Olivia Gagan looks at the multitude of opportunities that are presented by Christmas chocolate products
Three chocolate products are bought every second during Christmas in the UK, but as a category teeming with new products, flavours and formats, there is always room for your chocolate sales to grow. Making sure your customers have access to a compelling, varied range of festive products is key to making the most of this critical event in the sales calendar.
While health and pricing concerns may factor into shoppers’ decision-making at other times of the year, Christmas is a period for indulging in treats. Combined with chocolate’s gift potential, it is easy to see why the range of products becomes bigger every year.
We spoke to some of the UK’s top manufacturers and up-and-coming brands to find out their tips for getting your festive chocolate offer right this winter.
Tubs and boxes
Sharing tubs, chocolate tins and selection boxes have become a fixture in millions of living rooms and kitchens at Christmas. Andy Mutton, managing director at Storck UK ‒ home to brands including Bendick’s, Werther’s Originals and Toffifee ‒ says: “Shoppers will have their go-to Christmas favourites, which they buy every year without fail.
“It is vital that wholesalers take note of this and have these products, as Christmas can be a time of habit and tradition for shoppers.”
Lauren George, trade and brand manager at Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK, says: “Tubs are a critical part of the Christmas range, with many saying that the Christmas season does not really start until they see them. They should be pushed early on in the season in order to drive a fast start and generate category growth.”
Tins and tubs of longstanding bestsellers such as Cadbury’s Roses and Mars Celebrations may be safe bets, but George adds that this category is evolving to include more novelty and premium options. “Consumers are willing to spend and indulge more at key calendar events such as Christmas, leading to a trend in more premium purchases,” she says. “This has been evident in the strong performance of gift and boxed segments, so you must ensure you are fully stocked with these products early in the year.”
Mutton says tub and boxed products which have multi-generational appeal and fit a variety of needs, from gifting to sharing, will drive sales. He notes that Storck’s festive Werther’s Original Caramel Shop Box has been designed to crowd-please by containing a variety of Werther’s caramels, including the original butter candies, but also new twists on the format such as a creamy filling, eclair and soft caramel sweets. “It is about providing something for everyone and appealing to shoppers of all ages,” he suggests.
Shopping is stressful, and sales of single-serve, festive-themed ‘self-treats’ are on the rise. They also work well as stocking fillers and low-cost gifts.
Novelty and limited-edition self-treats of popular brands, such as Maltesers Reindeer, are now available from most major manufacturers. Mars’ George says you need to encourage your retailer customers to make the most of the promotional material available for these trendy items to grow impulse sales. “Use all the point-of-sale material available to you to make these items unmissable. Capitalise on the impulsivity and expandability of the confectionery category by suggesting placing confectionery at multiple points around the store.
“Significant sales uplift can be achieved with positioning closer to the entrance, for instance, and retailers can drive last-chance purchases in queues and at tills.”
Keeping cost in mind is also key for these products. “Help shoppers manage their Christmas spending by offering a choice of products with an RRP under £1. Also, advise retailers to use the impulsive counter space for self-eat treats,” says a Mondelez spokesperson.
Oli Shorts, owner of organic chocolate brand Seed & Bean, says assessing the sizing of your range and making sure to offer a variety of small chocolate products, larger bars and sharing products will help meet the largest possible range of shopper needs. “We have both 75g or 85g sizes, and a smaller 25g bar in four of our bestselling flavours has also been introduced as a stocking filler.”
James Robinson, product training manager at Brindisa, says consumer tastes in Christmas chocolate products are evolving, with wider food trends for artisan items and products with provenance filtering in to the category. “In 2018, we expect chocolate to get a little bit more grown-up. This is why Brindisa’s chocolate range includes everything from delicatessen catànies from Cudié near Barcelona, to more traditional guilty pleasures.”
He adds: “Customers will be on the look-out for intriguing flavours and formats from exciting international producers. Listing a mix of traditional and more contemporary options will satisfy the broadest demographic.”
Seed & Bean’s Shorts agrees. “Today’s shopper’s palate is more sophisticated, thanks to a growing awareness of and access to global food trends,” he says.
Shorts also notes that after a year of news stories about the high amounts of plastic packaging and straws that go unrecycled, consumers could start asking more questions of their product packaging, and shunning unnecessary waste.
“The environmental effect of food packaging and waste disposal means people are looking at more ethical and sustainable products,” he says. Seed & Bean highlights the fact that its packaging is completely recyclable, including a fully compostable inner-foil layer.
“This is especially important at Christmas, when homes, shops and businesses across the country are overflowing with excess packaging. Christmas generates so much additional waste, so anything that does not add to that rubbish pile is a good marketing strategy for both wholesalers and shopkeepers.”
As with many things in life, timing is everything. Mondelez believes sales can be optimised by ordering early, and introducing categories and new products in phases as Christmas approaches. “Be prepared early, starting this month with self-treats. Continue the countdown into next month, with advent calendars and novelty sharing lines,” Mondelez’s spokesperson says.
“In December, make it clear that Christmas has arrived by highlighting your selection boxes, Christmas-themed gifts, family sharing lines and top-up gifts. These can replace advent products after 1 December.”
Mars’ George believes deals should also be timed carefully. “Promotions on boxed chocolates earlier in the season can help kickstart the season to drive a fast start,” she says. “It is also important to capitalise on sales opportunities in the final week. Promotions should be held at this point to drive value sales.”
George says you should encourage your customers to invest in their chocolate offer right up until the last days of the season. “Mars data shows the final two weeks leading up to Christmas represents 21.8% of total season sales, so retailers should ensure they are fully stocked with a range of chocolate products right up until Christmas Day.”
Storck’s Mutton agrees. “Christmas is always a busy period, and things often get forgotten,” he says. “Shoppers will always be making last-minute dashes in the final run-up to Christmas looking for top-up and last-minute purchases. It is vital to keep this in mind, and ensure retailers stock up right until the final shopping days.”
“Last year, we used a Cadbury Christmas display unit, which was a huge success. We have never sold so many advent calendars. We have always had a display, but this one went up earlier than normal and generated sales for Halloween and Bonfire Night as well. We sold a tremendous amount of chocolate.”
Church Stretton, Shropshire
“Availability is everything at Christmas and the run-up. Last year, we only received two-thirds of our Christmas pre-orders, and it was mainly confectionery missing. We sell a lot of Lindt, for example, and we sold out earlier because we had fewer products. We had to double-face everything and phone other suppliers for help.”
Spar Wylde Green,
“In your depots, keep seasonal and Christmas stock like advent calendars near to hand or placed at the entrance as you walk in. Separating seasonal goods helps retailers by making these products quick and easy to access at busy times of the year when there is high demand for those products.”
S & M Supermarket,
“The entire Kinder range is very popular with kids – I stock a number of varieties. If a particular chocolate product is popular, any limited-edition or festive versions of it usually are, too. I am seeing a shift towards pouches – any chocolate share bags or pouches, or block bars will sell well.”