Experience Roadshow, with sampling at more than 140 stores, retailer promotions, online competitions and press, TV and radio coverage.

Jack Pipe, convenience sales director at Kraft Foods, is also remaining optimistic about the weather this summer. He says retailers should start looking now for ways to maximise impulse sales from al fresco and barbecue purchases.

He explains: "Retailers should concentrate on stocking best-selling products to cater for the convenience trade. They should make sure they stock a range of toppings and accompaniments as well as the usual burgers and buns - after all, a barbecue wouldn’t be complete without cheeseburgers and salads."

This means stocking items such as cheese slices - in fact, according to Kraft, its Kraft Singles are currently showing strong growth in the impulse sector, rising 29% in value over the past 12 months (Nielsen, impulse sales, MAT to w/e 04/10/08).

Pipe adds: "Kraft Singles are a popular choice thanks to the individually-wrapped slices and convenient size. Retailers should concentrate on stocking Kraft Singles in packs of five, which are price-marked at 79p. By selling at the marked price, retailers should benefit from significant volume uplifts, meaning they can increase the absolute cash going through their tills." Pipe says Dairylea Slices are also a key line, particularly after the successful relaunch of the whole Dairylea range last year.

Beverage Brands, owner of WKD, believes the sales opportunity presented by the barbecue season has not been fully exploited by drinks suppliers. "We believe barbecues will take on an extra importance this year," says Karen Salters, Beverage Brands’ marketing director. "In the current financial climate, the back-garden barbecue offers people the opportunity to ’eat out, without going out’ and means groups of friends can gather, socialise and dine together economically.

"If you take that cost dynamic and supplement it with the fact that so many of us felt hard done by because of last summer’s appalling weather which cheated us out of so many barbecues, then we really expect this summer to be a bumper barbecue season.

"When it comes to outdoor drinks, just like any social occasion, drinkers want a range of options. WKD consumers are just the type to shop extensively in the convenience sector and it’s really important forecourt retailers keep sufficient stocks of chilled WKD, especially in the peak summer months. When it comes to WKD, it’s not just about availability, it’s about chilled availability.

"WKD is an ever-popular brand for social occasions and, with the up-turn in barbecues that we predict this year, we’re educating consumers with a new outdoor serving suggestion - WKD jugs. These are extremely popular in the on-trade already, allowing consumers to enjoy the brand with a range of different mixers. This summer we’re suggesting consumers bring a little of this pub experience into the domestic garden.

"WKD jugs are all about socialising and sharing with friends and they offer an alternative way to serve drinks to guests. Served in jugs and topped up with plenty of ice, WKD and mixers are perfect for sharing."

Also looking at the al fresco market this summer is Warburtons. Sarah Miskell, the company’s category director, says: "The UK is the biggest barbecue nation in Europe and over the past five years the annual average growth rate has been in excess of 10% per year (Mintel Barbecue Foods November 2008). Research shows sales of rolls in particular rise in the summer as the hotter weather encourages people to have more barbecues and picnics."

Miskell advises retailers to stock the best-selling rolls and wrapped bread SKUs to maximise sales across the barbecue and picnic season and make sure top-selling products, such as rolls, are fully stocked throughout the day.

Miskell says: "Convenience and health are particularly important drivers in the wrapped rolls market. Warburtons recently revamped its rolls range and launched a new range of premium lunch rolls. The new range (rrp £1.10) consists of packs of six premium rolls available in three varieties - white, wholemeal and grains & seeds - and will meet consumer demand for more premium rolls to be enjoyed at the lunch occasion."

Hovis has also launched a range of rolls including seven variants that reflect its top-selling bread lines, including Best of Both, soft white and wholemeal. It is also releasing four premium varieties, including Hovis Mini Loaves, which the company says are back by popular demand.

Paul Drawbridge, senior brand manager, Hovis rolls, says: "Our rolls range is diverse and will appeal to a wide spectrum of consumers - put simply there is something for everyone. It boasts practical resealable packaging and a variety of ready-sliced options, both of which meet consumer demands for a convenient, fresh roll."

Summer is also the time to think about the growing market for hayfever and allergy sufferers.

According to the recent GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Hayfever & Allergy Category Report, 51% of UK adults suffer from allergies, and 5% of those suffering from hayfever or pollen allergies are new sufferers (three years or less).

Meanwhile, allergic conditions have increased four-fold over the past 20 years, making this a growing market.

The weather is obviously a major factor, and according to the report, "May and June 2008 experienced significantly higher pollen levels than 2007, which has combined with stronger promotions to drive increased sales during the 2008 season." GlaxoSmithKline’s key products for forecourts include Piriteze allergy tablets and the Beconase Hayfever brand which has a 100ml nasal spray (rrp £6.06).

Finally, let’s not forget bottled water. Nestlé Waters says health is more of an issue than ever, with the UK "in the grip of an obesity crisis".

It is supporting the Department of Health campaign, Change 4 Life, which encourages people to make small changes to their lifestyle to improve their health, including drinking more water.

Rebecca White, Nestlé Waters head of marketing, says: "Water is one of the perfect drinks for people looking to lead a healthier lifestyle as it contains none of the calories, preservatives or additives sugary drinks - it has zero calories, zero additives and a maximum hydration effect."


=== New for summer 2009 ===

l Cereal bar company Nature Valley is sponsoring the AA’s updated ’50 Walks of 2-10 Miles’ guides this year. The move is part of a £4m marketing support package for the brand. Tel: 01895 201100.

l Sunglasses brand Foster Grant has launched what it describes as a "credit crunch beating 2009 collection". The range draws its inspiration from the latest catwalk trends but the glasses have a rrp of £20 or less. The company is targeting forecourt operators with its compact display stands. Tel: 01782 813000.

l The English Provender Co has repackaged its low-calorie salad dressings in individual sachets for on-the-go-eating and picnics. They are available in three flavours: classic French, lime & coriander, and honey & mustard (rrp £1.45). Tel: 01635 528800.

l Heinz is turning up the heat this summer with its HP Hot Sauces and Twisted Ketchup ranges. Tel: 0208 5737757.

l Diageo GB launches a new smaller size for Pimm’s this month. The 35cl bottle (rrp £7.49) is aimed at the impulse market and is exclusively available within cash and carry and convenience. Tel: 0207 9275200.

l Wilkinson Sword has launched a 2-in-1 Quattro for Women Bikini which combines a bikini trimmer and a high-performance razor in one convenient beauty accessory (rrp £8.99). Tel: 01494 533300.

l Buxton is the official mineral water of the English Cricket Team and says it will be keeping the national side refreshed during this year’s Ashes Tournament. Tel: 0800 000030.