Tailgating Solutions: Onset of Football Season Spurs Grocers, Manufacturers
At Safeway’s Eastern division, football fandom is a way of life.
“We’re proud to be the official supermarket for the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins,” asserts Kelly Boyd, marketing director for the Lanham, Md.-based division, who oversees its NFL partnerships. “Safeway provides one-stop shops where team fans can gear up for game days.”
The reason for this is simple, according to Boyd: “Both the Ravens and the Redskins attract enthusiastic fans that love to tailgate at games, eating and drinking and forming a sense of community around their passion for their teams.”
To that end, the division’s stores offer a full complement of food items across the aisles, including wings, burgers, brats, guacamole and other dips, deli meats, cookies, chips, and a range of beverages, highlighted by themed displays and promotions, to help shoppers make the most of such occasions.
- While tailgaters are looking for more convenient, grab-and-go items, rising trends toward on-site grilling and “homegating” show that that there’s also room for more elaborate solutions.
- Social media has become an important aspect of promoting tailgating products to consumers.
- Retailers that aim to be one-stop shops for football fans’ needs, offering a wide variety of items across the store, cross-merchandising complementary products, and providing recipe and entertaining inspiration, will win the tailgating occasion.
“We have seen tailgating menus continue to evolve as consumers’ palates have evolved,” notes Boyd, adding: “Fans are looking for convenient, grab-and-go items. They are also setting up more sophisticated tailgating spots, with some fans setting up extensive grilling equipment, and others bringing trailers and motor homes to bring an elevated level of comfort to the stadiums.”
A shoo-in for any tailgating party with grilled meats on the menu is Coleman Natural Foods’ Budweiser BBQ Variety Pack, part of the company’s Budweiser BBQ Collection.
The pack consists of a half rack of St. Louis-style ribs with barbecue sauce, 14-ounce classic pulled pork in barbecue sauce, and four beer bratwursts, all individually packaged inside the box, which resembles a 6-pack of Budweiser Lager Beer.
Mel Coleman, VP of Golden, Colo.-based Coleman, notes that “consumers want to feed a crowd without the need for hours of prep. This is the perfect thing to grab and go.”
The collection, introduced earlier this year, also features St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs and Pulled Pork, each in Budweiser Brewmaster’s Premium BBQ Sauce; Bratwurst infused with real Budweiser Lager; and Jalapeno Cheddar Bratwurst infused with Cheddar Cheese and Real Budweiser Lager Beer.
“Football is the No. 1 sport in the country, so it was a natural fit for Avocados From Mexico, the No. 1 brand of avocados, to align its marketing program with the sport, which is an American tradition in the fall,” enthuses Stephanie Bazan, VP of market development at Irving, Texas-based Avocados From Mexico. “This time period is recognized by most major CPG brands in the grocery aisle leveraging football thematic [elements] on their packaging and/or promotional offers that tie into popular football sports teams.”
Adds Bazan: “We have a robust calendar of activity to support consumer demand during this fall time period. Our fall programming is designed to help our customers drive their sales of avocados during one of the key occasions of the season through eye-catching football thematic displays, POS, consumer savings offers [and] demos, as well as digital support.”
"Avocados From Mexico recently performed in-depth research and found that ripening and preserving of avocados are key areas of concern to consumers. Our new Education Playbook has guidelines that give retailers insights for positioning and strategy around Avocados From Mexico.”
Beyond that, Bazan has some advice on how food retailers can win over tailgaters. “For avocados specifically, grocers can capitalize on tailgating … occasions by increasing the dimensions of the fresh avocado displays and offering additional sizing for versatility and price options,” she suggests.
Brie Buenning, integrated marketing manager at San Leandro, Calif.-based La Brea Bakery, points out that “consumers are gravitating towards smaller bites, and we’ve seen an uptick in popularity among elevated finger foods and items like grazing boards that offer a variety of smaller samples. In addition to size, consumers are looking for ways to make entertaining less daunting, and sometimes that’s incorporating par-baked or pre-made foods into recipes and dishes.”
To that end, “La Brea Bakery’s Take & Bake line of breads are not only perfect for getting that fresh-baked, right-out-of-the-oven quality, but a convenient way to have artisan bread at your fingertips without sacrificing quality in ingredients, whether it’s paired with simple spreads or added to a favorite dish,” she recommends.
Buenning goes on to identify “a handful of ways” that grocers can capitalize on the occasion: “The first is making sure their pods are centralized in the store and are one-stop shops that … provide added inspiration to consumers. Another would be recipe inspiration on the website and on store-accompanying apps. Using beautiful photography and providing step-by-step instructions and the ingredients they’ll need in one place can be helpful. Circulars are also a great way to show interesting use cases for foods, in addition to how a store can provide more than ingredients, but [also] apps, drinks and even main meals.”
