Valentine's Day

Spring is just round the corner, bringing with it plenty of sweet occasions. Toby Hill looks at what confectionery will sell well in 2018.

Mastering spring confectionery can feel like a challenge for you and your customers. The category swings into view with Valentine’s Day, less than two months after Christmas. From there, it hops swiftly on to Mother’s Day and then Easter, each of which require a fresh approach to ranging and merchandising. All the while, c-stores are having to battle with the multiples, the aggressive pricing and promotional strategies of which can seem difficult to match.

Still, while it can feel like a drag, it is vital to get spring confectionery right or retailers risk a steep drop-off in their sales. “Confectionery is hugely seasonal,” notes Olivia Hope-Hawkins, marketing director at the Cornish confectionery firm Buttermilk Confections. “Focusing on spring will help wholesalers and retailers to level out their seasonal spikes.”

Through such a busy period, then, retailers will appreciate any help they can get. Here we look at what you can do to provide your customers with fresh ideas tailored to each of the big spring events.

Sweets for my sweet

The first big confectionery event to arrive each year is Valentine’s Day, which, as any retailer will tell you, is never quite as simple as it seems. Everyone likes to feel that their day is special or personalised in some way, which means wholesalers need to ensure their range covers a broad spectrum of tastes.

For the younger end of the spectrum, Swizzels’ range of sugar confectionery is perennially popular with teenagers. A prominent Love Hearts display, for example, is a sure sign that Valentine’s Day is on the horizon. The sweets now come in several formats, including a 108g gift tube and a shiny 250g chrome tin. Even the classic rolls are specially adapted for Valentine’s Day, with limited edition packs containing emoji designs alongside the classic saccharine messages.

For older Valentine’s Day shoppers, Ferrero’s Raffaello Heart and Mondelez’s Cadbury’s Milk Tray are two love-themed classic products worth stocking for this occasion. Wholesalers should consider Thornton’s range of premium Valentine’s gifts, too. The brand’s ‘Love You More Than Chocolate’ Heart, which weighs 200g and has an RRP of £8, is hugely popular. Alternatively, the brand has sculpted chocolate models ranging from champagne bottles to football boots, which are perfect for creating in-depot theatre.

Meeting the Mother’s Day rush

Less than a month after Valentine’s comes another key sales opportunity for UK convenience stores: Mother’s Day. Many retailers will be looking to put together eyecatching displays to encourage customers to shop in their c-stores and ideas for attention-grabbing gifts to fill it with will be appreciated.

Mondelez has a broad range of gift ideas under its Cadbury’s brand that make it easy for wholesalers to meet their customers’ needs. These include tailored hampers such as Mum’s Chocolate and Fizz, with Milk Tray, Eclairs and Roses accompanied by a bottle of bubbly. Alternatively, Mum’s Treasure Box focuses solely on the chocolate side of things, with varieties including Turkish Delight, Mint Crisp and a line from the brand’s Marvellous Creations range. Both giftsets include a ‘To my Mum’ gift card.

Other ideas include a biscuits and hot chocolate gift set, a fireside hamper, or a Roses gift set, which comes with a bottle of rosé wine.

Elsewhere, Buttermilk’s latest product, Strawberry Bellini Fudge, gives wholesalers a chance to offer something a little less familiar. Marketed as artisan confectionery and with glasses of bubbly adorning the packaging, it is perfectly suited to brighten up a Mother’s Day display. But it is not specifically branded for that event, and can work throughout spring and summer, meaning retailers will not have to worry about getting stuck with unsold stock.

Equipping for Easter

Finally, the biggest spring confectionery event is, of course, Easter: last year, Brits spent a whopping £374m on Easter confectionery, according to Mintel. Moreover, the UK consumes more chocolate per capita than any other country in the world, with an average Brit buying 8.61kg of the stuff in 2016.

Easter, then, is clearly a huge opportunity for UK retailers. Wholesalers will want to make sure they are ready to help them capitalise on it.

For next year, Ferrero has its usual wide-range of inventive Easter products, making it easy for wholesalers to meet the whole range of retailer needs. For family sharing, Ferrero’s bunny-themed packs of Kinder Happy, Kinder Mini Figures and Kinder Mini Eggs are ideal for spreading around the house to create an excitable Easter atmosphere.

For gifting, Kinder Mini Mix brings together a variety of toy-containing eggs into a single hutch-shaped package. There are also individually-packaged Kinder Surprises and Kinder Maxi Surprises, which are perfect for younger children.

Another classic Easter product is the MaltEaster bunny from Mars, which has become synonymous with the season and which needs to be in your range.

