Christmas crackers

At Christmas time impulse buying can reach frenzied levels as consumers’ budgets go out of the window and little ‘top-up’ gifts are the order of the day. Confectionery – specifically boxes and gift presentations of chocolates – is an ideal gift. So retailers who don’t want to miss out on any of these impulse purchases need to make sure they’re stocked up at all times. This means that perhaps one of the most important jobs of the cash and carry or wholesaler is to communicate their opening hours loudly and clearly in the run up to Christmas. Even the day of the week Christmas falls on can have serious ramifications for retailers – and wholesalers.

Sarah Petts, channel and communications manager at Kraft Foods, explains: “Christmas day was on a Saturday last year and many shoppers left purchases to the last minute, highlighted by a peak of credit card purchases at 2.07pm on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day this year is on a Sunday so replenishment on Christmas Eve will be vital in taking advantage of the last minute shoppers.”

So what have the confectionery companies got lined up for these shoppers? This year’s big trend seems to be the “less is more” approach with lots of mini boxes of chocolates on offer. Last year Cadbury Trebor Bassett (CTB) launched Roses Luxury Collection, which helped the overall Roses brand grow by £6m. CTB is building on the success of Luxury Collection with the launch of a 65g mini box for trial purchases and for those consumers who want a smaller gift at an affordable price point. Both Roses Luxury Collection and the new mini box will sport pictures of the chocolates inside.

There is also a Roses 80g mini carton. In addition there’s a Roses carton with 33% extra free that is always popular with independent retailers as it’s proven to increase sales over the Christmas period. Similarly Cadbury Heroes has 25% extra free on the 480g carton.

Like CTB, Nestlé is offering mini gift formats of its popular lines so Quality Street and Dairy Box are all available in 99p packs. Masterfoods has a new mini box of Celebrations and tiny boxes of chocs also feature in the Guylian and Duc d’o ranges.
While the grocery multiples are busy pre-Christmas knocking out huge tins of twistwraps for under a tenner, independents are advised to stick to the more unusual lines that will catch the consumer’s eye. A good example is premium brand Duc d’o.

The company’s general manager Peter Sheehan explains: “This year P H has some composite cases to encourage trial of amaretto truffles, white chocolate truffles, snowflake truffles and 200g mini pralines.”

Sheehan reports that Duc d’o’s 50g mini pralines have done so well as impulse purchases that they have now been joined by a 65g truffle in a new vertical display. He says: “With only seven to the display, the 65g truffle works well as a trial pack for the standard 250g ballotin and will encourage new users to the brand.”

Meanwhile Guylian’s 65g Seashells pack always sells well as an impulse gift. Chris Buckley, sales director of Guylian UK, comments: “The cash and carry and delivered wholesale sector is strategically very important to Guylian as the brand develops in the UK. We do not have a retail salesforce so rely totally on cash and carries and wholesalers to supply the independent trade.
“Data published by Nielsen suggests that the Guylian brand is performing well in this sector with sales up 43% in the impulse sector last Christmas.

“In order to compete with the multiples, independent retailers need to put together ranges which offer a point of difference and the premium boxed chocolate category offers the retailer just that.

“New brands from Guylian this season include Guylian Twists, Les Exclusives gift box and orange-filled Seashells, while our Seashells range has been given a fresh new look. Price points range from token impulse gifts at £1.09 to luxury gift boxes at £4.99. All the brands are packed in small case counts and can even be bought in singles in most cash and carries. Promotions are also running throughout the season to encourage retailers to stock a range of Guylian brands.”

Ferrero Rocher is another brand that needs to be stocked, because it was the number four boxed chocolate brand in value sales last Christmas, according to ACNielsen. A new line for this Christmas is Ferrero Prestige 353g, which is positioned as a premium gift. Boxes contains Ferrero Rocher plus Rond Noir, a hazelnut and cocoa praline; and Ferrero Cappuccino, a praline with a liquid coffee filling.

Alexei Archipow, trade marketing manager – impulse, says the company has a lot going on in cash and carries and wholesalers pre-Christmas. “We have extensive in-store theatre in cash and carries, and in wholesale we devote advertising space and have Christmas specials. We also have a specific display for the smaller retailer – the Ferrero Rocher vertical cabinet, which has a small footprint and is perfect for the space conscious. It contains 20 x T16 Ferrero Rocher (our 200g) and 12 x T24 Diamond (our 300g).”

