With uncertainty ahead, spring confectionery offers some much needed certainty and reason for cheer. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski reports
For once, the news in 2020 isn’t all bad. In fact, when it comes to confectionery sales, the industry says it is going through something of a purple patch.
“The chocolate category is a really vibrant market,” says David Gilroy, co-founder and managing director of Store Excel and former operations director at Bestway. Dig in to the data and it shows that our changed lifestyles are providing new opportunities for confectionery sales.
Gilroy says: “According to recent Kantar data, gifting was up 13.5% and blocks were up by 61%. It shows that family sharing is driving sales at the moment.”
That said, the channel undoubtedly faces something of an uncertain winter, making core categories such as confectionery more important than ever.
In this context, Gilroy believes spring confectionery will come at a key moment. “Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter come as a one, two and three, and are really important in kickstarting things after the cold, dark January. With Mother’s Day on 14 March and Easter Sunday on 4 April, they are all nicely spaced in 2021.”
Suppliers agree, and seasonal events remain a key way for confectionery brands to boost sales. Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, says this means working closely with depots on adapting ranges and displays throughout the year. “We continue to work closely with our wholesale partners to provide key ranging advice aligned to the needs of independent retailers, ensuring that the best products are available at the right times. We are backing up that advice and supporting wholesalers with in-depot activations.”
One of the big opportunities to come in spring is the new and limited-edition seasonal products. For Imran Ambalia at Sugro, it is Mondelez that is bringing the most compelling new lines to depots.
“The most exciting launch for Easter 2021 is the Cadbury Mini Eggs block,”
he says. “Cadbury Mini Eggs are a key line for Easter and having this popular product in a block format will drive block chocolate sales.”
For wholesalers looking to grow their confectionery sales this spring, Ambalia recommends depots focus on encouraging retailers to stock up early: “Wholesalers can improve their profits for spring confectionery by selling out early to their retail customers and stocking the right range. Impulse lines drive the early sales in Easter, therefore wholesalers should have these lines available for retailers to start buying from the start of January.”
Additionally, he says large Easter eggs are a key format for the channel as they are less price-sensitive than medium eggs. Likewise, he adds that gifting products for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are must-stocks for depots.
And as consumers have had their freedom to socialise as usual curtailed this year, there has been a willingness to spend more on these kinds of occ-asion-based products at home. According to Gilroy, this shopper behaviour is unlikely to change before next year:
“All the things that usually happen in a hospitality setting are likely to happen in a home setting.”
This provides an opportunity for premium and gifting sectors. Ferrero’s Boorer says that the trend for boxed chocolate actually pre-dated the lockdown, with sales rising at five times the rate of the rest of the category.
“Prior to the disruption and uncertainty seen over the past few months, we were seeing a number of trends developing in confectionery, including demand for alternative formats, different occasions being celebrated and a move towards premium products helping to drive sales and bring growth to the category,” he says.
To capitalise on this, Ferrero has recently refreshed its Classics boxed chocolate range for its Thorntons brand, offering a variety of sizes for different occasions.
There are other trends that wholesalers need to be on top of as 2021 nears. That Joe Wicks is now a national treasure goes some way to explaining quite how important healthier living and exercise became in 2020, and as the UK emerges from winter in 2021, it is a safe bet that this trend will once more benefit from a post-Christmas boost.
“It is important for wholesalers to not only recognise that shoppers are looking for healthy snacking options, but also make sure that they know exactly what these health-conscious individuals are really looking for,” says Mike Simons, head of category at Grenade.
As with all sectors on the confectionery market, Simons says that taste is key and is one reason why well-known and trusted brands are vital. Simons says: “Despite this strong desire for products that support consumers’ healthier lifestyles, it is extremely important to acknowledge that to meet expectations they must also taste good – with shoppers admitting that while reducing sugar consumption is their number-one priority, the products must not compromise on taste.”
Another key trend that has emerged in 2020 has come from the kitchen. Spring confectionery features don’t often mention the world of baking, but lockdown has provided further growth to the already huge home-baking trend.
Food importers and distributors Buckley & Beale is one of many firms
to focus on this, signing an agreement with premium cooking chocolate
Yet, if this all sounds like a lot, wholesalers should go into 2021 with confidence, according to Gilroy. “When it comes to confectionery, wholesalers tend to be well practised in managing spring confectionery. They just need to make sure they are working with suppliers in November and December and don’t leave it to the second week of January to put in their orders.”
Looks like it’s time to get to work.