Mondelez’s Cadbury Creme Egg is the number-one Easter brand and Cadbury Mini Eggs 90g are the bestselling products at this time of year – both are must-stocks for the occasions.

New products lined up by Mondelez for the season include a bigger Egg Hunt pack, a Crunchie shell egg, an Inclusions shell egg range and Jelly Babies Chicks.

Meanwhile, Buttermilk is adding a Hot Cross Bun fudge to its range, ideal for lovers of traditional Easter flavours. This new variety will sit alongside a selection of fudge flavours, including Honeycomb, Earl Grey and Cornish Gin.

Easter confectionery does not have to be all about chocolate. Sugar confectionery is becoming more popular with customers, with the latest IRI figures showing that the category is worth £1.7m over the six weeks of Easter.

Swizzels has a couple of Easter-themed products that provide a colourful alternative to Easter chocolate. New for Easter next year is the Swizzels Fun Mix, featuring a novelty bunny design and filled with Love Hearts, Drumsticks and Double Lollies, as well as wax crayons and an Easter-themed colouring and quiz sheet. It joins the Swizzels Easter Mix Tub, which is a bulkier mix of Refreshers, Parma Violets and others.

Premiumisation and sugar-free

As well as the events themselves, there are a couple of key confectionery trends worth bearing in mind when building a range for the spring season. Firstly, as in many categories, there is a trend towards healthier eating. In the context of sugar confectionery, this takes the form of a movement towards sugar-free sweets, with 92% of consumers actively trying to reduce the sugar in the food they buy.

To meet this demand, Perfetti Van Melle has put together a range of sugar-free and reduced sugar options. Trade marketing manager Mark Roberts explains: “Our Fruittella Sugar Free range is a category first. Naturally sweetened with the extract of stevia leaves, a South American plant renowned for its natural zero-calorie sweetness, each foam and gum is full of flavours with absolutely no sugar and no artificial sweeteners.”

A second trend is premiumisation, with consumers happy to spend a little more on one-off seasonal purchases.

“Last year, the UK market saw growth in Easter treats in terms of both volume and value,” observes Marcia Mogelonsky, director of insight at Mintel. “However, value growth was highest, suggesting consumers may be investing in slightly more premium chocolate products as brands increasingly expand their offer.”

This tendency to trade-up is a trend noticed by suppliers, too. “Last year, the only two sectors that grew were premium eggs and bean-to-bar chocolate, says Hope-Hawkins at Buttermilk. “Consumers are choosing to eat quality confectionery, but less often.”

Wholesalers can also look to Thornton’s range of premium Easter eggs, such as the continental gift egg, which comes with a selection of milk, white and dark chocolate truffles.

Valentine’s Viewpoint

“We focus heavily on Valentine’s Day and build up a big display. Last year, we headlined it with a ‘three Cs’ deal: chocolate, card and cava for £12. It sold brilliantly – we went through 20 bottles of pink cava in no time.

“We source our confectionery at least a month beforehand. We are quite flexible and our choice depends on what’s on offer – we just see what we can spot from one of our wholesalers, usually Batleys or Booker. We have a good relationship with their area managers, who will often tell us if there is a deal coming up, in which case we will wait and pounce on that.”

Paul Mather, Sherston Post Office and Store, Sherston, Wilts

Viewpoints

“I prepare my spring confectionery from January. You don’t want the display to look identical every year, so you have to give some forethought to how you will present everything. It’s always tempting to go for pinks and reds, because then you can move seamlessly from Valentine’s to Mother’s Day, but there needs to be some variation to keep people’s attention.”

Christine Hope, Hopes of Longtown, Longtown, Herefordshire

Dave Hiscutt“To make decisions on our range and stocking levels, we will put together a forecast based on last year’s sales figures. For example, I have noticed a premiumisation trend in the Easter egg market: last year, for the first time, we had a 1kg egg, priced at £10, and we sold out. We also had a £10 Lindor egg which sold well, too.”

Dave Hiscutt, Londis Westham Road, Weymouth, Dorset

Kal Binning“We get started on spring confectionery straight after Christmas. I tend to play it safe with my range – Cadbury’s gift sets for Mother’s Day, and mint chocolates with a little bottle of prosecco for Valentine’s Day. Otherwise, you get stuck with stock and have to reduce it to clear, which becomes a pointless exercise where you are essentially working for nothing.”

Kal Binning, One-Stop, Ashby, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

Jasdev“We work closely with our symbol group, Family Shopper, for special events like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. They provide display stands, which we put at the front of the store, and dump bins, which we position in various places to catch impulse purchases. We display the usual lines, Roses and Milk Tray, which seem to meet our customers’ needs.”

Jasdev Jatana, Family Shopper, March, Cambridgeshire

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