The big news from Bendicks is the launch of Chocolate Confections, described as a ‘formal in-laid chocolate selection of hand-finished milk, dark and white chocolates’. The chocolates are available now through to December in 215g packs x 5 (rrp £6.99 each). Rigid carton packaging protects the sweets, with chocolates presented in individual paper cups. Further quality is guaranteed through a six-month production life, to ensure product freshness. A special flex-back display tray has also been produced for ease of display and appearance on shelf.

Another premium chocolate manufacturer, Lindt and Sprüngli, had a fabulous Christmas in 2004 with growth figures of 30% for its festive range. The Lindt Gold Reindeer – launched for Christmas 2004 – exceeded expectations and as such has already established itself as a ‘must stock’ line for independents. Alongside the Gold Reindeers are Lindt’s red and gold foil-wrapped Santas. These come in sizes ranging from 125g (rrp £2.29) to a 1kg Giant Santa (rrp £29.99).

Lindt also offers a mini chocolate box – a sample size of its Swiss Tradition – weighing in at 40g with an rrp of £1.99. Swiss Tradition recorded a 20% value sales growth between Christmas 2003-2004 which is why Lindt has just extended the range with the launch of Swiss Tradition De Luxe Dark Collection. This contains dark chocolate pralines with a high cocoa content – 248g boxes retail at £8.49.

True Christmas impulse lines come in the form of Quality Street’s Big Boys range. For Christmas 2005, the Big Purple One and the Big Green Triangle are joined by Big Orange Crunch. This replaces last year’s Big Toffee Finger.

Big Orange Crunch is not the only new line from Nestlé Rowntree, there’s also Pizazz from Quality Street. This is a twistwrap selection of contemporary flavours such as cookies cream, raspberry shortcake and banoffi. It comes in two sizes: a 200g carton (rrp £3.99) and 400g (rrp £6.99). Nestlé Rowntree sales communications manager Graham Walker reckons Pizazz gives independents the chance to trade their shoppers up to a higher price point.

Another new line is After Eight Straws. Aimed at a slightly younger audience than traditional After Eight, Straws retail at £2.49 for 113g. The product is designed to be eaten at relaxed dining occasions.

For this Christmas, Nestlé Rowntree has a new boxed chocolates composite outer which provides retailers with a means of driving trial of new products. The outer features a range of best selling lines including Quality Street (480g x3) and After Eight (300g x3); new Pizazz from Quality Street (180g x3); new After Eight Straws (x3); and seasonal favourites Matchmakers mint (x3) and Dairy Box (210g x2); plus three free popular Milkybar Christmas selection packs. Priced at £34.99, it means retailers don’t have to invest in full outers of each product (full outers would cost £136.90).

This month teams of Nestlé Rowntree reps will be working in depots, with cash and carry staff, to build eye-catching, practical and effective seasonal confectionery displays. The teams will be using flat pack point of sale to create a Christmas zone, which not only looks appealing to shoppers, but fulfils the cash and carries’ stock and availability needs to meet demand and maximise sales and profits.

Meanwhile, anyone who thought they’d seen the back of Willy Wonka would be wrong because the big summer blockbuster gets its DVD release in time for Christmas. Never one to miss a trick, Nestlé Rowntree has developed the Wonka premium selection pack, which comes complete with a fun book for kids, a Smarties Wonka Cane, based on the one seen in the film but this one’s packed full of Fruity Smarties, and there is also a Wonka ‘decorate your own chocolate bar’ pack. Walker says the Wonka Cane will be the big line for independents.

Cadbury Trebor Bassett has foregone major product launches for a programme of range rationalistion. The company intends to focus on its masterbrand and reckons this will increase profitability for retailers through the use of a consistent design to deliver greater impact. And so CTB’s Christmas lines will use the theme ‘Magic of Christmas’.

Mike Tipping, head of customer relations for CTB, says: “By creating this consistency across the entire range, the shopping experience becomes much easier for consumers as it enables them to shop the fixture more effectively. The iconic purple colour is instantly recognisable by consumers and shoppers alike, allowing them to clearly associate the colour and brand with quality and excellence, as well as value for money.”

When it comes to Masterfoods’ Christmas range, the company’s trade relations manager Andrea Taylor says Maltesers is the absolute must stock. “Maltesers is number one in the branded gifts category, indeed three out of the top five branded gifts last Christmas were Maltesers products,” she says, citing ACNielsen’s figures for the 16 weeks to December 25, 2004. This year the range comprises the popular Maltesers and White Maltesers buckets (rrp £3.99) and the mixed Maltesers mega bucket (£6.75).

Taylor says the company has been running a trial in a major cash and carry depot in Scotland, to see if dual siting the Maltesers 146g box in both the Masterfoods and the boxed chocolate bays would lead to an uplift in sales of the product.

