Joseph Lee considers the importance of being prepared in good time for spring’s profitable confectionery occasions
When it comes to getting ready for the spring confectionery occasions, you cannot start too early. Industry experts say the amount of sales taking place in the early season is growing all the time.
Last year, 41% of sales of impulse Easter confectionery took place in the early build-up, and that number grew by 36% year on year, according to figures from Nestle.
Some retailers say that they are coming under even greater pressure to prepare for these occasions earlier. Harry Goraya, of Nisa Local in Northfleet, Kent, says he placed his delivered order for spring confectionery stock in early autumn because otherwise he struggles to get the amount of stock he wants for the best possible price.
Impulse Easter confectionery should go on sale to consumers from 1 January, suppliers recommend, with 68% of UK households buying it at some point during the run-up to the holiday.
The category is still growing: Mondelez International, which makes the UK’s biggest-selling seasonal impulse confectionery, Cadbury Creme Eggs, says that last year’s sales of self-eat products rose by 14%. A Creme Egg was reportedly sold every 10 seconds during the season.
Easter is a time for family gatherings, with 74% of consumers saying that spending time together over the season is important to them, and two out of five shoppers saying that they celebrate Easter.
It is no surprise, then, that the broader trend towards sharing confectionery is also taking hold in this occasion.
Jodie Wood, business unit controller at Ferrero, notes that 42% of consumers have a family meal at home and 66% spend the holiday visiting family or friends. She says: “During these occasions, sharing and gifting products such as Ferrero’s boxed chocolate range play a huge part.”
The company’s 2015 launch, Kinder Chocolate-Bons, has also become a popular sharing product over the Easter period, she says.
The trend towards sharing bags has been noticed by Shaid Hussain at Good News in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. “What I am finding is that a lot of people are going more towards sharing bags for these occasions, so we are finding that Mini Eggs are doing really well,” he says.
Mondelez recommends that sharing products appear on the shelves in February, as shoppers look to build excitement in the run-up to Easter.
The company says its bags of miniature eggs – including the bestseller Cadbury Mini Eggs, Cadbury Creme Egg Minis and Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo Minis – were worth £73m in sales and grew by 18.7% last year.
Mother’s and Valentine’s days
The other spring occasions of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day should not be overlooked, either.
Last year, Valentine’s Day was worth £45m in confectionery sales while Mother’s Day was worth £48m, according to Mondelez.
In choosing stock for Valentine’s Day, wholesalers should be careful not to stereotype and to ensure the gift range has something for everyone, the company says.
“It is vital that wholesalers stock a balanced range of personalised or themed confectionery gifts from favourite brands that appeal to men and women,” says Mondelez’s trade communications manager, Susan Nash. “This should include tablets, inlaid and straight lines, which are the most suitable for gifting. Wholesalers should also encourage retailers to create eye-catching displays for this occasion to attract shopper attention and maximise sales.”
Chirag Shah, seasonal brand manager at Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK, believes his company’s new launch under the Maltesers brand, Truffles, ticks the boxes for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. He says: “Maltesers Truffles are special enough to gift to family and friends, and provide a more indulgent eating experience for consumers through their creamy truffly consistency, while still retaining the brand’s familiar crunch.
“This is Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK’s first step into a premium chocolate offering, and product and packaging extend Maltesers into an all-year-round premium gifting experience, whether it is Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.”
Shah adds: “Shoppers spend +3.5% year on year on Valentine’s-related items, while one in five shoppers spend extra to celebrate Mother’s Day.”
Mondelez says its Milk Tray brand made £17.5m last year, making it 2.5 times bigger than its closest boxed-chocolates competitor.
Going into spring confectionery season, the company is heavily promoting Cadbury Roses, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, as the perfect way to say ‘Thank You’ on Mother’s Day. A £2.8m marketing campaign featuring TV and digital advertising began in the autumn.
