Shireen Khalil speaks to the leading chocolate and confectionery manufacturers to discover where you can make gains when it comes to Easter chocolate & gifting in 2018.
Easter is a strong opportunity for wholesalers and their customers to boost chocolate sales. But there is the danger that unsellable stock could be left on the shelves and the major supermarkets will be racing to the bottom on price, meaning that, understandably, Easter chocolate & gifting is often a category that you can be reluctant to fully commit to.
Consumers in the UK spent an estimated £775m last year on Easter-related products such as food, beverages and chocolates, according to Fung Global Retail & Technology’s UK Easter Retail Preview. The team notes that: “Our store checks reveal that retailers as diverse as Aldi, Tesco and John Lewis are making the most of the occasion through in-store campaigns, merchandising and selected promotions.”
So with the big-name retailers ahead of the game, it is important to ensure that you and your customers are well-placed to cater for late or impulse sales in the run up to Easter, which this year starts on 30 March.
Lauren George, brand and trade PR manager for Mars Chocolate UK, says ‘self-treat’ products are key to succeeding around the occasion. She adds: “Self-treat products mainly drive growth. This year will again see the return of Mars Chocolate’s iconic Malteaster Bunny, the nation’s number-two self-eat product.”
Mars’ special edition Malteaster Bunny comes in sharing and multipack formats, and supports the rapidly expanding sharing segment at Easter.
Gifting is another major consideration at Easter, as it is an area that grew by 7.7% last year, according to Nielsen data. George says: “Wholesalers should run promotions on eggs, and ensure they are stocked up on a full range of Easter goods by Valentine’s Day. By stocking a full range of small, medium, large and luxury eggs, wholesalers can ensure that they cater for all ages and budgets.”
Mars’ most-popular gifted boxed chocolates include the Celebrations gift pack which launched last year, along with the Maltesers and M&Ms variants. Boxed chocolate sales grew by 16% last Easter, according to Mars, and George says this area is proven to bring new buyers into the category, making it a must-stock for wholesalers.
Aislinn Campbell, Mondelez International’s brand manager for Easter, agrees that capitalising on ‘self-eat’ items by stocking a variety of well-known brands and colourful products is key.
Sales of Mondelez’s self-eat products grew by 14% at Easter last year, according to the manufacturer. “The category offers the biggest opportunity due to its impulsivity,” Campbell says. “Self-eat products help to signpost the season and provide a great opportunity to start seasonal sales off early by driving excitement.
“Cadbury Creme Egg continues to be the number-one self-eat, with one sold every 10 seconds during the 2017 season.”
She adds: “Retailers also need to stock the bestseller, Cadbury Mini Eggs, which has been the number-one Easter pack for the past five years, alongside popular products such as Cadbury Creme Egg Minis and Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo Minis.”
Creme Egg sales have been buoyed in recent weeks thanks to the release of a limited number of white chocolate variants, complete with a cash prize competition.
Nestlé, meanwhile, has launched two new mini eggs products: the Smarties Mini Eggs bag and the mixed Smarties and Milkybar Mini Eggs bag. It has also brought back the bestselling large KitKat Chunky egg filled with KitKat Bites inside.
Also new this year are a KitKat Bites egg, featuring a hollow milk chocolate shell egg containing KitKat Bites pieces. This will join the existing Quality Street and Munchies Insider eggs, and a Love You Lots Like Jelly Tots egg featuring a milk chocolate egg with two packets of Jelly Tots.
Nestlé claims that sales of its Premium eggs range grew by 5.8% last year and the range now includes an After Eight Premium Egg, which comes with a 300g box of After Eight Mints.
Elsewhere, Jodie Wood, business unit controller for wholesale at Ferrero UK, emphasises that because consumers spend more time together at Easter, sharing and gifting products such as Ferrero’s boxed chocolate range play an important role.
“We have seen a trend where shoppers are upping how much they eat and share at home with family and friends,” Wood says. “We understand the role sharing now plays in the confectionery market, and the Ferrero Pralines and Thorntons boxed chocolates ranges are clearly positioned in line with two key shopper missions – to give to share and to give to gift.”
Wood stresses the importance of wholesalers keeping shelves and their online stores full of bestselling products, and ensuring they are well-organised so that their customers can easily find what they are looking for.
“Be aware of which brands are being heavily supported by marketing, as this will drive consumer awareness, which you, in turn, can translate to sales,” she adds.
Approximately 80m chocolate Easter eggs were sold last year, according to Fung Global’s UK Easter Retail Preview. Nestlé’s seasonal & licensing brand manager, Andy McQuade, reiterates the importance of stocking chocolate eggs to cater for all ages to boost impulse sales.
“Adult eggs are the main gift bought for adults during Easter,” he says. “This year, the full range of Nestlé Confectionery’s large Insider eggs and Giant eggs will benefit from redesigned packaging to give them an even more premium, gift-worthy feel.”
It may already be February, but consumers often leave it to the last minute to buy their chocolate, as 50% of Easter sales occur in the three weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, Mars’ George points out. “This makes it particularly important for wholesalers to remain stocked up on gifting chocolate as the season draws to a close,” she adds.
“Mondelez’s Cadbury products have always been a top-seller, particularly Mini Eggs and Creme Eggs. I did my Easter planning before Christmas, so 99% of the time, I do not have any chocolate left over at the end of the season. Wholesalers should categorise the areas these products are in.”
Soban Shanmuganathan, Burgess Stores, Goudhurst, Kent
“By far our best seller at Easter is the Cadbury Creme Egg on a ‘three for £1.20’ deal. We do really well during Easter. The key to success is to put in pre-sales early, stock in advance and stock right. We benefit from off-shelf displays, too, such as with our artisan wooden cart.”
Joanna Casonato, Giacopazzi’s, Kinross, Perth
“Cadbury Creme Eggs is by far our best seller, along with the small Mars Malteaster Bunny. We buy them in advance while they are on special offer and run that deal through to Easter. You need to buy a lot to sell a lot. We have lots of offices and schools nearby and everyone loves a good deal.”
Meten Lakhani, St Mary’s Supermarket, Southampton
“We put in our pre-orders early, which is good for us and for our wholesaler, as we wanted to ensure we have enough stock for the season and they want to make sure they get rid of theirs. We are happy with the support from our wholesalers overall. Our bestselling product at Easter is the Cadbury Creme Egg.”
Martin Lightfoot, Londis Solo Convenience, Baillieston, Glasgow