Spring into action

Christmas may be the all-important season for confectionery, but the rest of the year provides plenty of opportunities for consumers to buy into. Whether it’s chocolates for Valentine’s Day, spoiling mum on Mother’s Day or the annual excess of eggs at Easter, gifting with chocolate is high on the shopping list.

A key trend this year is the focus on environmental issues, with packaging being reduced and recycled card and plastic being used. Reduced packaging means smaller boxes, which can mean more on a pallet. This should help both wholesalers and retailers.

Boxed Chocolates

Kate Harding, trade communications manager of Cadbury, says: “Giving and sharing are particularly important themes for both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. In 2008, for Valentine’s Day, giving and sharing grew by 4%, driven by everyday gifting, up an incredible 23% year on year. The core Cadbury brands driving growth during these spring occasions include Milk Tray, which is targeted at Valentine’s Day, and Roses at Mother’s Day.”

Harding suggests wholesalers stock Milk Tray 600g and 800g with its new look packaging and to create in-depot theatre using key spring lines.

Bep Sandhu, trade relations manager of Mars, says: “Boxed chocolates are a significant opportunity for wholesalers as they represent a relatively low risk versus pure Easter products. There are a number of selling occasions to focus on such as Valentine’s and Mother’s Day and many people will still buy boxed chocolates to take as a gift to friends and family over the Easter weekend. Wholesalers should also focus on lines from big brands that can be sold all year round. Year round favourites like Celebrations carton and Maltesers large box are a great way of minimising risk as retailers can buy stock with the confidence that they will be able to sell any stock left over after the event.”

According to Nestl eacute;, spring is a key opportunity for impulse gifting and sharing, which represents 50% of the spring confectionery market. Stocking the right boxed chocolates at this time of year can help retailers benefit from several gifting occasions. Nestl eacute; recommends stocking Quality Street, After Eight, Dairy Box, Black Magic and Quality Street Matchmakers.

Easter

According to Mintel, shell chocolate eggs are experiencing continued growth as variety and innovations have kept the sector buoyant and introduced more premium options. Shell eggs are now worth 65.7% of sales of Easter chocolates, a 4.1% growth since 2007. The massive discounting in eggs at Easter has helped to boost volume sales, and together with increased premiumisation has helped value sales growth. Filled eggs have not fared as well; high-calorie density and concerns over health have curbed the amount of peripheral chocolate eaten at Easter. Filled eggs are now worth pound;46m, around a fifth of the market, and have seen a steady, albeit small, decline.

Mintel says that novelty products continue to be a success and consumers are looking for fun alternatives to traditional purchases. Producers can make the most of this trend with larger shaped chocolate options as an alternative to eggs, with a wider celebratory spring message, rather than an Easter-specific one. Products that include inventive chocolate mixtures in a variety of colours and textures may also work well as consumers are attracted to products they have not seen before.

Bep Sandhu, trade relations manager of Mars, says: “2008 was the earliest Easter for 95 years and the shorter sales period resulted in a 10% drop in total market share. Despite this, Mars enjoyed an overall increase, growing market share by 4%. The 2009 season will be almost three weeks longer and we have significantly reduced our range from 28 lines to 19.”

Following the WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme) industry agreement to reduce medium egg carton weights by 25%, Mars has reduced carton weight by 42%, saving 200 tonnes of cardboard per annum. Mars has also reduced its plastic insert weight by 35%. A bunny logo has been added to the Easter eggs to indicate that the card is 100% recycled.

Mars has added three new products to its Easter range. The Galaxy All Block Collection Egg is designed to offer a premium product with almost 600g of chocolate in a gift box. The Maltesers and Friends Mini Eggs have been updated and rebranded and the MaltEaster bunny, a limited edition milk chocolate bunny with a Maltesers centre, has been introduced. Sandhu, says: “The self eat category (filled and mini eggs) is the most important of all to retailers as these products will be sold continuously throughout the season. Shoppers will not only buy for themselves by also for friends as a treat and Easter egg hunts. MaltEaster will bring something new and different into the market, and target the key shoppers of this category, 25-44 year-old women.”