She reports that the trial was so successful that dual siting the 146g box immediately became a permanent feature in the Scottish depot and has now been rolled out to the top 150 cash and carries nationwide. She says: “The dual siting displays are being supported by tailored point of sale communicating the Maltesers 146g pack’s position as the best selling boxed chocolate in the independent channel. Employees at participating depots who have well laid out displays are also eligible to win pairs of cinema tickets.”

For Celebrations there is a new twist top pack which Masterfoods reckons delivers 20% greater stand out on shelf. New look in-depot display units feature a ‘Twist Win’ promotion to engage retailers and create ‘retail-tainment’ in cash and carries.

Over at Kraft, Terry’s All Gold has been relaunched in new packaging to make it more appealing as a gift. The quality of the chocolates has also been improved. Available in both 450g and 225g boxes, the key focus for independents will be the 225g Terry’s All Gold, which now comes in sixes, instead of 12s.

According to ACNielsen, Terry’s Chocolate Orange generated sales of £12m last Christmas and was the best selling gift in the 16 weeks to December 25, by unit. The Terry’s Chocolate Orange £1.99 price-marked pack is expected to be a big seller for cash and carries and wholesalers in the run-up to the Christmas period. Cash and carries should also expect a lot of interest in the new mint variant. The mint-flavoured ball comes in a modern green box and will be promoted with the tagline ‘It’s not orange, it’s mint’.

Kraft’s Sarah Petts reports that Terry’s Twilight performed well in 2004 and for 2005 the product has improved chocolate and a better mint flavour, with a new two-layer wrapper sealed for freshness. There has been a weight reduction from 175g to 150g to give retailers and consumers a better price point and the case size has been reduced from 20 to a more convenient size of 10.

Finally, Richard Brittle, purchasing director at confectionery specialists Hancocks, says the cash and carry chain will be stocking large amounts of Cadbury’s Centenary mugs and tins. “These are expected to be extremely popular with collectors, as well as fuelling the retro trend that is all the rage at the moment.” Nestlé Rowntree is also cashing in on the trend for all things retro with a limited edition Quality Street retro pack, which will include past favourite chocolates from the brand.

And when it comes to that old Christmas chestnut – large tins of sweets – Brittle says Hancocks offers an alternative range for independents, rarely seen in supermarkets, that gives good margins. “This year sees the return of the Winnie the Pooh sweet tin from Nestlé, which is always a top seller. A Winnie the Pooh biscuit tin is also being introduced. Werthers is doing a toffee tin while Bassetts is once again doing a Liquorice Allsorts tin. And Cadbury has a 1.5kg Roses Tin, a weight that is exclusive to the independent trade.”

Seasonal Sales Advice
Adopt a category approach to merchandising seasonal confectionery in depot because retailers shop by category, not by manufacturer.

Cash and carries should merchandise products that sell early in the season, such as advent calendars, next to those which increase in volume as the season goes on, such as tins. By doing this they can increase efficiency, because as the space needed for advent calendars decreases, it can be filled with tins as the demand for these increases.

Place seasonal confectionery in multiple locations to drive association with other categories such as wine and after dinner mints.

Shippers and hoodbox units act as superb vehicles to form cross-category association, and are key to developing sales and distribution of new or key gifting packs.

Source: Nestlé Rowntree

Buyer’s Viewpoint
Richard Brittle, Hancocks purchasing director

We are offering 236 seasonal products this Christmas, a high proportion of which are beyond the main brands, offering retailers higher margin opportunities and a chance to be different.

There are many more needs that can be satisfied by confectionery at Christmas than you realise. There are the ‘thank you’ gifts for teachers, company gifts/rewards for staff, and sharing items for the office.

We have a huge range of items this year that can retail at 99p and reward the retailer with a strong return. Confectionery that can retail between 99p and £1.99 satisfies a wide range of needs, in particular presents that children can buy with their own money. All of the main branded suppliers are now making sure that they offer a 99p box of chocolates for this reason. But a range of higher priced items is also important for more substantial gifts to individuals or perhaps employees.

Buyers Viewpoint
Jon Burton, Landmark trading controller, soft drinks and confectionery

The Christmas season is the pinnacle of the year with a great deal of planning/ordering of stock from February onwards as this dominates the depot from early October onwards. Great theatre is achieved by Christmas.

The big sellers last year were Quality Street, Flake Moments, Celebrations and premium chocolates. This year’s must stocks include the Willy Wonka selection box, Pizazz and Cadbury’s tubes.

Suppliers often pre-sell in depot to encourage sales as some retailers leave stocking really late. Merchandising and POS support are key to successful displays at Christmas and all our key suppliers assist in depot.

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