Jon Collins: Offering Guests the Right Bar Selection in a Time of Change

The tyranny of choice. Image: Getty

Jon Collins, president of Nielsen CGA, is responsible for the development of the joint venture’s on-premise services globally. In particular, though, Collins’ role sees him focusing on the United States. He oversees a specialist team working to provide retailers and suppliers with high-level insight into changing consumer and retail trends, brand performance, and market movements.

At the upcoming VIBE Conference, Collins will draw on Nielsen CGA’s comprehensive data sets across market measurement, outlet openings, and consumer behavior to explore the latest trends in the US on premise.

VIBE: Nielsen CGA is relatively new to the US, though it has been operating in the UK for some time. What does it do?

Jon Collins: We’re all about bars, restaurants and beverage trends. What gets us excited – whether from the brand, operator, retailer, distributor or consumer perspectives – is what’s going on in bars and restaurants, and where the trends are going. In my session we will showcase all those different perspectives to help people think about how to make more money on-premise.

VIBE: How do you get to your conclusions?

Collins: CGA has a full suite of services. For example, our TD Linx is a continually updated database of licensed presences. It helps us understand, if you’re a big mainstream beer brand as an example, what it means as the on-premise is reshaping itself, the neighborhood bars are closing, and casual dining is growing. That’s in fact how we’ll be kicking off the session: explaining how we help people understand what sorts of operations are opening and closing, and the implications.

We also launched last year OPM (on-premise measurement), which we produce every four weeks: Data about beer, wine and spirits on the brand level. How are they performing? Are they losing share? If so, is it to one big competitor or, more typically (in the more fragmented channels like beer), is it the more significant growth in supply that’s outpacing consumer demand? We look at volume, value, price, distribution and velocity to see which brands and categories are performing well, which are under pressure, and why that is.

The final piece in our 360-degree view of on-premise: We do a 15,000-person consumer survey twice a year, and we’re able to pull out a wealth of causal factors around changing customer demands, and the drivers of them.

VIBE: What does all that tell you?

Collins: We’re able to understand how users of different retail fixtures are changing. For example, we’ll look at who is considered to have the better drinks range among bars and restaurants and tie that back to the consumer drivers. One of the things that struck me as an Englishman abroad is how the typical bar in America is carrying around twice as many brands on the back bar as an equivalent bar in the UK. So the fundamental question is: Are they carrying too many brands? US consumers say their biggest frustration in a bar is knowing what to order.

We labeled it the tyranny of choice. There’s a whole school of psychology that feels we face choice overload these days. We continually talk about the bar being set up correctly so that everything is making a contribution, so the customer can understand and navigate the bar easily and not be confused by a dense wall of bottles, and critically getting your own staff to advise correctly and not be overwhelmed. Just because choice is good doesn’t mean more choice is better. Flexibility can be there without needing 15 flavored vodkas or 9 different bourbons. If a brand doesn’t sell through it may be confusing consumers more.

VIBE: What can attendees expect from this wealth of information?

Collins: We’ll be looking at the bricks and mortar side, the current opening and closure rates, how neighborhood and casual dining outlets are faring, then jumping into top-level trends across beer, wine and spirits, and then diving into the causal factors. For example, we’re looking at spirits’ flexibility as a key reason for growth. Spirits are being served as a shot, straight over ice, as a cocktail, an aperitif, a digestif… They even lend themselves to the food occasion, as well as catching up with friends, night out, and high-energy occasions. It looks like no matter how people engage on-premise, there’s a spirit occasion.

Above all, actionable insight. We’re not interested in just telling people what’s up and down, we’re interested in showing the drivers and dynamics that people need to be aware of to sell more product and build their businesses. In other words, leaving people with ways to give consumers a better experience and make them want to take more money out of their wallets.

Jon Collins' VIBE Conference presentation, "The View from the Bar: What's 'On' in On-Premise," will draw on Nielsen CGA’s comprehensive data sets across market measurement, outlet openings, and consumer behavior to explore the latest trends in the US on-premise, utilizing a holistic approach that will unlock new levels of insight into on-premise market dynamics. Register now for the 2017 VIBE Conference in San Diego if you haven't already.


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