Graham Walker, trade communications manager of Nestl eacute; UK, says: “The biggest opportunity for small shops is immediate consumption products, filled and mini eggs, which provide incremental sales right across the spring season.”

Following the launch of the Smarties Shaker Egg last year, Nestl eacute; is introducing the Aero Filled Egg, filled with Aero bubbly chocolate. The Smarties Mini Eggs and Milkybar Mini Eggs will both been available in 100g pouches.

In order to pass the message on to retailers Nestl eacute; has developed POS material specifically for cash and carries and wholesalers. The POS shows off the key lines, including the new filled Aero egg, and is designed to clearly show retailers the POR (profit on return) they can make by buying the range. It can also show the POR on promotional deals. Walker says: “The POS aims to clearly tell retailers ‘if you buy this at this price, you will make this profit.’ It also introduces retailers to the core range that Nestl eacute; has on offer.”

Another new addition to the Easter range is Bluebell the Milkybar Cow. The hollow 100g cow aims to offer a permissible treat for kids

Walker says: “Spring is hugely important as it’s the second most important trading period after Christmas. Retailers can have a successful season by focusing on a tight core range relevant to their shopper profile, but with special emphasis on immediate consumption products – filled and mini eggs, which represent the best opportunity for cracking impulse sales.”

Nestl eacute; has also cut packaging across the whole range of shell eggs, which equates to a 30% overall reduction. A fully recyclable card tray has been added to secure the egg in the box, so Nestl eacute; can remove plastic packaging from 80% of its shell eggs. All the plastic it does use is made from recycled drinks bottles.

Kate Harding, trade communications manager for Cadbury, says: “Cadbury is the number one brand at Easter. Cadbury has the largest share of the filled and mini category, including Cadbury Creme Egg and Mini Eggs, at 71%. For Easter 2009, Cadbury aims to maintain this leadership positioning and drive growth further through effective retailer and consumer communications. Within the filled and mini category, Cadbury Creme Egg is an extremely important SKU as it is the number one brand at Easter. The availability of Cadbury Creme Egg marks the start of Easter and helps to draw consumers back to chocolate confectionery after the festive season.

“Wholesalers should draw attention to the season in-depot with key spring lines. Products should be clearly displayed from the very beginning of January until Easter. Availability is essential and wholesalers should ensure that a consistent supply of key lines is on display in order to minimise lost profit opportunities though out of stocks.”

Cadbury will also be introducing two large shell eggs, the Wispa egg and Twirl egg.

For 2009, there will be a continued focus on reducing packaging to deliver the company’s Purple Goes Green objectives

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=== Buyer’s viewpoint ===

The spring market for confectionery remains an opportunity for independents, even though Easter continues to be a supermarket challenge where branded volume sellers are concerned. The situation is not going to change and many businesses have now worked out how to deal with this in order to continue making good money at such an important time of year

There is a vast array of spring gifting products and the supermarkets tend to only focus on a core range. Teenage eggs for example are usually heavily price promoted and I am sure that 2009 will be no exception. But there is so much more to Easter than this, and many of our customers have worked hard to develop their own identity and offer something a little bit different for their local customers.

NPD has been limited for Easter in recent years. However 2009 sees some activity with the reintroduction of insider eggs by Nestl eacute;, where the sweets and chocolates are to be found inside the shell egg. This will spark interest with many shoppers. The sales growth of hollow chocolate shapes has also resulted in some new products this year. Nestl eacute; will launch their Milkybar Hollow Cow and of course Cadbury will be launching a Wispa egg to continue the enthusiasm for this old-timer.

A growing trend for 2009 will be the reduction in packaging for Easter eggs. We have especially seen this with Nestl eacute; and Cadbury as they react to consumer demand and take out unnecessary parts. Furthermore they are seeking to ensure that, where possible, what remains is recyclable.

Easter falls three weeks later in 2009, allowing the three spring occasions to be more evenly spaced.

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=== Diary dates for 2009 ===

Valentine’s Day 14th February

Mother’s Day 22nd March

Easter Sunday 12th April

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