For its part, the company hopes to score a touchdown with an exciting football-themed initiative. “This fall season, La Brea Bakery will be partnering with Kroger to sponsor their college tailgating program,” says Buenning. “This program gives consumers the opportunity to access a unique tailgating experience at USC and UCLA football games through purchasing a set amount of La Brea Bakery breads or other participating sponsors. This drives both general awareness and sales, as consumers get to experience the brand through this tailgating experience, which includes tasting some of our popular breads.”
“Our Hormel chili brand has an incredibly strong relationship with football and tailgating,” asserts Jason Baskin, senior brand manager at Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods, who notes that canned-chili sales start to pick up at the beginning of the football season and increase all the way through the Super Bowl. “That is the No. 1 sales week for chili of the entire year. This goes back to chili being an easy way to add excitement to tailgates, with chili dogs, chili dips, or even a hot bowl on a cold fall day.”
Baskin cites a particularly successful promotion the company ran in early 2019 to raise the signature item’s profile even further. “Hormel chili did a really innovative partnership for [the] Big Game with Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl Receiver Adam Thielen,” he recounts.
“Chili cheese dip is a huge recipe for football parties, and Adam is known for his creative touchdown dances. So Thielen and the brand challenged consumers to create their own ‘Chili Cheese Dip Dance’ for the chance to win a trip to Miami, the site of next year’s Big Game. The campaign created a lot of buzz on social media and received submissions from all over the country, all while supporting the No. 1 sales week of the year for canned chili.”
“More and more people are using social media to get ideas for easy ways to make their tailgates and parties more exciting,” observes Baskin. “We leverage that with brands like Hormel chili by showing them easy ways to upgrade their ordinary foods into exciting dishes that their guests will love on the same channels and on our website.”
Keep Snacks Simple
With regard to nibbles, Mark Singleton, VP of sales and marketing at Dallas-based Southern Recipe Small Batch, which offers a line of high-protein, low-carb, clean-label pork rinds in such bold flavors as Thai Curry and Cuban Mojo, notes: “We have promotional programs in place for case wrap displays and more during football season. Our shoppers will already be looking for snacks that can keep their tailgaters satisfied, and we know they may need a simple alternative to the high-sugar, high-carb snack options they’re used to.”
Also riding the wave of interest in high-protein snacks is ProSticks, a convenient line of ready-grilled chicken in tailgate-friendly flavors like Mediterranean and Sriracha that can be eaten at room temperature. According to Michael Delli Colli, marketing manager at Saint-Laurent, Quebec-based Expresco Foods, maker of ProSticks, “Cross-promotional targeting is always a good tactic for items that pair well together, such as select beverages or dips and chicken skewers.”
With “planning [being] done earlier and earlier each year” for tailgating, as Christie Frazier-Coleman, VP of marketing at Mesa, Ariz.-based snack food maker Lehi Valley Trading Co., observes, retailers must be on top of the latest trends regarding the occasion to ensure that they have exactly what consumers are looking for.
One such trend involves not going to the game at all.
This could mean fine-tuning displays and promotions to play up the comforts of a home-based celebration, and featuring recipes and meal suggestions not so reliant on portability, among other tweaks.
However retailers choose to mark football season in their aisles, the goal, of course, is to make it to the end zone. As Boyd observes, “Before games, fans head to Safeway to gear up for all of their tailgating or homegating needs, and our stores see an increase in sales as a result.”
Most of us are familiar with the usual tailgate fare of burgers, hot dogs, chips and salsa and the like, which few would describe as upscale. Some party hosts, however, are seeking to elevate the game-day experience.
Matt Robertson, marketing manager at York, Maine-based Stonewall Kitchen LLC, a purveyor of gourmet sauces, condiments, cocktail garnishes, oils, vinegars, pastas and more under several brands, says that “having easily accessible and delicious products that take traditional tailgating items to the next level is the biggest trend. [Consumers] are looking for easy-to-make but restaurant-quality dishes for entertaining.”
According to Robertson, ambitious tailgaters might make use of such Stonewall offerings as Tricolor Fusilli — “great for pasta salads” — Bacon Queso “to dip your chips in or spoon on your burger”; Bacon Vinaigrette, which is “perfect dressing for your salad”; Apple Blueberry Salsa; and Buffalo Wing Sauce.
Beyond these items’ sophisticated flavors, an exquisite spread featuring such products is bound to make a favorable impression while the players are on the field, and perhaps long after.
As Robertson asserts, “People value high-quality foods more now than ever, and with social media, they’re looking to host and create unique and interesting dishes with beautiful presentation.”
Stonewall Kitchen sells its products at nine company retail stores and select retailers, including grocers, across the United States.