Mondelez’s Nash says Mother’s Day is a strong opportunity to focus on products appealing to older consumers. She adds: “There should be a range of different brands stocked by wholesalers to match consumer age-range profiles. This is because the majority of mums receiving confectionery as gifts are over 55 years old.”
It is also a key opportunity for the convenience channel, because large numbers of buyers – often men – are looking for last-minute gifts.
“Mother’s Day gifts are often bought at the last minute, which provides an ideal opportunity for retailers,” says Nash. “As these gifts are usually bought by men, wholesalers should advise retailers to use big, bold displays in male-shopped areas at the front of the store to drive sales.”
With these occasions over, the focus can move to the main Easter products. Gifting accounts for 60% of chocolate sales over Easter, with a total of £210m spent.
The number-one format is the traditional shell egg: sales continue to rise, with an 11% increase last year.
One area of growth is in the premium market, where sales rose by 5.8% last year. Ferrero’s Wood says that 76% of shoppers say they value quality over quantity when it comes to chocolate, and are willing to pay more money for premium treats.
Ferrero Rocher eggs are now the third-placed product in the premium category, with sales growing at 78%.
Similarly, Nestlé’s After Eight egg, launched in 2015 and targeted at older and more affluent shoppers, increased sales by 20% last year.
The Green & Black’s brand has also extended its range of gift products to tap into the growing premium opportunity, with the launch of Praline Milk Chocolate with Whole Hazelnut and Praline Dark Chocolate with Whole Hazelnut gift boxes.
“We have heard from retailers that confectionery is the main category in which they would like more support. While we are working on the products and promotional assets to benefit retailers in store, wholesalers can provide additional support to help drive sales directly.
“Because the confectionery category is so diverse, with many brands for retailers to choose from, it can be difficult for retailers to know where to start when faced with the options when in a depot. However, we also know that the majority of retailers prefer to stock the bestsellers they know their customers are looking for. These bestsellers should be easy to locate in depots, and brand blocking should be used so retailers can grab what they are looking for quickly and easily.
“The top brands should also be signposted with eye-catching point-of-sale material, making it easy for retailers to find what they need. Seasonal products should also be amplified; our seasonal ranges are always designed to drive sales in the category, so retailers need to know about what is available and be able to find it when stocking up.”
“People underestimate the importance of spring confectionery. Everyone looks at it and thinks supermarkets have cut-price eggs, so there is no point, but there is a very good market there. People will come to us last-minute. There is a market for people who do not have the time to search out for the deals, for whom it is all about availability.”
“Last-minute buyers make this occasion extremely important to our store. Celebrations, Heroes, Roses, Milk Tray, Thorntons and Ferrero Rocher are the main ones we stock. They work for any occasion, so that is why we keep them in stock – it does not matter whether it is Easter or any other time.”
“Wholesalers need to consider their pricing strategies. Over the past four or five weeks, we have had a lot of retailers go to the supermarket and buy boxes of Heroes, Roses and so on because they are selling them at £3.50 a tub, while cash & carries have them for £4.99 plus VAT. Wholesalers must find out how they can match these prices.”
“Wholesalers could work more closely with retailers; they tend to wait until the last minute and then clear the stock, so the retailer ends up with bargain stock to offload. But if they worked from the onset and gave a slightly better deal, they would shift the stock a lot quicker.”
1. Start early – Over 40% of sales take place in the early part of the season, starting as soon as Christmas is over, and this number is rising.
2. Impulse is still rising – Mondelez says sales of Creme Eggs and its other self-eat products rose by 14% last year.
3. Sharing formats are growing – The spring occasions are not immune from the move to sharing formats, with miniature eggs bags sales rising by 18% last year.
4. Gifting is still king – Of the confectionery bought during the Easter season, 60% is in gifting formats, and shell eggs are still going strong with an 11% increase in sales.
5. Premiumisation – There is an opportunity for higher margins, with the premium market growing by 5.8% and 76% of customers saying that they value quality over quantity.