The Mint Julep has been the official Kentucky Derby drink since 1938.
Welcome to the annual festival of lavish hats and mint juleps.
Yes, it’s Kentucky Derby time again, and given that only 150,000 people can attend the race at Churchill Downs in person, a myriad of websites are talking up how consumers can throw fun Kentucky Derby parties to partake in the festivities.
Grocery stores can thus expect to see a rush of entertaining-based shopping trips in the few days prior to May 6. Here’s how you can leverage the occasions associated with Derby Day for maximum revenue generation.
Understand Kentucky Derby Traditions
The Mint Julep has been the official Kentucky Derby drink since 1938. Expect to see significant demand for bourbon (particularly Woodford Reserve, the ‘official bourbon’ of the Kentucky Derby, including a 2023 commemorative Derby bottle), fresh mint leaves, powdered sugar, simple syrup, and ice. An alternative variation is ‘Kentucky lemonade’, consisting of bourbon, ginger ale, simple syrup, and mint.
Food, if the host is cooking
Anticipate a run on ingredients for popular dishes. These include Kentucky Hot Browns, Pimento cheese, Kentucky Benedictine dip, Kentucky beer cheese, deviled eggs, fried chicken, and chocolate bourbon pecan pie.
Other Southern-influenced party favorites include pulled pork sliders, bourbon meatballs, maple bourbon bacon wrapped shrimp, Southern cheese grits and buttermilk hush puppies. And if the host is hewing to particularly traditional dishes often used for civic fundraisers in the South, burgoo, which is a thick stew of beef, chicken, pork and vegetables often served with cornbread or corn muffins.
Beyond traditions to prepackaged snacks
If Derby party hosts are not culinarily inclined, or even if they are, expect prepackaged snacks such as nuts, potato chips, dips, crackers, and charcuterie and cheese boards to make an appearance to fill out the table offerings.
And then there’s …
Decorations, particularly table decorations of red roses to replicate the famous Run for the Roses. Picnicware may also sell well for those not wishing to risk their fine china with guests.
A Premiumization Opportunity
So, if the above is a partial list of what’s likely to sell heavily in the next week, how do you capitalize on what shoppers are already buying?
Premiumize. And get them to buy more of it; increase their average weight of purchase (AWOP) through upsizing, multibuys and bundling.
In drinks, if you have access to the Woodford Reserve Commemorative Bottle, promote that along with how the host can talk to its bragging rights. Promote the largest size as being the perfect one for party hosting. Bundle mint julep and/or Kentucky lemonade ingredients into a single solution price point, potentially even including ice, and promote these as Derby party packs. You could include snacks with these. Run multibuy ‘2for’ and ‘3for’ promotions on premium bourbons. You may also like to promote the ‘gift for host’ opportunity which could be confectionery, or another bottle of bourbon (premium, of course) as something for ‘the house’.
Likewise, in food bundle and display recipe ingredients for specific dishes, such as Hot Browns, together with point-of-sale materials including messages such as ‘Kentucky Hot Browns made easy’ to make it super clear for shoppers.
The Kentucky Derby is an opportunity to sell more, and better, of what party hosts, and guests, are already going to be looking for. Why not give them what they want, and increase your revenue in the process?
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